Digital payments on the rise across ASEAN

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Among the five ASEAN countries covered in the UOB ASEAN Consumer Sentiment Study, which aims to provide a better understanding of ASEAN consumers at a time when the region is undergoing deep social and economic transformation, Singapore saw the second highest share of consumers (70 per cent) who said their use of digital or cashless payments had gone up, ahead of Vietnam (67 per cent), Malaysia (63 per cent) and Thailand (50 per cent), and behind Indonesia (74 per cent).

Ms Jacquelyn Tan, Head of Group Personal Financial Services, UOB, said that digital payments gained a lot of ground in 2020, amid the rise in online shopping during the pandemic. “Across the region, consumers have shown a greater willingness to adopt newer payment methods,” she continued.

“For example, in Singapore the number of UOB customers using PayNow for payments for the first time grew 64 per cent year on year for the first three quarters of 2020. To build on this progress, banks and digital payment service providers must continue to work with merchants to enable the acceptance of cashless payment options at brick-and-mortar stores and to offer more rewards and rebates to encourage consumers to use cashless payment modes.”

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“At UOB, one way in which we are encouraging the acceptance and adoption of cashless payments is by bringing together partnership ecosystems to integrate these options where our customers live, play and pay. By embedding banking and payment solutions into the customer’s purchasing journey, we are making the access to digital payments smarter, simpler and safer.”

Consumers will go fully cashless if conditions are right

The surge in digital payments has also not necessarily spelt the end of the road for cash in Singapore, which maintains a stubborn presence, especially as the economy reopens and business activity at physical stores picks up. As many as 63 per cent of consumers said they use cash at least once a week, according to the UOB ASEAN Consumer Sentiment Study.

This goes up to 86 per cent for the Baby Boomer generation. Importantly though, consumers are able to imagine a future without cash, with close to nine in 10 saying they are willing to go cashless entirely if the conditions are right.

The top three conditions they cited were digital payment methods becoming easier and more convenient to use, improvements to the security of such payments and a wider acceptance of cashless payment methods by retailers.