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ECC Payment Survey: Invoice Is the Most Popular, while POS Payment Habits Are Changing

In its most recent Payment Survey, ECC KÖLN analysed the most important developments in the payment mix.

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Whether credit card, direct debit, prepayment, invoice or contactless processes at brick and mortar retailers: the scope of payment methods is large. But which options do customers prefer? How has the range of payment methods changed for merchants? The statistics show that individual requirements are becoming increasingly important when selecting payment methods and that digitalisation is also providing new impetus. In its most recent Payment Survey, ECC KÖLN analysed the most important developments in the payment mix.

Brick and mortar retail shops were already under pressure before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic due to the strong growth being displayed by eCommerce. However, the need to make the move towards digitalisation became even more pronounced with the crisis. Market conditions in Germany changed quite suddenly as a result of coronavirus. Indeed, many brick and mortar retail shops were quick to extend their online offers or get their foot in the door of eCommerce for the first time. This placed greater emphasis on the topic of payment at the point of sale, as well as offering the right mix of payment methods in the online shop. The latest ECC Payment Survey Vol. 25 offers information on recent developments in the payment market.

Top 3 Payment Methods and Abandoned Shopping Baskets

To prevent abandoned shopping baskets, merchants should definitely include the top 3 payment methods in their own payment mix. These include purchase on account, direct debit and credit cards. If the top 3 payment methods are not offered, some 30 percent of shoppers cancel their purchase and instead look at other shops. Some then even prefer to shop at a brick and mortar retailer (8 percent). However, 39 percent choose not to cancel their purchase if they are offered an alternative payment method in the shop.

Pay By Invoice Still Number 1 – with Good Repayment Rates

For online merchants, pay by invoice remains a "must have" payment method, as it is still the most popular among customers. Virtually everyone is familiar with invoice payment and/or has already used it at least once when shopping online. This applies across the board, regardless of gender and age. Indeed, the survey indicates that some 86 percent of consumers under 30 years of age are familiar with or have already used pay by invoice. This figure then increases to 95 percent among consumers over 50 years of age. As anticipated, pay by invoice also experienced a boost during the Christmas season, as highlighted by merchants in the survey. Some 30 percent stated that they recorded more payments of this type in their Christmas business. From the consumer's perspective, invoice payment is popular for various reasons. Perhaps the most important is the 14-day payment term, which 59 percent took advantage of. However, many consumers also choose to settle their invoices immediately (34 percent). Overall, the survey shows that the payment discipline with this payment method is good. Yet the survey also highlights the fact that pay by invoice still represents a greater risk for merchants. Secured invoice payment is therefore becoming ever more popular. Some 59 percent of merchants that offer this as a payment option protect themselves from customer payment defaults by outsourcing invoice-based payment processing to service providers such as Unzer. 

Instalment Purchases Becoming More Popular – Payment Guarantees Are Key

Alongside pay by invoice, consumers increasingly used instalment payment options when paying for items. Almost half (47 percent) are familiar with the instalment purchase option or have already used it. The amount of instalment purchases also increased over the Christmas season alongside purchase on account. Just like invoice payment, merchants are increasingly seeking to make instalment purchases more reliable by using specialist service providers. In fact, two out of three online merchants have processes in place to protect instalment purchases from payment defaults, while 12 percent of companies simply remove unsecured instalment purchases from their payment options altogether. Processing of a payment via instalments is therefore outsourced in the same way as invoice payment. How do consumers use the instalment purchase option? It is important to note that most consumers, some 78 percent, still settle the total invoice amount in a single payment. Only one in ten choose to settle the invoice amount in instalments if the total amount due is then higher. There is no major difference from instalment purchases here, where the sum total remains unchanged. Even if the invoice amount remains the same with instalment purchases, only 11 percent prefer to actually pay in instalments. However, the reason why customers choose instalment purchases is exactly the same in both cases: it allows them to keep funds available for other things.

The Checkout Process Must Suit Target Customers' Needs

Consumers are now very familiar with the world of eCommerce and the various payment types offered. This also includes the methods introduced far more recently, such as digital wallets offered by big players like Apple or Google. Indeed, around 80 percent of consumers are already familiar with these. The instant recognisability and use of various payment processes means that merchants must know their target group very well and then specifically tailor the payment methods they offer to this. After all, many consumers now have a preferred payment option. For example, the survey shows that age and gender make a difference in terms of which payment methods are preferred. The younger generation in particular uses digital wallets significantly more often, with between 13.5 and 35 percent of men and women under 30 using these payment options on average. Payment methods such as payment on account, Sofortüberweisung transfers and credit cards are used with similar frequency by virtually all consumers in eCommerce. These payment methods are therefore relevant for all target groups. Which payment method is selected also depends on changes in shopping habits. In 2020, for example, just under a third of all consumers made a purchase using their smartphone for the first time. Checkouts should therefore also be optimised for mobile devices. Adapting the payment mix to the respective target group and its requirements is what ultimately leads to success, as underlined in the ECC Survey. Consumers that are not offered their preferred payment method during checkout often cancel their purchase when shopping online.

Fraud Prevention Is Vital for Merchants

Fraud prevention is increasingly presenting online merchants with challenges. Indeed, some 68 percent of shop owners state that the tactics being employed by fraudsters are becoming more advanced and difficult to detect. Around 40 percent of merchants have already fallen victim to fraud. Just under 70 percent of merchants therefore state that fraud prevention will be more important for them in future. However, only half are aware of AI-supported solutions for identity checks and fraud screening. Half also believe that fraud detection is likely to be extremely costly for the company. After all, customer checks are typically performed in-house. Outsourcing risk management to external service providers, on the other hand, offers various advantages over these in-house checks. This is because experts and technology-assisted processes are simply more efficient. Not only do they significantly reduce the risk for eCommerce merchants, they also cost considerably less. For example, some 21 percent of merchants are already using external credit checks by payment service providers. However, the survey also shows that there is still plenty of scope for outsourcing fraud prevention.

POS: Contactless Payment Is Gathering Pace

The payment mix is not only subject to changes in the online arena. According to the ECC Survey, contactless payments have become the new normal in the course of the pandemic. Indeed, some 71 percent of consumers made contactless payments with a card in January 2021. A boom in contactless payments is being registered by 36 percent of merchants. In addition to this, the proportion of smartphone-supported payments is increasing in this segment. Almost one in five contactless payments is processed on a portable device. Merchants are increasingly adapting their payment offers at the point of sale to this development. In fact, almost half have introduced new payment methods. The most popular newly added payment options include cashless payments with Girocard or EC card (50 percent) and contactless payments via NFC or QR code (46 percent). Two out of three customers now also expect to be able to use cashless payment methods when paying for products/services. The expectation that contactless payment options will be offered as standard has also become similarly established. Half of all consumers consider the option of making contactless payment a matter of course. On the other hand, almost one in five consumers would not even consider using a business that only accepts payment in cash.


The ECC Survey has shown that a target group-oriented checkout process with corresponding payment methods is the key to success in the online retail arena. Merchants should be aware of their customers' favourite payment methods and then integrate these in their shop. Purchase on account remains the most popular and should always be included. However, instalment purchases are also becoming increasingly important in the payment mix. In both cases, merchants should protect purchases as a way of minimising their own risk, while still offering their customers the most popular and requested payment options. It is also becoming increasingly important for merchants to bring experts like Unzer on board and use technological support in their fraud prevention efforts. Cashless and, above all, contactless payment is becoming paramount at the point of sale. For brick and mortar retailers, it is therefore important to use terminals that are up-to-date, flexible and can be adapted to handle any new payment type.

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