Financial stress is now recognized as a mainstream issue and one of Canada’s biggest social problems. Regardless of income and upbringing, this type of stress can negatively impact mental and physical health, work productivity and family life. Research by Seymour Management Consulting Inc even showed that 63 per cent of higher income households (household income over $100,000) agreed money worries cause them emotional stress, with concerning three-year trends since 2017 for Canadians across all household income groups.
Between global uncertainty, housing affordability, unplanned life events and banking access, there are many factors that can contribute to financial stress. For example, while 99 per cent of Canadians have an account with a financial institution, the Canadian Prepaid Providers Organization highlighted approximately 10-20 per cent are either unbanked or underbanked, meaning they do not have access to a wide range of convenient or everyday banking services. The millions who fall into these categories tend to be financially excluded from the mainstream banking sector due to geographic location, new immigrant status and/or for being perceived as too risky to access basic credit products. For newcomers to Canada, it can also be challenging to understand our financial landscape and to manage competing demands for their attention when they first arrive – one of which may not be financial planning.
E-commerce retailers have a unique opportunity to support Canadians’ financial health through the payments options being offered. But first, let’s look at common payment options that can potentially impact financial inclusion.
Credit cards remain the most used payment method and make up most of the card value overall according to the most recent Canadian Payment Methods and Trends Report. But, the same data highlighted that 32 per cent of Canadians carried a balance on their credit cards past their billing cycle indicating an increased debt burden on Canadians who take advantage of the ability to make smaller monthly (or minimum) card payments.
Canadians are also drawn to rewards programs – nearly three-quarters of Canadians carry at least one credit card that has a rewards program and for 82 per cent, rewards are a priority when selecting a credit card.
The offer to spread out bill payments can be very attractive, especially to younger shoppers who are seeking convenience or are shopping on a budget, but this could encourage overspending. Another risk is missing a payment, which can lead to late fees or being added to debt collection lists. Of those who have used BNPL services, 34 per cent have admitted to being late on one or more payments. Missing one payment can impact a consumers’ credit score and further increase financial stress.
While these options are popular and can remain low risk for financially responsible shoppers, it’s important for retailers to understand the downfalls and counter with more inclusive options.
These could include:
According to Payments Canada, debit cards continue to grow at a stable pace, most commonly used to replace cash transactions at the in-store point-of-sale. The top three reasons Canadians choose debit are speed (46 per cent), ability to use their own funds (46 per cent) and wide acceptance rate (42 per cent). While debit is more common in-store, it has not yet surpassed credit usage online. But this delta is shrinking as there has been an increase in co-badged debit cards (with Interac, Visa or Mastercard) for e-commerce and in-app transactions according to Payments Canada. At the risk of the merchant, Canadian financial institutions issuing these co-branded products offer “zero-liability” consumer protections. While this is still not a fully viable, financially inclusive option for online shopping, the added consumer protections help instill confidence in Canadians to make secure transactions.
This method of sending money directly from a bank account has become ingrained in Canadian culture. And if it were a payment option at checkout, DirectPay research uncovered that 46 per cent of Canadians would choose to pay this way to help: avoid credit card debt (39 per cent), manage their finances (32 per cent) and feel more secure about e-commerce (24 per cent). An alternative payments solution like DirectPay makes this possible to help Canadians pay online safely and conveniently. For a merchant, incorporating e-transfers at the e-commerce checkout helps ensure a smoother checkout and less payment friction for the customer. There is no need for a customer to set a security question and/or answer for the merchant as the payment securely and seamlessly runs through the customer’s bank.
The use of card alternatives – such as smart watches, gaming consoles or digital/mobile wallets – has increased 115 per cent and 125 per cent in the volume and value respectively between 2019 and 2020. While each digital wallet is a little different, this card alternative continues to provide choice and convenience to consumers who prefer not to carry all their physical cards with them. Moreover, the increasing competition among digital wallet systems in Canada will continue to work in the consumer’s favour as payments security and protection continue to be enhanced.
Enabling your customers’ financial health
Canadians continue to expect more options and flexibility in how they make payments without sacrificing security and convenience. The gaps in the Canadian market for supporting financial inclusion can be tightened by expanding payment options to combat the reliance on credit cards and growing acceptance of BNPL platforms. When consumers are welcomed with a full, inclusive suite of payments options at the checkout, such as debit, digital wallets and e-transfer, merchants help Canadians of all ages and immigration status be fiscally responsible. A financially healthy customer base can reward merchants with increased customer loyalty and reduced cart abandonment.
About Robert Hyde, CEO of DirectPay by Payment Source
Robert has over 20 years of experience delivering technology-based solutions and digital strategy to a variety of firms. He is a skilled executive business leader who works collaboratively with clients, colleagues and partners to deliver progressive, multi-disciplinary solutions to business problems. Over his career, Robert has worked as a project manager, sales & marketing professional, strategy consultant and technologist.
DirectPay by Payment Source is a purpose-built API solution that lets customers pay directly from their bank be it online, in-app or on touch-free checkout flows. To learn more about its new Shopify integration, visit directpaynow.ca.