Even as new COVID cases are beginning to decline rapidly in the Northeast US, the national and global economic outlook is once again uncertain. However, one thing remains consistent: the critical role of digital payments platforms in helping small businesses across industries survive this difficult time and plan for future growth. While this sector was already rapidly scaling before the pandemic, particularly in the B2C space, the onset of COVID-19 and the subsequent disruption to the global economy fundamentally transformed the payments needs of small businesses.
Businesses are no longer centering their payments strategy around relationships to traditional banks – it’s now software decisions that are driving payment strategy. Platforms like Paya have enabled these businesses to maintain operations with minimal disruption during these unprecedented times, and they will only continue to add value in the post-pandemic economy – which will be characterized by a more dispersed workforce, increasingly tight margins, and the ever-increasing importance of cybersecurity.
During COVID, businesses relied on integrated and digital payments platforms to continue to do business safely and efficiently. In fact, at Paya, our transaction rate barely dipped at all – payments volume went down about 2%, while our competitors saw volume fall 30-50% on average. With the abrupt (and in some cases, overnight) transition to remote work in March 2020, businesses across a range of industries including government and public sector, nonprofit, B2B, construction, and of course, retail and hospitality, turned to digital payments to maintain business operations from home.
The construction sector, for example, leaned on these platforms to be able to continue ordering materials for job sites, accepting orders, and processing and disbursing payments. The challenging shutdown and remote transition put these digital payments platforms to the test, and they rose to the occasion, allowing small businesses to access robust support and engagement that is woven into the commerce software itself. As a result, they experienced limited business interruptions.
While COVID accelerated and necessitated these changes, there’s no going back for businesses that have adopted digital payments platforms – they’re here to stay. Integrated payments in particular provide a better, more accurate, and lower risk process all in one place, making them by and large a better system for moving large amounts of money. Digital payments allow small businesses to save money on paper and personnel that would otherwise be needed for the reconciliation process. With businesses in general having to contend with tighter revenue margins, integrated software has become a must. And now that COVID has demonstrated the viability of long-term remote work across many industries, integrated payments make it that much easier to coordinate business operations across a more dispersed workforce.
The value that these platforms provide vis-a-vis cybersecurity also cannot be understated. Not only are transactions encrypted and tokenized, but integrated payments maintain security across multiple touch points – including multi-factor user logins, firewall limits to access applications, continuous vulnerability and penetration testing, and annual PCI certifications. In the era of ransomware attacks, that level of cybersecurity is absolutely essential not only for business continuity and growth, but also for the security of the economy as a whole.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed the way businesses make payments. While the e-commerce behemoth is by no means a new trend, the challenges and disruptions caused by the pandemic have ensured that sophisticated digital payments software is not only a must-have tool for businesses coping with the fallout of COVID-19, but will be key to the post-COVID recovery.