As a powerful regional fintech hub in Europe, Belgium has traditionally been at the forefront of payment innovations. But does this innovative and forward-looking spirit also apply to the Belgian consumer? Are consumers in Belgium as quick to adopt new digital payment solutions as companies are to develop and implement them?
In its annual payment barometer, Galitt sheds some new light on the question. Galitt has been part of our Sopra Steria Group since 2017. As a European leader in payments, it develops specialised payment solutions based on the latest technologies and assists its clients in deploying them. Galitt also conducts studies and offers training services to guide clients in their strategic choices and help them innovate in a constantly changing payment market.
This year’s Galitt PayObserver - the fifth edition of the survey by now - focuses on the new payment uses and expectations of consumers in five European countries, among which Belgium. In a previous blog post, I’ve already presented some of the key findings of that survey which apply to the whole of Europe. In what follows I’ll take a look at the findings that apply specifically to the Belgian consumers.
Banks keep their lead... for now
Although competition in the payment ecosystem is fierce, traditional banks in Belgium, too, still maintain a comfortable lead compared to their closest competitors, which are online banks and neobanks. High street banks keep that advantage as they appear stronger, more reliable, and able to provide (better) customer support. Though Generation Z are the big testers of new payment players, they keep and use their high street bank accounts. Which explains why no less than nine in ten Belgians (92%) still hold a payment account at a traditional bank.
Cards: not easily replaced by new payment methods
In a world that hates plastic, it nevertheless remains the most popular form of payment at the point of sale, as almost seven out of ten Belgians (67%) use their physical card for each payment. For online payments, too, physical cards remain far ahead of other payment methods in terms of consumer preference. Smartphones, with QR codes being preferred over NFC when it comes to contactless payment, are seen more as a backup. Also, Belgian consumers keep trusting passwords over other authentication methods.
Innovations: different paces of adoption
Patience is probably somewhere in the attic now, between VHS tapes and fixed home phones, as instant payment has clearly become the new norm for three out of four consumers in Belgium (75%). What’s more, these consumers see no reason to pay for the new payment method. This mix of strong consumer adherence to instant payment and a reluctance to pay for it indicates the relevance of a freemium proposition in a market that is meant to keep growing.
As in the other surveyed countries, credit aversion and fear of additional costs could dampen the promises of ethical BNPL credit (Buy Now Pay Later) in Belgium – until regulators tackle the matter anyway. Request To Pay, on the other hand, could become the hot payment topic of tomorrow, as users from all age groups see the relevance in the product and would start using it at least with entities of public notoriety.
Cryptocurrencies: a future payment alternative?
Awareness of cryptocurrencies is high, with more than half of Belgian consumers (56%) knowing about them. Driven by Generation Z, they are meant to become a key payment method in the future. Although crypto was designed to work outside of the banking system, 35% of those surveyed most trust banks to manage their crypto. The need for safety expressed by Belgian consumers, coupled with their interest in payment in crypto and the fact that everything should be free, opens the door for Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) or, as the term itself suggests, a digital currency issued by a central bank.
Consumer priorities: cost, comfort, and security
As far as payments are concerned, the economical or cost aspect is clearly prioritized by Belgian consumers. For example, three in four respondents (75%) would choose another payment processor or bank if it was cheaper, rather than opt for ease of access to customer support and expertise. As such, payments are still a basic need. Furthermore, although interested in new features and possibilities, they worry more about security as well. Lastly, it is clear that seamless payment has become a priority when it comes to paying online.
For broader insight into European consumer behaviours around new payment trends, download our full report on the Galitt PayObserver 2022.
Sopra Steria can help you transform your payment services to make them simple, efficient, and secure in everyday life. Don’t hesitate to contact me or my colleagues for expert advice and technical support.