Dramatic need to shift to contactless payments
Prior to the pandemic, demand for digitization services and deals in the European financial, public and retail verticals grew at a generous rate. Europe-focused vendors covered by TBR, including Accenture (NYSE: ACN), Atos (Nasdaq: ATOS), Capgemini, Deloitte and T-Systems, consistently expanded services and contracts surrounding related capabilities, such as cloud, blockchain and automation, feeding these healthy verticals. However, vendors and clients faced numerous challenges as the pandemic hit, such as the need to shift to remote work environments and the need for digital, e-commerce and contactless solutions. In 1H20 most vendors focused on client retention and headcount management, rather than entertaining expansionary strategies. Europe, which felt the impacts of the pandemic in its early months, was among the first to experience a need for digital alternatives, evidenced by accelerated demand for digital infrastructure, banking and payment solutions, benefiting IT service vendors and the struggling European economy.
As consumers faced pressures to go cashless, demand for contactless payment alternatives increased dramatically. While the financial and public sectors had been prioritized in 2020, as they typically make up a large percentage of IT service vendors’ revenues, the retail vertical contracted drastically as lockdowns and supply chain challenges impacted inventory levels. So, while tailoring contracts and generating solutions to attract clients in the financial and public sectors was imperative in the thick of the lockdowns, addressing challenges in retail will complement vendors’ efforts in other verticals as well. From an influx of credit card and debit card usage to increased demand for Apple Pay and other tap-to-pay capabilities, retail clients of IT service vendors were transitioning their client-facing solutions to meet the demand to go digital.
For example, in 4Q20 Atos announced it will use the Atos Codex Internet of Things solution to develop and run nutrition company Goli’s cashless and contactless vending machines, which will be deployed in numerous environments such as shopping malls and airports. The solution also leverages cloud technology to connect cashless payment alternatives and digital wallets to the network. Additionally, Atos holds shares in Worldline, a payment and transaction services company that offers a strong digital payments and contactless solutions portfolio, along with a collaborative partner network. In December Worldline partnered with P3 Financial Group to bolster the real-time digital commerce and e-payments ecosystem in much of Europe.
Other vendors have taken similar action; T-Systems Hungary drove real-time payments on a single platform for ACI Worldwide (Nasdaq: SCIW) in September, strengthening regional initiatives to meet expectations for safer and more secure vertical operations, and Capgemini partnered with SharpEnd and The Drum to develop CornerShop, a retail innovation store that is helping brands, retailers and shoppers utilize technologies to transform their shopping and customer engagements in preparation for the post-pandemic world. Further detail and analysis on the store are available in TBR’s 4Q20 Capgemini report.
Previous investments in emerging tech like blockchain paved the way
Going back about 10 years, digitization drew consumer attention in the mid-2000s, when in-house cloud computing caught fire and distributed ledger technologies emerged. Leveraging blockchain, cryptocurrency entered the market as a private payment alternative that offered greater security and cut out banks altogether. Bitcoin, arguably the poster child of cryptocurrency, quickly became an investment tool for many users, though its position as a go-to currency in the black market and, more importantly, its price volatility made its use an unpopular choice for the average consumer.
Changing regulations related to IT technologies, such as blockchain and digital assets, have challenged Europe-centric vendors despite the opportunity to capitalize as consumer preference shifts to digital. IT services vendors covered by TBR will likely face new contract and deployment challenges in the region, alongside pre-existing obstacles related to the COVID-19 pandemic. TBR believes a greater focus on digital and contactless payments, e-commerce, and digital banking and currencies from vendors will be an important aspect of economic regrowth in Europe and lead to adjustments in financial, public and retail verticals to better complement one another.