Digital Payments: What’s Holding Italy Back?

As part of a discussion on digital transformation at the SIA Expo 2014 in Milan, Adrio Maria de Carolis, CEO of Italian market research firm SWG, presented the findings of a survey into the digital payment habits of Italians.

De Carolis began by noting that 72% of Italians view Italy as backward compared to other European countries when it comes to digital payments. He argued that you could take a positive from this, in that this figure represents a tipping point and there will now be a new vision. However, he also noted a negative view can be taken from this statistic, as it suggests that 28% of Italians are unaware of how far behind they are compared to the rest of Europe.

When asked for a preferred payment method, 52% said that they prefer to use cash, while 48% prefer digital payments. This highlights a polarisation of the population, which was further exposed by additional questions as the survey progressed.

The survey asked whether people viewed themselves as heavy, medium or low users of digital payments. Some 23% were classified as heavy users, 42% as medium users and 35% as low users.

De Carolis proceeded to highlight the differences in behaviour between heavy users and low users of digital payments. For example, 48% of heavy users think that digital payments are secure and 70% are of the opinion that they are easy to use. For low users, however, only 18% think they are secure while just 35% think they are easy to use. This difference was also seen in answers to the question over whether Italians would like to increase their use of digital payments. Over three-quarters (78%) of heavy users of digital payments want to increase their use of this channel, while only 28% of low users feel the same. Perception is critical, argued de Carolis, who said that a fear of the unknown is highlighted in the low user results.

Looking to the future, 75% of heavy users think that in five years time all payments will be digital. This compares to only 33% of low users of digital payments.

Two questions saw identical results in both the heavy and low user columns. A large majority (82%) of heavy users of digital payments believe that all retailers should accept digital payments, compared to 53% of low users. When asked if a digital payments system can help reduce tax evasion, once again 82% of heavy users and 53% of low users thought this would be the case.

De Carolis concluded by saying that in Italy, the financial services industry needs to offer regulations and solutions that make digital payments easier and more accessible to the whole community, in an effort to bring Italy up to speed with the rest of Europe on this topic.

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