Census 2022: Early payment trends for Ireland’s largest demographics

Tuesday, June 6, 2023 4 minute read

4 minute read

The 2022 Irish Census reveals that the population surpassed five million people for the first time since the 1800s. This represents total growth of 8.1% over the six years since Census 2016.

Statistics also show peaks for people in their early 40s and preteen years in 2022, reflecting high birth rates in the early 1980s (early millennials) and 2010s (Generation Alpha.)

Population by age and gender (Census, 2022)

Chart showing peaks for people in their early 40s and preteen years in 2022, reflecting high birth rates in the early 1980s and 2010s

Image: Graphic

Today, contactless transactions, social commerce and increased digital wallet usage mark the current trends in the payments landscape for all age groups across the country. However, the early experiences with payments of the two largest generations—early millennials and Generation Alpha—will differ significantly given the decade of innovative change the payment and banking sectors have experienced.

Here’s what payment experiences both groups had/will encounter as they became/become young adults.

Early Millennial payment experiences

Cash in two currencies

For a time, Irish shoppers had the option of paying with two currencies, as Ireland transitioned from the Irish pound to the euro in 2002. The euro was first introduced in January, 2002 but the Irish pound was still accepted as legal tender until early February of that year. This ended the use of a currency that had been in circulation for 75 years, with the introduction of the Saorstát pound in 1927.

An extensive public information campaign conducted by the Euro Changeover Board of Ireland supported a smooth transition. Educational handbooks and conversion calculators were sent to every household across the country and business awareness campaigns supported merchants to be informed and prepared for the change.

Traveller cheques

No longer an evident feature in today’s world, traveller cheques were once considered a safe and convenient means of payment for anyone travelling abroad. However, their use and the use of cheques in general have declined significantly with the rise of digital payment options.

Debit and Credit Cards

Swiped through or inserted into card terminals, credit and debit cards were not an invention of the late 90’s or 00’s. The credit card, the flexible friend of the late 70’s, is closing in on its 70th birthday. But, it was the launch of the now-defunct Laser card by Irish banks in 1996 that furthered card payments’ progression as a transaction type. Credit and debit cards experienced an early stage of growth as a payment option throughout the Celtic Tiger years, although cash still played a central role. The Laser card was fully decommissioned in 2014 and replaced with other card schemes.

Online Banking

For larger or business transactions, Irish Millennials would have been the first generation to experience online banking with applications like Banking 365. People began to use online banking services to initiate an electronic transfer of funds between accounts. Commonplace in today’s world with most banks now having their own app, this was revolutionary in the late 90’s.

The advent of online shopping

E-commerce’s growth in popularity, combined with the advanced uses of smartphone devices in the late 00’s, led to more people using online payment methods to make purchases. Far from the streamlined and innovative experiences we have today, technical issues as well as concerns over security and fraud hampered initial user experience and functionality.

Generation Alpha payment experiences

Peer-to-peer and instant payment experiences

Peer-to-peer (P2P) payments, where individuals can send money easily and directly to family and friends, have become commonplace in Ireland. This appetite for seamless payments is only growing. Current legislative proposals on instant payments in the EU are currently moving to make it a very near reality. Generation Aalpha, unlike previous generations, will likely be unaware of next-day or delayed money transfers to their current accounts.

Payments going fully mobile

We’re already seeing the physical card disappear out of sight as people opt to pay with their mobile phones or wearable devices. Given the increasing popularity of smartphones and the widespread adoption of mobile payment systems, people born just over a decade ago could fully embrace mobile platforms to make transactions as a generational norm.

Payments in a Virtual World

The increased familiarity we’re currently seeing with social commerce and online live shopping experiences, along with that rise in mCommerce usage, points to increased payment experiences in the Virtual Reality (VR) sphere over the coming years. Apple’s recent launch of its own AR headset highlights this. Unlike the Metaverse, there are already tangible use cases for payments through every day use of VR, such as furniture and home design stores allowing customers to see how products will look in their home through their smartphone.

Shopping in virtual stores will enhance online shopping experiences with virtual product displays enabling more informed consumer interaction. It also allows product and social interactions when visiting a physical store may not be possible. Some retailers already enable online shoppers to “try on” items to see how they look through VR platforms.

Digital Identity and biometric payments

Payments are becoming increasingly digital and mobile. Government institutions and the banking and finance sectors continue to keep pace to ensure payments are securely validated. Digital IDs will be part of payment experiences. This is already a reality for Swedish citizens, where they can store relevant information in a digital wallet to verify payments more easily through their device or card.

We are already accustomed to biometric authentication methods, such as fingerprint scanning, facial recognition or iris scanning as an alternative to using a passcode to access our smartphones. With biometrics providing secure and convenient methods of verifying one’s identity, Generation Alpha may be part of the first wave of digital natives familiar with linking their biometric data to their payment accounts.

Different initial payment trends for Ireland’s largest demographics

Despite a relatively short age gap between early millennials and Generation Alpha, both will encounter very different initial payment experiences. Millennials will remember a time when Ireland operated with two currencies as the Euro started to replace the Irish Pound. Generation Alpha may not even use cash or physical cards, choosing digital payment options instead.

Early millennials have adapted to a world of increased digital payment usage over the last 10 years. Generation Alpha will experience payments as digital natives.

Future-proof your business

As you consider the future of your business, it’s important that you support all of your customers’ preferred payment methods. Give us a call to make sure you’re ready to accept payments from all customers—whatever their generation.

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