Worldpay: Pandemic Has Forced The Issue On B2B Automation

Compared to their direct-to-consumer (D2C) counterparts, the heavy-lifting, hardworking B2B businesses of the world have always been chided for being a few clicks behind when it comes to embracing and investing in payments technology.

And while that will probably remain the case for the foreseeable future, Maria Prados, vice president of global eCommerce at Worldpay, tells PYMNTS that the shift to automated, paperless and secure B2B transactions is on the move.

“B2B historically has been pretty behind, especially around payments,” Prados said. But because they were less digitized and a lot more reliant on manual processes going into the COVID crisis, she said many B2B merchants were left with no choice but to make changes – and make them quickly.

“Many [B2B] companies are still processing cross-border payments through wire transfers, which is quite horrendous and sometimes requires senders to fax paper invoices to the recipients,” Prados said. “So how do you do that when you have all of your employees working from home?”

Companies and call centers that still take payment info over the phone or manually enter it into a spreadsheet are another problem area that is on the mend in the pandemic era.

“These [types of ] companies are pushing much, much harder for this new digital agenda, and they really want to get rid of paper and manual processes,” she noted.

And with a global pandemic that “keeps getting longer and longer,” Prados said that “these [new digitally automated payment] habits are going to get more and more sticky.”

Five Years of Work In Five Months

Prados pointed out that this unprecedented year of turmoil has forced many to address the automation issue.

“The benefit of COVID is that it’s pushing the industry five years ahead in just a few months,” she said.

That adoption trend applies to every single B2B channel. Whether it’s call centers, eCommerce, invoice portals or point of sale, Prados said that companies are now interested in becoming automated, paperless, less reliant on manual processes and more secure with both their buyers’ payment information and their own financial data.

The Case For Change

Prados said that Worldpay’s research has shown that 90 percent of B2B buyers are making more purchases online than last year, while at the same time, 80 percent of buyers will spend more money on sellers that are offering an eCommerce channel rather than picking up the phone.

With incentives like that, Prados said it has become clear to B2B merchants that they can’t afford not to change.

“It pays off, because companies that are offering eCommerce channels are seeing five times faster revenue growth,” she said, noting that the present business and economic climate is the perfect time to transform and “get through all of this.”

The benefit metrics appear to be sinking in, as nearly two-thirds of B2B businesses surveyed by Worldpay said they were planning to increase their investment in eCommerce following the surge in online shopping.

“Right now is the time to go all-in,” said Prados.

Social Commerce

From its purview overlooking 30 million transactions a day, Worldpay’s B2B leader said that another important trend she is seeing involves channels moving from marketing to sales, especially on special media sites.

“Probably the biggest winner is social commerce,” she noted. “Social media is no longer just a marketing tool to raise awareness. You have to embed the payment into it before your shopper loses interest, so as to not lose the experience.”

Also, at a time when you often “can’t touch the product anymore,” Prados said that D2C and B2B businesses alike are doing more with livestreaming and videos that show what products look like and how they work.

As far as cross-border B2B payments are concerned, she said the current climate presents both challenges and opportunities.

“[Digital wallets] are going to be a very important payment method in B2B as we go along,” Prados predicted, because it also opens up globalization. “The more digital you become, the easier it is to reach shoppers in all different countries.”