How Embedded Payments Can Drive Cross-Border B2B Marketplace Success

Health-consciousness rose to new levels over the last year as individuals around the globe took a renewed interest in products that promote wellness. For retailers and grocers, that meant having to adjust their product procurement strategies to focus on organic and natural brands to meet customer demand.

Consumer shopping habits have shifted dramatically over the months thanks to a surge in eCommerce, curbside pickup and other emerging models. As stores were scrambling to keep pace with intensifying demands, they were also balancing this need to inject new variety within their product offerings.

These market pressures created conditions in which retail buyers of these brands had to come to terms with a new way to source products, collaborate with their vendors and procure across borders, according to Grovara’s Co-founder and CEO Abu Kamara and Co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer Peter Groverman.

Speaking with PYMNTS, Kamara and Groverman highlighted how important it was for even the most hesitant of overseas buyers to finally embrace the digital realm when sourcing from the U.S.

“You have a lot of people internationally who are behind, in terms of technology,” Groverman explained, pointing to one buy-side client of the Grovara B2B marketplace platform in Costa Rica who had initially considered the portal “over-engineered” and unnecessarily digitized. But when the pandemic hit, he said, that buyer could no longer rely on in-person interaction to purchase what the company needed. “If the pandemic did anything,” Groverman said, “it increased the evolution of what’s inevitably going to happen.”

Digitization Towards Simplicity

That inevitable change undoubtedly includes the digitization of B2B eCommerce in a similar fashion to the migration of consumer commerce online. And while the pandemic has driven up purchasing volumes of B2B trade online — Amazon Business, for instance, recently hit a new milestone in terms of annual sales volume — corporate buyers can still face significant friction when it comes to changing sourcing, procurement and payment processes that have historically been offline and via email.

A recent survey from B2B International revealed that more than one-third of millennial B2B buyers say B2B eCommerce platforms offer a worse experience than B2C portals. It’s a finding that emphasizes just how crucial it is for digital B2B marketplaces to not only digitize the buying and selling experience for their users but do so in a way that promotes ease of use.

“We understood the difference between B2B and B2C,” said Kamara. “We all know, as big as the opportunity of the buying process is, it’s really boring.”

Highlighting the “stickiness” of successful consumer commerce portals, he noted the opportunity for marketplaces that bring buyers and suppliers together to tackle some of the biggest pain points of cross-border B2B trade. Among the largest, he said, is a lack of transparency, allowing the marketplace to digitize and present data with regards to shipping routes, documentations, brand discovery and more.

The Embedded Experience

Digital marketplaces can act as B2B matchmakers, but they can also sit between buyer and supplier to address some of the biggest barriers to cross-border trade. That includes product discovery and logistics, with Groverman highlighting Grovara’s features like integrated buyer education about U.S. brands and products as well as its proprietary “pallet builder” feature that allows a buyer to add items to the digital shopping cart based on SKU data and the item’s ability to fit on a single pallet.

To elevate the user experience for both buyer and seller, however, these features must be seamlessly embedded within the digital portal. Cross-border B2B payments are no exception: While a marketplace may be able to address the pain points of traditionally sluggish and opaque cross-border transactions with complex foreign exchange (FX) conversions and fees, the most successful of these platforms will be able to offer integrated payments experiences.

Kamara said that the company’s current partnership with Stripe allows for integrated payments within the platform, but as Grovara expands (the company recently announced a seed funding round), it will be exploring ways to imbed the payments function more deeply and seamlessly within the portal. That could mean new partnerships or building out proprietary technology.

“We believe we can have our own native payment solution,” Kamara said. “There is something there to capture the payment ourselves — especially from an international wire transfer point of view — and to automate and streamline it.”

Groverman agreed that comparing Grovara’s cross-border B2B payments plan to the payments evolution of Alibaba launching Alipay. The effort to introduce a payments feature that naturally complements the marketplace itself is a rising trend in B2B eCommerce today as more marketplaces and platforms seek to retain greater ownership of the payment process, rather than handing it off for a third-party partner to manage.

Embedded payments and an emphasis on user experience are key features of B2B eCommerce not isolated to the organics and natural products industry. On the contrary, they are universal and industry agnostic and may provide Grovara an avenue to expand its product category footprint moving forward.

Regardless of the customer or brand segment, B2B buyers and sellers that seek international opportunities need an elevated experience, and the more streamlined and simple a digital marketplace can operate with elevated functionality, the sticker that platform will be for the business buyer and seller.