While innovations in shipping and air transport technology have had their own impact on cross-border trade, the dawning and rise of the internet may be the industry’s biggest shakeup yet.
According to Shannon Scott, director of risk and payments at uShip, an online marketplace for shipping and payment services, the internet has made international commerce easier than ever and raised consumer expectations when it comes to cross-border shipping.
“Borders tend to be disappearing, and I think that’s due to the heavy focus on the internet in general,” Scott told PYMNTS during a recent interview. “You can buy things from all the way across the world and never leave your living room.”
However, despite those improvements, international trade can still be fraught with complications, Scott said. While the internet may be helping borders figuratively fade, it also brings new security risks and friction that can cause customers to abandon transactions as a result of language and currency barriers.
PYMNTS recently caught up with Scott to get her insights on how the internet has changed the cross-border shipping industry, what friction still remains and the trends she sees emerging down the road.
Breaking Barriers, And Borders, With The Internet
There’s no denying that the web has made long distances, even those that cross international lines, seem a bit shorter. With just a Wi-Fi connection, people can now speak with friends and family anywhere in the world and even send money across continents with a few clicks of a mouse. According to recently released research, about $50 billion has been sent via mobile payments already, and that number is expected to almost triple by 2019.
Scott noted that connectivity has had a major effect not just on our social lives but on the business world as well. Now that consumers are connected with nearly every corner of the globe, they expect to order and pay for goods as quickly and simply as they can call a faraway loved one.
“Barriers are being broken by the internet in general,” Scott said. “[The web] gives people access to other parts of the world that they weren’t able to do business in before ... We’re able to access different markets, like Brazil, with never having to leave Austin, Texas, or Amsterdam.”
Platforms like uShip work to use those tools to make trade easier. But not all obstacles are easy to overcome. Consumers can still experience resistance when dealing with retailers whose websites are in a foreign language or those that accept only currency they do not typically use. That friction can cause customers to become frustrated or disinterested and abandon their transactions.
To combat that, Scott and her team often partner with local payment processors. That way, customers can communicate with merchants without having to overcome a language barrier and can pay for transactions using their native currency. Currently, the company offers 19 different localized currencies available in more than 130 countries around the world.
“I think it’s challenging being in different markets globally, but luckily, we’ve got a lot of good vendors in place that help us navigate those waters,” Scott said.
More International Trade, More Fraud
While the internet has brought with it an influx of international commerce, it has also brought along a less pleasant passenger: fraud.
Companies of all shapes and sizes that rely on the web to conduct their business have to deal with bad actors looking to infiltrate their inner workings and cause harm to them or their customers. What’s more, international transactions can be especially susceptible to hackers and other culprits, making security even more important.
In fact, according to Scott, the more countries any cross-border platform works with, the more chance there is for fraud. As a result, she and her team rely on security experts to provide top-notch solutions and keep transactions on the uShip platform safe.
But, Scott said, hackers and identity thieves are not the only instances of fraud against which she and her team must guard.
Because international transactions often involve parties who have different cultural norms and speak different languages, Scott explained, payment platforms often have to help solve disputes and accusations of impropriety.
“Mediating any fallout between users gets complicated once you’re talking about users who are in two different markets,” she said. “So, uShip becomes the mediated platform that these two users are able to talk through.”
More Barriers To Fall?
Before the internet became an integral part of modern life, few could have imagined just how powerful it could be. Similarly, Scott said, it is hard to predict what future innovations will shape the future of cross-border payments and commerce.
For uShip’s part, the company plans to continue to work in as many different markets as possible. Scott said the company is exploring expansion, among other countries, into Brazil — an important and appealing market that has some challenges and regulations that are particularly challenging to navigate.
For cross-border commerce as a whole, Scott said, she expects new technology, such as mobile capabilities, to continue to break down barriers in the industry in order to reduce friction and make international trade a simpler process.
Could it be that making an international payment may someday soon be as easy as clicking open a website?
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About The Tracker
The PYMNTS X-Border Payments Optimization Tracker™ is the framework for evaluating players in the cross-border payments landscape, and the quarterly index tests the readiness of the companies to serve a global audience.