International

Why Boots On The Ground Matter In Cross-Border Payments

As eCommerce grows — and increased top lines beckon — navigating through the payments preferences and practices in foreign markets proves tricky. PPRO has opened a U.S. office to help U.S. firms access alternative payment methods globally. Steve Villegas, vice president of Partner Management, and James Booth, head of New Business Development, explain why boots on the ground are vital in getting eCommerce sites up and running across borders.

So many payment methods, so little time for merchants to find the right one to offer to (sometimes fickle) consumers.

Especially when it comes to doing business in far-flung markets. And especially if you are a U.S.-based firm looking to do business in those far-flung markets. Understanding the preferred, locally sourced alternative payment methods (APMs) can make or break a merchant’s eCommerce initiative, and credit cards do not always pass muster.

To that end, PPRO Group, which focuses on cross-border ePayments, has opened an Atlanta-based office. The company is partnering with U.S. acquirers to help eCommerce sites brand well beyond their companies’ domestic stomping grounds.

In an interview with PYMNTS’ Karen Webster, two executives from the firm, Steve Villegas, head of FinTech sales and partnerships – who is heading up the Atlanta location – and James Booth, head of new business development, explained the lures and rationales of establishing a U.S. presence.

Said Villegas, APMs remain foreign to most U.S. merchants. Acquirers and payment service providers (PSPs) recognize that they exist, of course, but do not know how to connect to them other than directly. They use multiple providers, which introduces a level of complexity into the mix. Thus, confusion looms for companies seeking to expand their eCommerce reach.

The U.S. focus, Booth said, comes as the company’s acquiring partners have historically been based in Europe. Other geographies where the company has seen growth have included Southeast Asia – notably Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia.

The eCommerce arena is one that players of all stripes and sizes want to enter. Research from eMarketer has found that in 2015, the total worldwide value of eCommerce was $1.7 trillion. Of that, U.S. sales encompassed 20 percent. Two years from now, by 2019, the global value of eCommerce may be as much as $3.5 trillion. The data from eMarketer estimates that domestic shoppers will comprise only 9 percent of the global tally, so it’s no wonder that merchants will want to sell beyond U.S. shores.

There are some methods that are ingrained in the fabric of certain locales, said Booth, such as bank transfer methods. For example, India remains a cash-centric economy grappling with the transition to digital channels (Booth termed that market one with “high barriers to entry” preferences, which can shift across regions and even languages). Consumers want what they want, agreed Villegas and Booth, and U.S. acquirers and PSPs must be cognizant of, and cater to, those desires.

Easier said than done: As Webster posited, there are several local payment methods – she noted that PPRO connects to more than 140 of them – tantamount to domestic market schemes. How to advise merchants on the right mix?

Villegas said that his firm’s intellectual property and data gleaned globally from each of its local markets – with knowledge spanning bank penetration to eCommerce to payments – can determine where consumers are dropping out and abandoning shopping carts.

In addition, the executive said, PPRO provides full reconciliation processes for back-office functions. That eliminates at least some of the friction for merchants, who may have previously been daunted by integration requirements, back-office reconciliation and foreign exchange challenges.

No matter the territory or geographic region, Booth said that, above all, “having presence on the ground” in the countries in which the company does business “is vital.”

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