The omnicommerce headlines, PayPal COO Bill Ready noted in a recent conversation with Karen Webster, tend to be dominated by the big players and the technologies they are using to follow the consumer across the many channels they shop with those retailers.
Looking at the data from the 19 million-plus worldwide merchants on PayPal’s platform, Ready said, tells a slightly different story.
In many ways, he told Webster, it’s the SMB merchant that’s making the omnichannel news, by making many channels a part of how they do business with their customers. Ready noted that SMBs are innovating across shopping channels faster and more inventively than their enterprise-sized counterparts.
They almost have to, he remarked, if they hope to keep pace with competition large and small. And, more importantly, if they hope to convert a customer into a sale in whatever channel they want to make that purchase.
For an SMB, that necessity, he said, is the mother of their omnichannel invention.
“It’s very common for us to see PayPal SMBs selling in three, four and five different channels,” Ready said. “They have a physical store, they have an online site for web and the mobile browser, they sell on Facebook and Instagram. Those merchants don’t view it as remarkable, nor do they even call it ‘omnichannel’ – they just say, ‘Of course I am selling in four or five places – that’s where my customers are.’”
These are merchants, too, he noted, who probably already had one foot in the omnichannel world; “growing up on digital channels,” as many may have first started selling on social channels as a complement to a physical stand in a farmer’s market, kiosk or pop-up shop.
For merchants in the developed world – like the U.S. – connecting those omnichannel dots is more easily accessible through platforms that help manage inventory, marketing and payment across those individual commerce channels.
Outside the footprint of the developed world, where cards and digital payments are a nearly ubiquitous reality, the situation is a bit different – because commerce across channels is also a bit different.
“We have merchants on our platform that are selling to customers on the other side of the world who use digital methods to pay them,” Ready said, “but in their shops and in their home markets, they can still only take cash.”
For those merchants who are operating in those economies where cash is still king at the physical point of sale, an omnichannel experience is a challenge – for both them and their customers. Cash at the POS is fundamentally incompatible with the digital transactions their customers use in the online and mobile world.
It’s also one of the many reasons, Ready told Webster, that iZettle is such a natural ally in PayPal’s global mission of democratizing access to digital payments by making omnichannel payments a reality in all of the 200 countries in which PayPal operates today.
Moreover, he noted, the combination of the platforms means that iZettle’s half a million merchants now have doors to scale opened to them via PayPal that would have been hard to imagine just a few months ago.
Built for a Global Audience
There is, of course, no shortage of mPOS players in the world, Ready said, but iZettle is unique in a number of regards – most critically in its global reach and roadmap.
“iZettle is in 12 markets today,” Ready remarked, adding that most of the other mPOS players have struggled to move beyond their own market and perhaps one or two others.
The reason, he noted, is rather simple: Card-present payments are a varied experience from market to market, and most mPOS players aren’t thinking that globally when they take the stage. Headquartered in Sweden, iZettle was built with a global market in mind and shares many of PayPal’s ideas about powering inclusion in the digital financial services and payments space.
That bigger perspective has also been key to how the iZettle product itself has been developed.
Starting out as a cost-effective EMV-dongle for micro merchants that attached to a smartphone, the solution is now a merchant services platform with a variety of client-facing features and back-office utilities for those SMBs. The iZettle platform gives SMBs access to all of the same digital payments and omnichannel options as merchants many times their size.
And for many of those merchants, the opportunity to run their entire business from the smartphone they also probably use to run their lives is something that Ready said is particularly important, given its place in those markets as the original access point for digital services.
There is no transition from desktop to mobile – these are businesses whose mobile phone was the first computing device they ever had access to,” Ready said.
Providing the ability to run the whole business from that single digital touchpoint, Ready noted, opens up to those developing-world SMBs the same kinds of controls – and the ability to build their businesses up and out across channels – that their counterparts in the developed world enjoy today.
Twelve Down, 188 More to Go
Ready said that PayPal’s plans are to extend iZettle’s platform, now powered by PayPal’s digital financial services operating system, to all of the 200 markets PayPal is in today. Ready’s point is that multichannel is global, and the combination of PayPal and iZettle can bring omnichannel capabilities to developing markets that want and need it.
As for the United States?
Webster noted that in years of interviewing Jacob de Geer, the iZettle CEO always pushed off the possibility of a U.S expansion. He noted that the U.S was a pretty saturated market, and that iZettle preferred to pursue other markets with more of an opportunity to leverage the core platform that it had developed.
“Will that change, now that iZettle is part of PayPal?” Webster wondered.
Although Ready noted that iZettle’s focus will remain on the underdeveloped countries, where the need for digital, multi-channel payments is more acute, he said there’s always an opportunity to learn and evolve their product in the U.S., consistent with some of the insights that have made iZettle such a popular platform in the markets it has entered.
“The question we are asking – in the U.S, in Europe and all over the world – is who is best positioned to help small businesses connect with their customer across every digital and physical channel they want to meet them?” Ready remarked. “And PayPal and iZettle, together, we believe, can offer a best-in-class answer to that question.”