Whether it’s a merchant or their customer, an employer or their employee — every party involved in a transaction wants to be paid immediately, without any hassles or surprises.
That’s why companies from rideshare services to ticket platforms are moving to innovate their payments experience as a way to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Many are utilizing new technologies and rethinking their payment processes to cater to the growing need for instant pay.
To better gauge the demand for instant payments PYMNTS interviewed five executives from various industries, ranging from gig economy to eCommerce, on how they are working to meet their customers’ and partners’ shifting payment needs.
Enabling a localized experience
For platforms like Airbnb, enabling an easy payments experience has not just become key to staying competitive, but also improving engagement.
“Travel, by definition, involves mobility. … Customers that use our platform in one [global] location one day may access it from another location on another day. We want to ensure that the experience they have is consistent,” said Sharda Caro-del-Castillo, interim head of payments at Airbnb in a recent interview with PYMNTS.
The bigger challenge, however, is making sure that this experience remains the same no matter where customers are utilizing the app or when homeowners want to get paid.
Airbnb, which operates in over 191 countries and has more than 6 million listings worldwide, has worked to overcome this by focusing on improving the timing of its payments, its overall payout processes, as well as the way in which it resolves payments-related inquiries and issues.
Additionally, the company has looked to offer a localized payment experience in markets that have more unique payment preferences. The company, for instance, accepts prepaid cards, online wallets and also cash payments in countries such as Cuba, she noted.
Other platforms like scooter rental company Lime are also taking a similar approach as they look to expand into new markets.
“There are certain parts of the world where there’s a particular wallet payment product that people want integrated or cash is [preferred],” said Ryan Foutty, global head of business development for Lime. Lime is currently available in about 20 countries for its electric scooter rental experiences, including Germany, New Zealand and the United States. “In Latin America, there’s high [cash] usage. We’re applying a very localized approach, the same way that we do on the operations side to the way that we approach payments and the product itself.”
No matter what part of the globe they reside, gig workers and employers need to be able to trust a digital platform in order to use it. To establish that trust, it helps for gig workers to get paid in their local currency and for employers to be able to make payments in theirs.
But offering payouts in real time and in different currencies is often easier said than done. Gig platforms must stay abreast of financial exchange volatilities that come with conversions and making sure payments are as seamless as possible for both employers and employees, according to Andy Schabelman, vice president of international expansion for freelancer marketplace Fiverr. The company also researches which services and features are most popular in different markets as a way to improve its services globally.
“The thing we also have to keep in mind is that we have a two-sided marketplace,” he said. “We also have intricacy that involves being able to offer the local currency of the buyer, which can [sometimes] be different than the local currency of the seller.”
Catering to a global customer base
As with platforms in the gig economy, retailers also need to make sure that they are providing the payment experience that their customers are most comfortable with. Depending on the market, that can mean anything from contactless payments to a cash drop off.
Consumers still cling to what they know, according to Sophia Tsao, chief marketplace officer for eCommerce company, Newegg. That means that unlike platforms in the gig economy and other areas, eCommerce and retail services can’t just jump straight in to providing a fully digital instant payment experience. They need to go through those intermediary steps first, she said.
“We’ve also realized the importance of providing a familiar and localized shopping experience for our international customers when it comes to website content, fulfillment, payment options and customer service,” said Tsao. “[As part of this, we work to] optimize the shopping experience in markets that are still quite reliant on cash or payment on delivery as preferred payment options, such as certain parts of Southeast Asia and emerging markets in the Middle East.”
The eCommerce players also need to make sure that they know exactly who they’re catering toward before they make those changes, she added. Developing the right instant payment infrastructure isn’t instant.
“From the point of obtaining the right customer information — such as mobile number, address verification at checkout and prior to delivery — to actual communication with customers during and post-delivery, and ensuring purchase satisfaction and post-purchase protection, there are many things a retailer needs to consider before a step can be made toward the acceptance of cash or non-prepaid payment options,” Tsao said.
It’s not just the eCommerce and gig platforms where users expect consistency and localized payment experiences. Players in the sharing economy such as car-sharing platform Turo also have to deliver an experience that matches local expectations, as Chief Technical Officer Avinash Gangadharan explained.
Turo recently expanded operations to include Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and the U.S., establishing its presence in a total of 56 countries.
“The core expectations of our customers across different markets remain the same,” said Gangadharan. “Customers want a great experience. The fundamentals don’t change.” As such, when it comes to making payments seamless for customers, it's been a key focus for the company to ensure that it's offering payment methods that are preferred by local consumers.
“If you don’t offer the payment methods a customer needs, you’re going to lose that customer,” Gangadharan added.
While payment demands may vary from market to market and industry to industry, one constant remains: Offering local payment methods and instant payouts are going to be key to removing friction and ensuring a seamless payment experience.