Although immensely disruptive and, in many cases, devastating to small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), the pandemic has revealed just how resilient the SMB community really is.
As entrepreneurs race to digitize, develop new revenue streams, and find workarounds to what could have otherwise been crushing roadblocks to their business, FinTech partners have become critical allies to helping SMBs.
Indeed, just as SMBs have fast-tracked their own digitization efforts, their financial technology partners have also found the current climate to be an opportunity to accelerate innovation and roll out new services to support their merchant and consumer users.
Jacob de Geer, co-founder and CEO of iZettle, now a PayPal business, told Karen Webster about the strategy of some of those innovations. In his new role leading PayPal’s SMB solutions, de Geer tells Webster how the combination of iZettle and PayPal’s assets are helping SMBs find their digital-first and omnichannel footing to emerge as stronger and healthier businesses.
“This year hasn’t turned out as anyone planned or could’ve ever imagined,” de Geer told Webster.” We will look back at this time as a tipping point where digital payments, both offline and online, became an essential element of our lives, hastening the demise of cash and forcing a reimagination of commerce, retailing and payments systems.
Innovation On The Fast Track
With SMBs across Europe and many other parts of the world hit particularly hard as a result of pandemic-related market volatility, de Geer said he's seen a widespread effort to rally around these companies in various shows of support.
For consumers, that often means prioritizing their purchases with their local stores to help keep them afloat. While that support gives merchants a vital lifeline to revenue, it also introduces new challenges over how to safely and efficiently provide a positive customer experience, whether it be through the introduction of curbside pickup or the launch of eCommerce sites.
SMB owners are rising to the occasion, and according to de Geer, their accelerated digitization journeys are not only enabling SMBs to withstand market volatility, but will position them in a more resilient position later down the road.
"When we eventually come out of this, when we face a new reality, there's not one single small business out there who's thinking twice about having an online presence, no matter what you sell," he said. "The shifts are growing at speeds that we could have never imagined. There is a potential here that, in the end, small businesses could come out stronger than they would have if this hadn't happened."
Giving SMBs A Hyperlocal Helping Hand
SMBs are finding much-needed support in this process through their financial technology partners, which have also risen to the occasion to similarly fast track their own product innovation efforts targeted at SMBs.
For iZettle, that included the rollout of Forever Local, a website dedicated to connecting consumers with local SMBs, as well as Payment Links for SMBs to send links to customers through email, SMS or social media for seamless, digital payment. Forever Local, de Geer said, began as a way to help consumers with information about what businesses were operating in what capacity in their local communities.
"It was really about build fast and deliver to make sure we could help as fast as we possibly could," said de Geer, adding that it’s potential could be much more as hyperlocal commerce ecosystems such as Forever Local have the potential to streamline and simplify how consumers and local SMBs find each other and do business — and make digital payments part of that experience.
The Bigger PayPal Picture
Now, with iZettle a part of PayPal following a 2019 acquisition, de Geer is also taking the reins to guide PayPal's own innovation acceleration as it similarly rolls out value-added tools for SMBs. By leveraging PayPal's existing suite of offerings for both merchant and consumer, de Geer said the companies together are well-positioned to support the ecosystem. He told Webster that his vision is for the team to be truly omni-channel in thinking and execution, “flexing our in-store muscles” and integrating them with all of PayPal’s capabilities. That means targeting both merchants and consumers, often with solutions that overlap other user bases and point-of-sale (POS) systems.
A focus on omnichannel solutions is similarly vital to promote business continuity and consumer shopping regardless of the platform they're on. Payments are an essential component of this strategy, as consumers want a streamlined experience from in-person to online, and businesses similarly seek integrated and efficient payment processes regardless of how or where a transaction occurs. Part of that is making it easier for SMBs to enable all relevant payment options — including PayPal, Venmo, PayPal Credit, digital wallets, alternative payment methods and Pay with Rewards — for their customers in order to boost conversions.
“The online and physical worlds are blurring, and we need to really leverage our complementary product offering in-store and online with our global reach,” he said. “That will be key in serving our SMB community and helping them succeed.
Finally, de Geer said, PayPal and iZettle's access to valuable data supports their ability to accelerate the development of innovative tools based on customer shopping behavior, identities and transaction trends, and identify even more opportunities to innovate and add value.
"Enabling our merchants to leverage these insights to make valuable decisions is invaluable," he noted.
A Future-Proofing Path
In the race to digitize, SMBs haven't had an easy journey. But with consumer support for local SMBs, and with FinTech support to accelerate new product innovation, there is hope that entrepreneurs will not only endure the current disruption, but indeed be in a better position to take the future head-on.
It’s why de Geer said that PayPal's “unique” two-sided network of merchants and consumers is of great importance for SMBs — it can increase volume on merchant sites, especially in this time of crisis as consumers turn to online shopping, and a familiar checkout experience.
It's a message of hope and optimism from de Geer, who predicted that in the months and years ahead, the efforts to adopt omnichannel technologies that support enhanced payments and shopping experiences for their customers will future-proof many SMBs.
"This is not the apocalypse; it's the big digital shift," he said. "And one thing that this crisis has reinforced for me, truly, is that we're in this together."