PayPal: 2021 Was the Year of Reinvention

Last year brought the digital divide into sharp focus, Doug Bland, PayPal senior vice president, Global Credit and Financial Services tells PYMNTS, noting that businesses large and small have had no choice but to adapt to deliver the omnichannel experiences customers demand. Read his thoughts on it in the PYMNTS eBook, “In a Word: 50 Thought Leaders Sum Up 2021.”


If 2020 was a year of adaptation, then 2021 was a year of reinvention.

Governments reinvented how they provided assistance and relief during the pandemic and the length at which the programs needed to be offered. In fact, these programs kicked off 2021 helping people manage their finances — both personal and business-related. Government programs were extended to navigate the challenges of an ongoing pandemic.

The long-tail economic challenges of the pandemic came to fruition as labor shortages and supply chain issues impacted businesses just in time for the holiday shopping season. Unfortunately, this happened during a season that many believed would be more successful than past years, forcing even more strain on the system.

Large companies are offering higher wages and new benefits to prospective hires, while chartering planes and cargo ships to ensure that they have products on the shelves as people shop. These pivots are leading to a reinvention of employee expectations as well as inventory and supply chain management across a variety of industries.

While large companies have the resources to navigate these challenges, small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) don’t necessarily have the same luxury. They could be forced to reinvent themselves by improving their online presence, providing omnichannel experiences, offering new payment methods and finding ways to attract new customers. This could require exploring new sales channels, such as online marketplaces, or investing in new marketing — but whatever it is, SMB owners need access to capital in a market that has tightened over the past 24 months.

The SMB lending industry is recognizing the need to provide easier access to capital. It is critical that lenders get access to additional data to be considered during the application process from application programming interfaces (APIs) or open banking. This could allow for stronger applications, which could lead to SMBs receiving capital to be even more successful. In turn, successful SMBs create a stronger global economic recovery.

This year, we introduced the first version of the new PayPal app to make it a one-stop destination for our customers to take charge of their everyday financial lives. New features like access to high-yield savings, in-app shopping tools for customers to find deals and earn cash back rewards, early-access direct deposit, and bill pay offer customers a simplified, secure and personalized experience.

We’ve also rolled out buy now, pay later (BNPL) into new countries. This type of solution services all our customers. Merchants are paid upfront and see an increased average order volume, while consumers can spread their payments across six weeks. We’ve also looked at how we help SMBs that are struggling to access capital — and we’ve had to rethink how to help as many SMBs as we can.

Everyone has had to reinvent themselves over the last 12 months, learning from the past and planning for the unknown future. By reinventing how we help people and companies recover from 2020 and adapting to help them in the future, an even stronger recovery can be achieved.