The workplace is evolving and becoming increasingly global and gig-oriented.
Roughly three-fourths (73 percent) of U.S. offices will employ remote workers by 2023. While remote workers may be half the world away from an employer, the same issues around security, trust and real-time payments apply to far-flung workers as much as to those in house.
The new Platform Economy Playbook explores how digital tools and technologies can accommodate this new online workforce. This changing workforce isn’t only made up of remote workers According to the study, nearly half (46 percent) of Americans are taking on ad hoc jobs to cover monthly expenses.
Digital marketplaces are the crux of the platform economy, facilitating drivers, designers, builders, cleaners and more to connect with employers. Freelance job platforms are being used by more workers and employers alike and are expected to contribute $2.7 trillion to global GDP by 2025.
Fiverr is one such digital marketplace. Last month, the freelance marketplace filed to go public. The filing mentioned the need to continue growing the community, though countered with speculation that the freelance market may not grow as quickly as expected.
In a PYMNTS interview, Micha Kaufman, founder and CEO of Fiverr, said the company was created after his experience searching for freelance talent online and encountering “how high-friction those transactions can be — finding and getting in touch with a person, figuring out if you want to work with that person, and anything to do with transactions, [non-disclosure agreements (NDAs)] and file exchange.”
Building trust sight unseen and accounting for different currencies also pose problems. Andy Schabelman, Fiverr’s vice president of international expansion, stressed the importance of understanding a local market’s preferences. “In almost all of our markets, payment is one of the main mechanisms that … shows we care about the local market, and one of the initial ways to build trust,” Schabelman said.
Payment in preferred currency and currency exchange rates aren’t the only payment challenges with a global, remote workforce. “Cross-border fees are one of the things people are most interested in overcoming right now,” said Martin Chikilian, vice president of talent operations for Argentina-based freelancing marketplace Toptal.
Last year, Toptal launched a collaboration with cross-border payments firm Payoneer and added invoicing and payments functionality into its TopTracker platform. Employers can pay invoices through ACH, bank wires, direct deposit and more.
In addition to understanding local markets and offering preferred currencies, instant payments are often a differentiator for gig economy platforms and marketplaces looking to grow their presence in global markets. In fact, payments are a make-or-break factor among the rising number of workers who want increased flexibility.
Approximately 81 million individuals are currently taking on some kind of gig work, according to the PYMNTS analysis, but U.S. workers are not alone in driving instant payments adoption. The gig economy has gone global, especially for digital services that require specialized labor from overseas workers. According to Making Instant Pay Global, India is the current leader in the international freelance market, supplying 24 percent of the workers who specialize in services like software, creative and multimedia, and marketing support and sales.
This is likely why Amazon recently threw its hat into the ring and launched Amazon Pay to make person-to-person (P2P) payments in India, in direct competition with Paytm, WhatsApp and GooglePay.
Digital platforms are seeking growth through geographic expansion as well as by adopting new tech like artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain.
Last month, corporate payments firm Bill.com announced the launch of an AI-enabled solution that will automate workflows and promote faster business transfers. The system will use machine learning (ML) for tasks such as bill approval and payment thresholds, and an intelligent virtual assistant will handle invoice-related processes.
Facebook has expanded WhatsApp in India and is supposedly considering a blockchain-based settlement system, which is likely an extension of its acquisition of Chainspace earlier this year.
Toptal, on the other hand, has not seen overwhelming demand yet for cryptocurrency and has shied away from incorporating AI into its platform. While money transfer firms draw attention, most in-platform payments are handled through bank transfers.
Toptal is very involved with every single engagement. Our clients and talent put a lot of trust in the people they interact with on Toptal … We’re not here to provide a service that’s 100 percent driven by artificial intelligence,” said Chikilian.