Blurring the lines of traditional ecommerce

The line that separated physical and online commerce continues to blur as businesses bring in new and innovative ways of facilitating consumer demand, both current and future

Consumers have adapted to new and innovative payment methods like contactless, facilitating P2P (peer-to-peer) payments, hybrid shopping, and cross-border shopping, treating them as the norm. Picture: Getty

When it comes to how much ecommerce has changed in recent times, Joachim Goyvaerts, director of Benelux and Ireland at PayPal, is clear about how unprecedented it is.

“You don’t just see it in consumer demand, but also in organisations,” he said. “There’s the war for talent, supply chain challenges, and on the forefront are new consumer behaviours like new channels and touchpoint experiences that they’re interested in.”

With the pace of change accelerating, it’s a challenging time for retailers who are keeping up with both new technological developments and consumers’ expectations.

Consumers have adapted to new and innovative payment methods like contactless, facilitating P2P (peer-to-peer) payments, hybrid shopping, and cross-border shopping, treating them as the norm.

In particular, cross-border shopping is a growing development as research from Statista found. In the US, Britain, Australia and Germany, more than four in ten online shoppers surveyed said that shopping more online during the pandemic increased their willingness to consider cross-border ecommerce purchases.

Goyvaerts references that 60 per cent of payments were done in cash more than 12 years ago, whereas now 60 per cent of transactions are done by card.

As the pandemic helped expose consumers to new payment methods, there’s a critical need for both depth and flexibility of merchant services to be offered by payment providers.

The good news is that providers like PayPal, which has more than 1.8 million active users in Ireland, are keeping up and are adapting to present and future needs.

To emphasise this, a recent study carried out by PayPal Research in November 2020 found that almost half (42 per cent) of Irish customers surveyed believe there will be no cash transactions by 2023.

It’s a startling statistic, but reflective of the many new ways consumer expectations evolved before the pandemic. As PayPal works towards becoming a fully fledged digital wallet, letting customers maintain control and flexibility is paramount.

Joachim Goyvaerts, director of Benelux and Ireland at PayPal: ‘It’s our role as an experienced, trusted adviser to businesses and the flexibility of our technology to help merchants prepare for the future’

“It’s important to look at what consumer expectations are now and what they think is important,” Goyvaerts said. “Consumers are looking for a level of control with their money that is easy [to manage], and that’s something we want to make accessible to Irish customers.”

The general consensus is that cash has been displaced as the dominant payment method, with newer methods coming into play.

Merchants will have to meet the different ways in which consumers will be paying, and recent stats give further credence that they must anticipate and facilitate those different payment journeys. Thankfully, providers can allow this without requiring a significant overhaul from the business itself.

“It’s our role as an experienced, trusted adviser to businesses and the flexibility of our technology to help merchants drive those choices and prepare them for the future,” Goyvaerts said.

“That’s what we bring with our commerce platform, whether it’s live videos, selling on Instagram or ‘buying online, pick up in-store’, it shouldn’t require a fundamental change for the merchant.”

Security, clarity and safety

One element that Goyvaerts stresses is important is a need for security, clarity and safety. Having a trusted partner that can guarantee that all systems are safely running is paramount to consumer trust.

Adding to that is another study carried out by PayPal which found that 69 per cent of Irish consumers rated good service as most important factor in building trust in a brand, followed by product offerings (40 per cent), ethical practices (38 per cent) and sustainable operations (31 per cent).

All these factors are intertwined and once it’s clear what the service provider is bringing to the table, most of these criteria can be met, allowing merchants to focus on the business itself.

This is reflected in the many small innovations that are featured in merchant services like PayPal Marketplace, its commerce platform that simplifies payments, offers a streamlined version of a diverse technology stack, allows quick scaling and accepts payments of over 100 different currencies across more than 200 markets.

While this is important for some aspects like cross-border commerce where people will buy goods from abroad, it’s essential that it’s easy to scale and there aren’t any unwelcome surprises.

Managing that complexity alone is tough, so having a system that handles the little things like converting currencies can make a huge difference.

“Whatever the size of your business, we can help them also to limit that complexity,” said Goyvaerts. “Our mission is to make it accessible to be an entrepreneur and that access to technology is so important.

“When you look at it, 79 per cent of buyers in Ireland are still buying online internationally in the previous 12 months while local digitalisation has progressed since the pandemic. There’s still that common behaviour of cross-border buying, so there are still opportunities for Irish businesses to explore further and build experiences that customers treat as standard.”

Enabling development

The Irish market evolves and changes with businesses further digitalising and meeting customer demand. Trust and alignment with values will continue to be the driver for many local businesses as they further develop their offerings and adapt it to an evolving world.

For PayPal and Goyvaerts, it’s all about enabling merchants of all sizes and forms a way to digitalise their business while giving them incentives to do so. The key is enablement as it reduces the friction of enabling payment methods that best suit the needs of their customers.

“The end goal for payments is knowing you can use any payment means you have,” Goyvaerts said. “We can create that network and ubiquity and bring the needs of the consumers, merchants and technology together.”