Pay it forward: enabling the digital transformation

Pay it forward: enabling the digital transformation

PayPal, the world’s best known internet payment business, sees great opportunities for Irish businesses, both online and off

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9th October, 2021

Most likely the provider behind many people’s first online payment experiences, PayPal built its reputation in the early days of the internet by making commerce not only secure and seamless, but possible at all. Decades later, e-commerce has become the norm and, unsurprisingly, the company has not stood still.

“We absolutely see it as proof that we have started in the right place: trying to digitise services,” Joachim Goyvaerts, director of Benelux and Ireland at PayPal, said.

Today, though, that means providing businesses and consumers with tools that respond to a very real shift in society.

“Very clearly, and specifically for Ireland, it is the case that with the pandemic there has been an acceleration of three to five years. That’s mostly because Irish entrepreneurs have really jumped on digitisation,” Goyvaerts said.

Digitisation of commerce has been a long-term business strategy, but the pandemic has driven it forward in unexpected ways. Large businesses were already working hard to improve their e-commerce offerings, but they do not have a vice-like grip on the market: today, the local convenience store and café are as likely to offer ‘click and collect’ as major supermarkets, while home businesses and even market stalls can now engage in omni-channel retail.

“Local digitalisation has accelerated rapidly, but it has been a long-term trend as well [so] we don’t see anything falling back,” Goyvaerts said.

Simplicity and security are the goals, and indeed the demands from both retailers and customers.

“Consumers still adhere to that and Irish entrepreneurs have embraced that,” Goyvaerts said.

With Ireland enduring a longer lockdown than most of its EU peers, the country has perhaps seen a more thoroughgoing transformation than some. As we come out of the pandemic, Goyvaerts said he expected to see changes in consumer behaviour solidified.

“Ireland is definitely an open economy, but the smaller businesses have discovered that it’s becoming more and more easy to sell digitally.”

The digital transformation is not yet complete, though. It is an ongoing process.

“Omni-channel is more than web plus in-store, it’s also social these days,” he said. “The phenomenon of ‘buy local to support retailers’ has given additional motivation to the customer [and] we see the rise of QR codes now in physical retail: people order food and drinks through an app and pay through mobile.”

Indeed, PayPal, in addition to its core existence in online payments, is present in the physical world, including with the mobility app Free Now and, more broadly, its growing provision of payment infrastructure to merchants.

Goyvaerts said this was a recognition that businesses needed to meet customers where they were – and where they are today is everywhere.

“Social, it’s more than advertising. We see it as becoming more and more transactional,” he said.

Part of PayPal’s proposition to businesses, then, is that wherever they are doing business, the company will be there to support them with payments technology. “Again, for a small business it does not require a lot of infrastructure,” said Goyvaerts. It also supports businesses and consumers whoever they are buying and selling from. It sees, for instance, potential for growth in the business to business (B2B) sector and thus supports functions like invoice generation.

“In B2B we see it’s very easy to make an invoice [with PayPal]; a lot of B2B has been digitised,” he said.

The B2B sector has a reputation for being slower than business to consumer (B2C), and for good reason: capital expenditure purchases are not made on a whim, after all. Thinking solely in these terms will obscure the fact that there are a lot of other B2B transactions out there, not to mention the fact that business buyers are also consumers and have themselves got used to seamless transactions.

“The shift in B2B is definitely happening as well because people are people. Not all B2B purchases are high value investment-level goods: there are a lot of freelancers, for example, and we have real reach with a presence in 200 territories,” he said.

PayPal’s reach is not only broad, it is also deep, and this is something that gives it an advantage in terms of security and fraud prevention.

“Security has multiple aspects. Strong customer authentication is security at the gate. The strength of PayPal as a network, a two-sided network, is that we know [both] our buyers and sellers so we have a better view of both sides of the transaction,” he said.

With secure and seamless payments in place, Irish businesses, large and small, can now think about export opportunities.

“Ireland is a crossroads of different cultures [and] digitisation has grown the opportunities. What I also see is that Ireland is not just a hub between the US and Europe. There’s also this dimension now with the UK, and Ireland is in a better position than ever. In that sense Ireland has become more central.”

For Goyvaerts, security is, in the end, about giving people the confidence to do business. “We want to take the position of being an enabler for digital commerce for people and businesses,” he said.

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