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The rise of alternative payments: from e-wallets to online banking

We live in a continuously evolving world and it is certainly not easy to keep pace with the times. For Generation Z (those born between 1997 and 2010), for example, speed is now their bread and butter. Even in commerce, while at one time sales methods evolved much more slowly, with the dawn of the digital era new sales, collection and management methods are being continuously introduced. This requires continuous updating, starting from “old” paper money and transitioning to credit cards and, finally, to e-wallets and online banking. As the years pass, the further we get from physical payments, to reach an increasingly abstract and digital speed.

This frenetic evolution is involving not just Ecommerce, but all commercial activities. Whether you operate an online business, a cafe or a store, or even a professional office, you may be asking yourself: but am I keeping pace with customer requirements?

The key word is immediacy. However, in this digital world, not everyone feels at ease using a credit or debit card to make online and in-store payments. And others, especially in certain markets, prefer using alternative payment methods and perhaps they don’t use cards at all.

Therefore, it is fundamental for your POS terminal or Ecommerce platform to accept these alternative payments; otherwise you risk driving away potential customers who want to pay with these alternative methods.

What are alternative payments?

They are alternative methods for paying for goods or services directly from a device (e.g., a smartphone) managing digital wallets or through online banking.

Alternative payments eliminate the need to use physical cards directly (or at all).

In some countries, credit cards are no longer the main payment method, and alternative payments have quickly picked up on this aspect. In addition, many consumers select local payment methods. Nowadays, card alternatives account for roughly 50% of the volume of global Ecommerce transactions. And this value will continue to grow: according to the 2018 WorldPay report, by 2022 alternative payments will reach around 60% for Ecommerce and 30% for POS payment methods (compared to around 16% in 2018).

E-Wallet

Have you ever heard of Paypal, Apple Pay or Google Pay? They allow you to securely deposit funds and make payments or electronic transfers. There are two types:

  • Transactions carried out by a person with a device (e.g., a smartphone), which becomes a veritable wallet (they are called mobile wallets). E.g., Google Pay.
  • Virtual wallets for paying online, called online wallets. E.g., Paypal.

Have you ever thought of how simple it would be to pay at a restaurant with a simple click of your smartphone? And not only is it fast and secure, but it offers other benefits, such as the possibility to pay with a single device in all participating stores, both bricks-and-mortar and online. The list is quite long, but just to cite a few others, Samsung Pay and Amazon Pay are expanding, while there are also payment systems that are already more commonly used, such as 2Checkout or TransferWise. There are also account-cards, like Hype, which enable you to easily make purchases online or in stores and withdraw at no cost from any branch in Italy and worldwide. Every payment method provides a range of benefits, but what unites them all is the simplicity and security that they offer in both online and POS payments.

Online Banking

There are also alternative payments like bank transfers, carried out through online banking. In these cases, users authorise the payment directly online from their bank’s reserved area. This payment method is gaining ground very quickly for Ecommerce, almost as much as e-wallets. What has enabled their rise? Certainly the low acceptance costs and the lower number of chargebacks for merchants have provided a decent push, but the support provided by the new European PSD2 regulation also should not be underestimated.

Benefits

Why offer alternative payments to customers? Here are a few benefits for merchants:

  • They offer more transparent fee conditions, without the risk of incurring hidden costs
  • They can offer free chargeback options.
  • You can sell to more international customers (there are more than 200 payment methods used worldwide), for example to all of the tourists that come from other countries.

The result? More sales.

But there are also benefits for customers:

  • They can choose their preferred local payment method, with support in their native language, currency and local assistance.
  • They offer more speed and ease for all payments, often with one-click solutions.
  • Possibility to pay directly from one’s own device (e.g., a smartphone), with no need to carry cards.
  • There are other benefits based on the specific alternative payment method selected.

Attract new customers

Paypal is one of the most recognised alternative payment methods in the western world for Ecommerce. But if you want to sell abroad, you should evaluate the local payment preferences in different countries. Are you interested in the Chinese market? Alipay and WeChat dominate that market. Let’s say a Chinese customer goes to your Ecommerce site because he’s interested in a product. He first checks the payment methods accepted and sees that Alipay and WeChat are not an option (payments that he trusts, another important aspect), but only cards and perhaps just one alternative method such as PayPal. The result? A potential customer who decides not to make the purchase.

You can even offer the perfect product for the market you are seeking to reach, but if you don’t offer the payment methods preferred by those consumers, your sales may not take off. This is particularly important for markets that are so different from our own, like China.

Accepting local payments is fundamental not only for Ecommerce, but also for all other commercial activities. In the tourism sector, traditional payments still dominate, but alternative payments are developing quite rapidly. Do you have a business like a hotel, cafe or store and want to attract tourists? If doesn’t matter what your business is, but there could be many tourists who prefer to use alternative payment methods such as Google Pay or Apple Pay, which they trust. The same is true for other nations and for parts of Asia and Africa, where credit cards are not even available and departing tourists can use only alternative payment methods to book travel. If your hotel does not offer them, they are unlikely to book a room there: rather, they will prefer a place that accepts their preferred payment methods. The same is true for cafes and stores once the tourist has arrived.

We have seen how alternative payments are expanding worldwide: from e-wallets to online banking, the future is oriented towards an increasingly digital world. It doesn’t matter how big your Ecommerce site or commercial activity is, alternative payments could give you the edge to attract new customers, by offering them local payments that they trust.