With the whole world moving online due to the Covid-19 pandemic, online shopping and e-commerce have seen a huge boom over the past year. However, for Europe, the impact of Brexit is still sending shockwaves throughout the industry, affecting consumers and suppliers alike.
Matt Jackson is the Head of Partner Development, EMEA at PPRO, a provider of local payments infrastructure, powering global growth for payment companies. Here he shares his thoughts on how to unlock cross-border growth in a post-Brexit retail landscape.
Following a period of digital transformation which saw e-commerce accelerate forward 10 years in just 90 days, the opportunity for cross-border growth has increased exponentially. Today, up to 80% of shoppers across Europe’s three largest markets (France, Germany and the UK) are making at least half their purchases online. And many see e-commerce as borderless as they look for the perfect products and prices.
Yet, as we reach a tipping point for global e-commerce, the so-called ‘Brexit effect’ strengthens its grasp on European retail. From supply chain delays, to unexpected delivery charges the immediate impact of Brexit is already reverberating across the retail industry with dire consequences for unprepared merchants and consumers.
Brexit also means that the EU’s cap on credit-card interchange fees, the fees a card-provider charges merchants, no longer covers the UK. Consequently, card providers are free to increase these fees, striking another blow for merchants already facing new challenges when trading with the UK.
In an increasingly digital age, the demand for borderless retail is at an all-time high, and those who are unable to overcome the Brexit headwinds risk the potential of future growth.
Beating the Brexit blues by reducing cost and complexity
With further uncertainty on the horizon, digital payments should be a major priority for merchants operating or contemplating cross-border expansion. Offering a diverse range of payment methods will be key for navigating fluctuating currency rates and other potential card fees.
Merchants need a way of keeping the cost of UK-EU shopping down. This is where local payment methods such as bank-transfer apps could be a game-changer.
Bank-transfer apps are ideal for cross-border payments, due to prior approval and integration with the consumer’s own bank. Transferring funds directly from account-to-account cuts complexity. And with this reduced complexity comes lower costs, helping to offset any increase in overheads that Brexit has brought with it.
Bank-transfer apps are wildly popular – often the preferred way to pay – in European markets. Their popularity has been steadily increasing in the UK. In fact, PPRO’s own research found that between 2017 and 2019, the proportion of UK online shoppers paying via bank transfers doubled.
Meanwhile within the rest of Europe and North America, the online bank transfer method Trustly now supports more than 6,000 banks and has access to over 600 million consumers across 29 countries. Due to high acceptance rates, this makes it easy for merchants and consumers to make the switch to these methods for cross-border shopping.
Boosting cross-border conversion rates
In addition to reducing costs, local payment methods can help merchants boost conversion rates. This is particularly important during a time when port delays and other supply chain snags threaten to damage customer relationships.
Bank-transfer apps are by no means the only payment option for merchants to consider when trading cross-border. According to findings from PPRO’s 2020 Payment Almanac, which looks at the payment preferences of consumers across the globe, preferred payment methods vary greatly across Europe – resulting in the need for a diverse payment portfolio to ensure online transactions are converted. For instance, in Belgium nearly half (49%) of online transactions consist of payment methods other than card, including bank transfer (23%) and E-wallets (14%).
For Germany, on the other hand, bank transfers dominate as the payment method of choice, with 52% of transactions being carried out in this way. In Italy, payment services like Satispay are also rapidly growing in popularity, with over 1.5 million users, citing an average 7.1 transactions per consumer per month.
A strategic payments partnership
Ultimately, payment choices drive sales. This has never been more important, given the pandemic and current Brexit fallout being faced across European e-commerce.
Yet, integrating these payment methods is costly, complex, and often overwhelming for even the biggest payment service providers. Luckily for merchants and the payment service providers who support them, teaming up with a provider of local payments infrastructure effectively breaks down the barriers to cross-border commerce.
In addition to supporting the technical integrations that create choice at checkout, the new generation of payments infrastructure also provides the services and expertise needed to fuel growth beyond borders.