Payments

PayPal wants to help small businesses go global as cross-border payments race heats up

  • PayPal launched a concierge service to help U.S.-based businesses that want to expand internationally by offering assistance with shipping, payments in local currencies and foreign-language website translation.
  • Despite the increased competition for cross-borer payments, there is broad agreement that the space can accommodate more players.
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PayPal wants to help small businesses go global as cross-border payments race heats up

For small businesses seeking to expand internationally, finding a web presence with product offerings in a local language that gives customers an accurate estimate of shipping and duties costs can be a challenge, one which many don’t have the capacity to take on.

“Small businesses aren’t logistics experts,” said Melissa O’Malley, director of global initiatives for PayPal. “When you look to expand, you need to know about logistics and shipping and it’s an expensive proposition for you to be able to do that; many don’t have the ability to make the investment to do it.”

Cross-border trade is big business for PayPal, on whose platform more than $400 billion in cross-border purchases have been made since 2003. On Tuesday, PayPal launched a value-added service called PayPal Global Sellers, a fee-free plugin for U.S. based businesses using PayPal as a payment method for international buyers. PayPal is partnering with e-commerce company Webinterpret to allow for localized website translation, localized secure checkout, low-cost shipping, and support from a dedicated account manager. Orders from U.S. companies that are shipping to other countries are flagged and sent to a shipping hub that coordinates the shipping.

O’Malley said that while the local site uses an algorithm to estimate shipping and duties costs, the support of a dedicated real person is necessary to handle detailed inquiries.

“When people have a question about their finances they want to speak to a human,” she said.

When  asked about whether the move is a way for PayPal to expand its reach internationally, O’Malley said the motivation was to make it easier for small businesses to transact internationally, but keeping businesses within PayPal’s ecosystem reduces the need to deal with other companies.

The cross-border payments space for small and medium-sized businesses is fast become a hotly contested market between banks and startups. Big incumbents like Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, TD Bank and others all handle cross-border payments from businesses. Wells Fargo, for example, is offering low-value payments service to facilitate these transactions.

“Working in combination with our wire coverage, these alternative payment types afford customers the flexibility to decide where higher volumes may warrant a more cost effective alternative to traditional wires,” said Judd Holroyde, head of global product management at Wells Fargo.

Among startups, companies like TransPay and Transferwise say they offer better service at a lower cost for companies that want to transact internationally.

“Banks haven’t been the leaders, if you look at ease of use or speed, these are areas where traditional players haven’t kept up their competitive advantages,” said  Andrew Boyajian, head of international product and operations for Transferwise. “The market is now responding to awakened demand from the customer base.”

Despite the increased competition in cross-border payments, there is broad agreement that the market can accommodate more players.

“There’s a lot of room for growth to help more people join the digital economy,” O’Malley said.

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