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2021: a new tipping point for digital commerce

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2021: a new tipping point for digital commerce 1

By Damien Perillat, SVP Digital Commerce at Worldline Global

2020 was a year of significant change for all of us, impacting businesses and their customers heavily.  While several industries struggled, the demand for digital commerce and alternative ways to pay took off as nation-wide lockdowns meant customers needed to shop from the safety of their homes. This forced many businesses that previously relied on their bricks and mortar stores into the online space. And now, consumers are increasingly comfortable with ecommerce being a crucial part of their shopping experience – even those who were previously reluctant to adopt a digital life. It took ecommerce 20 years to reach about 15% penetration of consumer spending and in just a few months we jumped five to ten years forward. This isn’t likely to change in 2021.

Even in physical stores, customers are looking for safer alternatives to cash and chip-and-PIN payments. UK Finance revealed that contactless spending was up 18% across the UK in September last year when compared to the same time in 2019 – 64 percent of debit card transactions and 46 percent of credit card transactions were contactless. The use of digital and contactless payment methods will be much more widespread in 2021 as we enter this new normal.

K-shaped economic recovery will continue

With that said, economic recovery won’t take place at the same rate for everyone. Different industries have been impacted in their own unique ways by the pandemic. Leisure and travel continue are ranked as the most one missed activities by consumers and the first signs of recovery will be in the form of an increase in domestic and regional travel.

At the same time, the way consumers are interacting with different industries has changed. For example, millennials are looking for more experiential holidays with strong social aspects, where they can make a positive impact on the destination and people they are visiting. And, younger generations are displaying more conscious buying behaviour, focusing on sustainability.

Other industries have faced difficulties throughout the pandemic. Challenged with economic uncertainty, customers have cut back on spending on non-essential, luxury items, instead favouring spending that has enabled low-touch and home-based activities, such as food delivery, electronics, home entertainment and online marketplaces.

A shift in payment preferences

What has been uniform across many industries though, is that consumers now have high expectations surrounding not only the user experience (UX) but also the payment process itself. They anticipate an easy shopping experience where payments are almost invisible. Having the right payments mix will therefore be the key ingredient for success this year for many. Companies will need to ensure that their payment processes are fast, simple and frictionless as online checkout experiences have been raised to the next level.

At the same time, demand for digital goods and services surged last year as people were stuck indoors during lockdowns so purely digital players benefitted. By the end of Q3 2020, Netflix had a huge 195 million subscribers registered, while from February to June, Zoom saw a 677% increase in usage – attributed to increased remote working.

Clearly the digital transformation boosted the subscription economy, and that didn’t stop at just digital goods. People took to subscription services that regularly delivered anything from food to supplies to their doorsteps. This has been a much safer and convenient way to purchase goods during the pandemic.

So, with subscription services establishing a foothold last year, 2021 will be the time for businesses to invest in understanding the dynamics of what a truly optimised subscription payment customer acquisition looks like.

More online payments means more online fraud

Last year it wasn’t all plain sailing for everyone operating in the digital space. The increase in online payments presented more opportunity for fraud to take place and that’s exactly what happened. Between May and July 2020, when certain lockdown measures were eased and customers became more willing to spend, fraud volumes rose 61%, according to figures published by Barclays Bank.

Damien Perillat

Damien Perillat

Similarly, chargebacks became more prevalent. When shops are more reliant on deliveries than ever before, there is more opportunity for things to go wrong with orders and customers to be dissatisfied with what has been purchased. Fraudulent chargebacks have also become much easier to commit as it is increasingly difficult to prove when deliveries arrive safely.

Therefore, in 2021, not only will it be important to have a frictionless UX, but security measures must be effective without impeding on checkout processes and refund management will remain critical.

Going global

Greater risk of fraud didn’t stop businesses from embracing their new-found digital capacities while physical stores were closed though. Many have ventured into international territory with the aim sharing their services with other countries around the world.

This year, focusing on high-growth markets such as India, Brazil, Russia, and China will be hugely beneficial for companies looking to operate internationally and we could see cross-border sales continuing to take off in these regions. South-East Asia and Latin America have some of the greatest potential for digital commerce growth and I would urge those operating across borders to consider offering services there.

Key to achieving this is the ability to provide payments services that meet the needs of customers in different localities. Worldline research has found up to 42% of customers are likely to drop off and search for an alternative website if their preferred payment method is not offered at the checkout. Therefore, businesses must integrate with payment networks in different regions to provide locally relevant payment methods.

Yet, the web of complexity is increasing for online merchants, especially for those that want to expand internationally. As such, next year we can expect to see the growing popularity of payment solutions that seamlessly support the international reach of consumers and that enable businesses to integrate with local payment networks, while minimizing the need for local establishments and resources.

In a similar fashion, supply and logistics is becoming more localized. Lockdown measures hugely impacted supply chains around the globe and businesses resorted to new sourcing strategies and business models which will continue to be used this year.

Facing up to the change

2021 will be another extraordinary year for many businesses, as the world begins to find its feet again following COVID-19. Businesses must assess their position in the market and ability to meet the changing needs of customers’ when it comes to preferred commerce and payment methods.

Not only will this be critical when operating in the bustling online space, but it gives them scope to diversify, bringing in new revenue streams as we face the current economic downturn. When used to their full potential, payments will also ensure that companies can continue expanding online and abroad, even if the economy is going through a long K-shaped recovery period.

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Australia says no further Facebook, Google amendments as final vote nears

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Australia says no further Facebook, Google amendments as final vote nears 2

By Colin Packham

CANBERRA (Reuters) – Australia will not alter legislation that would make Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google pay news outlets for content, a senior lawmaker said on Monday, as Canberra neared a final vote on whether to pass the bill into law.

Australia and the tech giants have been in a stand-off over the legislation widely seen as setting a global precedent.

Other countries including Canada and Britain have already expressed interest in taking some sort of similar action.

Facebook has protested the laws. Last week it blocked all news content and several state government and emergency department accounts, in a jolt to the global news industry, which has already seen its business model upended by the titans of the technological revolution.

Talks between Australia and Facebook over the weekend yielded no breakthrough.

As Australia’s senate began debating the legislation, the country’s most senior lawmaker in the upper house said there would be no further amendments.

“The bill as it stands … meets the right balance,” Simon Birmingham, Australia’s Minister for Finance, told Australian Broadcasting Corp Radio.

The bill in its present form ensures “Australian-generated news content by Australian-generated news organisations can and should be paid for and done so in a fair and legitimate way”.

The laws would give the government the right to appoint an arbitrator to set content licencing fees if private negotiations fail.

While both Google and Facebook have campaigned against the laws, Google last week inked deals with top Australian outlets, including a global deal with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

“There’s no reason Facebook can’t do and achieve what Google already has,” Birmingham added.

A Facebook representative declined to comment on Monday on the legislation, which passed the lower house last week and has majority support in the Senate.

A final vote after the so-called third reading of the bill is expected on Tuesday.

Lobby group DIGI, which represents Facebook, Google and other online platforms like Twitter Inc, meanwhile said on Monday that its members had agreed to adopt an industry-wide code of practice to reduce the spread of misinformation online.

Under the voluntary code, they commit to identifying and stopping unidentified accounts, or “bots”, disseminating content; informing users of the origins of content; and publishing an annual transparency report, among other measures.

(Reporting by Byron Kaye and Colin Packham; Editing by Sam Holmes and Hugh Lawson)

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GSK and Sanofi start with new COVID-19 vaccine study after setback

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GSK and Sanofi start with new COVID-19 vaccine study after setback 3

By Pushkala Aripaka and Matthias Blamont

(Reuters) – GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi on Monday said they had started a new clinical trial of their protein-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate, reviving their efforts against the pandemic after a setback in December delayed the shot’s launch.

The British and French drugmakers aim to reach final testing in the second quarter, and if the results are conclusive, hope to see the vaccine approved by the fourth quarter after having initially targeted the first half of this year.

In December, the two groups stunned investors when they said their vaccine would be delayed towards the end of 2021 after clinical trials showed an insufficient immune response in older people.

Disappointing results were probably caused by an inadequate concentration of the antigen used in the vaccine, Sanofi and GSK said, adding that Sanofi has also started work against new coronavirus variants to help plan their next steps.

Global coronavirus infections have exceeded 110 million as highly transmissible variants of the virus are prompting vaccine developers and governments to tweak their testing and immunisation strategies.

GSK and Sanofi’s vaccine candidate uses the same recombinant protein-based technology as one of Sanofi’s seasonal influenza vaccines. It will be coupled with an adjuvant, a substance that acts as a booster to the shot, made by GSK.

“Over the past few weeks, our teams have worked to refine the antigen formulation of our recombinant-protein vaccine,” Thomas Triomphe, executive vice president and head of Sanofi Pasteur, said in a statement.

The new mid-stage trial will evaluate the safety, tolerability and immune response of the vaccine in 720 healthy adults across the United States, Honduras and Panama and test two injections given 21 days apart.

Sanofi and GSK have secured deals to supply their vaccine to the European Union, Britain, Canada and the United States. It also plans to provide shots to the World Health Organization’s COVAX programme.

To appease critics after the delay, Sanofi said earlier this year it had agreed to fill and pack millions of doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from July.

Sanofi is also working with Translate Bio on another COVID-19 vaccine candidate based on mRNA technology.

(Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru and Matthias Blamont in Paris; editing by Jason Neely and Barbara Lewis)

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Don’t ignore “lockdown fatigue”, UK watchdog tells finance bosses

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Don't ignore "lockdown fatigue", UK watchdog tells finance bosses 4

By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) – Staff at financial firms in Britain are suffering from “lockdown fatigue” and their bosses are not always making sure all employees can speak up freely about their problems, the Financial Conduct Authority said on Monday.

Many staff at financial companies have been working from home since Britain went into its first lockdown in March last year to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

One year on, the challenges have evolved from adapting to working remotely to dealing with mental health issues, said David Blunt, the FCA’s head of conduct specialists.

“During this third lockdown, there has been a greater impact on mental well-being, with many people struggling with job security, caring responsibilities, home schooling, bereavements and lockdown fatigue.”

Bosses should continually revisit how they lead remote teams, he said.

“The impact of COVID-19 is creating a huge workload for those considered to be high performers, while the remote environment potentially makes it much more challenging for those who were previously considered low performers to change that perception,” Blunt told a City & Financial online event.

Companies should consider “psychological safety” or ensuring that all employees feel confident about speaking out and challenging opinions.

“We’ve heard varying reports of how successful this has been,” Blunt said.

Pressures in the financial sector were highlighted this month when accountants KPMG said its UK chairman Bill Michael had stepped aside during a probe into comments he made to staff.

The Financial Times said Michael, who later apologised for his comments, had told staff to “stop moaning” about the impact of the pandemic on their work lives.

Blunt was speaking as the FCA next month completes the full rollout of rules that force senior managers at financial firms to be personally accountable for their decisions to improve conduct standards.

There have only been a “modest” number of breaches reported to regulators so far as firms worry about being “tainted” but more cases will become public as sanctions are revealed, Blunt said.

“Regulators won’t be impressed by lowballing the figures.”

(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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