For online-focused merchants, the value of investing in payments has long been recognized. Payments are the most direct gateway to their customers, inextricably tied to the growth of their business.

However, creating simple, seamless checkout experiences that meet the needs of a diverse set of customers in different geographies, is a challenge that only seems to get more complex.

There are several reasons for this. The payments landscape in Southeast Asia has been notoriously fragmented due to different cultures and conditions in banking and mobile penetration across the different markets.

And the proliferation of digital payment methods as a result of the pandemic, combined with consumers’ demand for faster, cheaper, and more convenient payment options, is only adding more complexity to the issue.

At the same time, the payments roadmap is also long and difficult to implement.

For small players, the time and expense needed to grow their payment stack may be out of reach, while enterprise merchants must deal with the technical debt of maintaining existing payment solutions or redundancies.

The time needed to handle complex payment solutions can stifle innovation by diverting resources from strategic business objectives to operational functions.

In this context, how can businesses adapt to a payments landscape that’s constantly evolving?

Often, the solution is to take a step back and simplify.

Simplify and scale

A prime example of simplification is super apps.

In this region, super apps such as WeChat have allowed consumers to access a wide range of apps and services through its open ecosystem, without having to download each individual app to their mobile phones.

The same concept applies to payments — an underlying infrastructure that allows customers to set up and maintain various payment providers all in one place can allow commerce businesses to offer a seamless experience.

When businesses go global (or perhaps they already are), payment methods become more localized and present a new layer of complexity. Additionally, different markets have different preferences. For example, digital wallets account for 68 percent of all e-commerce transactions in APAC whereas bank payments are highly popular in Brazil. Meanwhile, BNPL is on the rise for the Gen Z generation.

We’re seeing this in our recent partnership with ONE Championship, who we work with to offer a direct digital platform with local payment options for fans around the world accessing their pay-per-view service.

The concept of a payment gateway is not new, but an infrastructure that’s inclusive and agnostic, enabling anyone to add a new payment method without being tied to one payment provider, is.

More than just cross-border functionality, incorporating and offering new payment methods like Crypto or BNPL provides customers with more choices according to their personal preferences.  Expanding the breadth of payment options immediately increases a business’ addressable market.

The convergence of payments and commerce

Establishing a simple offering is more accessible to any business than it ever has been. But historically, integrating all the functionality and efficiencies that commerce tools have to offer has not been so simple.

Multiple payment options, integrating business-critical apps like fraud detection, shipping and returns, and customer loyalty tools, are no longer limited to large enterprise merchants with swathes of developers at their disposal.

Whether accepting a payment or streamlining back office operations, no code automation is leveling the playing field by enabling companies to do more with less. I have seen clients with teams of any size achieve things that were previously the domain of only large organizations.

Perhaps more importantly, this is not just about saving time on back-end costs. It’s about getting access to services that businesses may not know they need today.  In this sense, it’s built-in future-proofing.

Digitize to optimize

In the face of growing volatility in the macroeconomic climate, merchants are also increasingly facing another problem: how to adapt their business expenditures while maintaining growth.

If there is anything to be gained from weathering the storm of an economic downturn, it’s learning how to do more with less. It forces businesses to ask: are we optimizing our business? Are we incorporating the resilience and flexibility to pivot (again) if we need to?

You would think that we’d have learned about resilience, having just emerged from the pandemic. But with parts of the e-commerce sector enjoying the tailwinds of the pandemic online boom, many in the sector are only now feeling the pinch.

There’s one area that’s not set for a downturn: digital spending. In fact, recent forecasts from Gartner expect tech spending in 2023 to rise by more than 6 percent from last year.

There’s a reason for that. It’s about digitizing to optimize: automating processes to accelerate sustainable growth and create efficiencies, even if your business is very established.

I have seen this firsthand, particularly how automating payments has streamlined and simplified our clients’ processes, while also enabling them to scale.

As we continue into further economic uncertainty, the businesses that work smarter, not harder will be the ones that come out on top.

Kailash Madan is Head of Sales, APAC at Primer.

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