This article orginally appeared in the Zuora Academy
There have never been more ways to pay someone. Mastercard is working on a new system that confirms transactions with selfies using facial scanning technology. Apply Pay is set to launch in the UK in July, joining a crowded European global payments ecosystem. Bitcoin is getting more attention as a result of the Greek crisis. These new technologies will join the roughly 200 different types of electronic payment methods that currently permeate our world. With so many options and use cases, it can be daunting for any global business to select the right payment methods. It’s more complicated for subscription businesses which have to manage more sophisticated payment processes than traditional, one-time sale business models. In such a scenario, how can these companies find the right global payments for their business? For starters, the most important criteria to assess global payment methods are push versus pull, and one-time versus recurring.
PUSH VERSUS PULL
If you’re a merchant, push means that your customer has to actively send you the money. You have to request it, and your customer has to make the effort to put forward a discrete payment. Cash, wire transfer, checks, coupon payment methods like Boleto in Brazil or BVR in Switzerland are good examples. Generally speaking, majority of payment methods are push payment methods, and these are well suited for one-time payments, as few customers are willing to send payments on a monthly basis.
Pull payment methods are better suited for subscription businesses since they allow the merchant to actively withdraw the money themselves. Agreements need to be put in place first, but a merchant has all the information and agency needed to withdraw the money from a customer’s account. There are several pull payment methods that work well for subscription businesses. While many are regional – they’re popular in one country but not another – few are global in nature. Let’s take a look at the leading pull payment methods for subscription businesses:
#1 - CREDIT CARDS
When you look at the most popular global payment methods today (particularly in e-commerce), credit cards are at the top. A pull payment method, credit cards are excellent for recurring payments for two reasons. First, payments made against a credit card are guaranteed up-front, eliminating settlement issues. Second, once a customer agrees to have you use their credit card number, you can keep pulling from that card on a recurring basis. There are a couple of downsides however, especially fees, fraud, and chargebacks, but these are relatively minor given the convenience to customers and benefits listed earlier.
#2 - BANK TRANSFERS
Bank transfers are another popular recurring pull payment method where the customer gives you their bank account information, and you’re able to pull money directly from their account through a secure network connection. Most of these direct debit methods allow you to pull
payments on a recurring basis. The key benefits of bank transfers are lower fees and popularity of this type of payment method around the globe.
The biggest caveat with bank transfers is that there are many different flavors and how payments are processed will vary by country. A few that come to mind are ACH (Automated Clearing House) in the U.S., PAD (Pre-Authorized Debits) in Canada, SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area) in Europe and UK Direct Debit in the UK. The complexity of handling SEPA bank transfer is much greater than processing an ACH payment.
As a merchant who supports bank transfers, you have to carefully manage which countries and types you’ll support.
And in some cases, you simply must have the ones that are commonly used in your core markets even if they are used only in one country, for example iDEAL in the Netherlands.
#3 - EWALLETS
The third most important global payment method to consider is an electronic wallet, or eWallet, which is a third-party payment method funded by a variety of means. There’s always another payment method that sits behind it (such as a credit card or a bank transfer), but the
company providing the eWallet handles all the complexity, security, and process of the payment transaction.
PayPal is by far the most popular global eWallet today. While their eCommerce reach rarely exceeds twenty percent of any given local market, they’re essentially in every country and have a proven track record. Other rising contenders include Google Wallet, Amazon Payments, and
Apple Pay, which are all expanding their eCommerce reach and adding recurring payments support as well.
As more and more people embrace subscriptions for services or products that are one-time purchases today, we’ll see most spending transpire with regular vendors on a recurring basis.
Broadly speaking, this means:
- Recurring, pull payment methods will continue to gain market share.
- Simpler, consistent user experience will win over fragmented and regional methods.
- Credit Cards will continue to remain very popular and major eWallets will gain ground.
- Bank Transfers will continue to rule in certain regions, but global standards around authentication and guarantees will need to emerge for this payment method to gain more acceptance just like Alipay has in China.
The simplicity for merchants, and the flexibility for customers to fund the wallet by a variety of methods seems to combine the best of both worlds. The key will be to figure out the fees and security aspects, so there’s confidence in the market to use it.
Subscription businesses will do well to carefully analyze and assess payment options to determine what’s best for them and their customers. Because as my colleague Iain Hassal rightfully points out “Nailing down the right payment strategy is not only critical to doing business globally, but it’s also one of the easiest things you can do to grow your business.”
GLOBAL PAYMENT INSIGHTS FROM WORLDPAY
Worldpay is a global leader in payment processing technology and solutions for online businesses. They are a pioneer in multi-currency processing of online cards and alternative payment methods, leading the way in expanding global reach, data analytics and optimization, and the emerging field of integrated payments. On a typical day, they process 31 million mobile, online and in-store transactions.
Worldpay has recently surfaced some fascinating data on global digital content payment trends via their payments microsite. We encourage you to visit the site at https://alternativepayments.worldpay.com/digital-payment-trends.
Here are a few highlights:
- Americans are most likely to use a credit card on a PC (43%) compared to 34% globally.
- Just 15% of Russians paid for software online with a subscription compared to a global average of 21%.
- South Koreans are more likely to charge smartphone purchases to their phone bill (31%) than any other country in the survey (average 11%).
- In China, e-wallets are the most popular way to pay on smartphones (45%) and PCs (54%).
- Very few Indians (2%) use e-wallets on their smartphones, preferring debit cards (29%).
- Half of Brazilians (51%) use credit cards to pay for digital content and video games on their PC, while only 14% use a debit card.
- Top payment frustrations by market? India dislikes payment pages timing out (39%), Americans dislike having to remember usernames and passwords (34%), Russians don’t like being unable to use their preferred payment method (31%), 4 in 10 South Koreans don’t like the way that websites seem to know so much about them, and 97% of Brazilians find online payments frustrating in some way, more than any other country.
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