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Why You Should Optimize Your Payments Stack for a Successful Cross-Border Expansion

global trade payments

Why You Should Optimize Your Payments Stack for a Successful Cross-Border Expansion

Global expansion brings an array of opportunities for businesses, such as being to establish within new markets and increase revenue. However, it also comes with an array of cross-border challenges, particularly from ecommerce perspective. One such challenge is online payments.

Each country has its own preference for payment methods and being able to successfully integrate them can be the make or break of an international expansion mission. 451Nexus had released a report that flagged poor payment mixes had led to merchants losing over £16.6 billion ($20.1 billion) in revenue in 2021.  

Thus, its key to optimize your payment stack and embrace payment method trends. 

Why is it important to optimize your payment stack?
Being a key part of the customer’s journey and improving your conversion rates significantly, the payment stage of the journey is important to develop an understanding around, as well as being able to respect each market’s payment trends. This will help you adapt and get on the good side of your new potential customers, that will lead to increased revenue.

If you add new payment methods to your mix, this will allow you to reach new pools of consumers you may not have necessarily had access to previously.

One thing to note with cross-border ecommerce and the extension of payment methods, is the increase risk of fraud opportunities. Using data and the knowledge of a rich commerce network will help you detect fraudulent orders and approve more good ones. Partnering with a third-party provider can introduce you to machine-learning and order automation to take the toll off manual order review and assist you on your cross-border expansion journey, all while optimizing your revenue.

E Wallets are overtaking credit cards in North America
Whilst credit cards are the most preferred method within the US as of 2021, e-wallets have become another major player to have entered the scene. As the digital-first buyer is headlining the ecommerce landscape in the US, e-wallets are gaining momentum. By 2025, they are expected to exceed credit cards in popularity, rising from 38.2% in 2020 to 53.2%.

In Canada, things are looking similar. While credit cards are the dominant force with a share of 50% in 2021, digital wallets follow them with a 22% share and are expected to increase as a result of the current ecommerce revolution.

Europe’s adopting a more dispersed approach to payment methods
Digital wallets have become a dominant method of payment, the likes of PayPal and Alipay have been used by  42% of shoppers. Other preferred payment methods include Visa and Mastercard (35% of buyers) followed by domestic bank credit and debit cards (24%).

However, there’s a certain divide of preferred payments throughout the different regions of Europe.

In Westen Europe for example, credit cards and debit cards are still predominately used, however there are some big differences amongst certain countries. In the Netherlands, for instance, the national payment method iDEAL was a top choice with 53% of the Dutch using it in 2020.

While in Eastern Europe countries, some like Slovakia are relying on traditional cash payments, at least, two-thirds of payments are handled this way.

China riding the digital revolution wave
Being at the forefront of digitised payments, China had recorded 72.1% of ecommerce purchases in 2021 being made via digital wallets.

Digital Wallets being utilised in China tend to be tied with the online platform running the cross-border ecommerce scene in the region, such as Alibaba’s Alipay and Tencent’s WeChat Pay. By the end of 2021, Tmall Global, an Alibaba-backed cross-border shopping platform, had over one-third of all B2C cross-border ecommerce retailers.

The reign of credit cards dominates Latin America
Credit cards are the dominant payment method in Latin America. In 2021, they comprised 39.3% of the value of transactions across all Latin American markets. In Mexico, 45% of transactions were made this way, while Brazil had a 44.7% of usage, followed by debit cards (18.2%).

However, digital wallets are an emerging trend in Mexico and gaining momentum. In 2021, they comprised a 27.7% share of all transactions. Some of the most popular e-wallets in the country are PayPal, Visa Checkout, Masterpass, and domestic player Mercado Pago.

If you develop a clear understanding of payments and their strategic place within your cross-border expansion, then this can increase your chances of your international expansion success. After that, it’s crucial to optimise your payments stack based on the market you’re expanding into to see good results.

trade Blockchain is not Revolutionizing the Supply Chain yet

The Role of Blockchain in Streaming Global Payments

In the complicated maze of global commerce, traditional payment methods often resemble intricate puzzles with numerous twists and turns. They involve high transaction fees, prolonged settlement times, and a heavy dependency on intermediaries, creating a challenging labyrinth for businesses and individuals alike. Enter blockchain technology, which acts as the Ariadne’s thread of this complex world, offering a direct pathway through the maze. 

While initially making waves in the context of cryptocurrencies, its potential goes far beyond digital currencies. It’s stepping into the limelight as a decisive factor in transforming the intricacies of global payments. This article will traverse the transformative role of blockchain in this domain, delving into how it can unravel the pitfalls of existing systems, proposing a robust and efficient alternative, and guiding you through the multifaceted technology, its tangible applications, and its prospective future in redefining global transactions.

Problems with the Current Payment System

In the grand tapestry of today’s global economy, transactions suffer from a series of inherent problems. Traditional payment systems are hindered by complexity, inefficiency, and expense. The process of conducting cross-border transactions is particularly laborious, necessitating involvement from numerous intermediaries such as correspondent banks, payment processors, and foreign exchange platforms

Each of these intermediaries piles on to the overall cost, levying charges for their services, contributing to the time taken to process, and finalizing the transaction. The situation is further complicated by the fact that these intermediaries operate across different time zones, adhering to varying banking regulations. This layering of complexity often results in a slow, unpredictable, and often prolonged waiting period for transactions to clear. In a world where speed is synonymous with success, this lethargic approach can hamper business growth and competitiveness.

The currency conversion’s towering costs are another significant obstacle. As businesses and individuals engage in global transactions, they face substantial foreign exchange fees that fluctuate based on volatile exchange rates, a phenomenon that can consume a large portion of profits or savings. 

Besides these financial hurdles, the lack of transparency in traditional global payment systems poses a profound challenge. The opacity surrounding transactions leads to uncertainties regarding their status, fueling fraudulent activities and complicating the resolution of disputes. Thus, the clarion call for a global payment system that embodies efficiency, cost-effectiveness, security, and transparency becomes louder. Traditional methods increasingly fall short of fulfilling these needs, and blockchain technology, with its unique attributes, appears as an innovative solution.

The Revolutionary Power of Blockchain

Blockchain technology, with its groundbreaking features, promises to remedy the challenges plaguing traditional global payment systems. Its decentralized nature leads to greater speed and efficiency, cutting through the Gordian knot of conventional payments. By eliminating the need for intermediaries, blockchain enables direct peer-to-peer transactions, vastly streamlining the payment process. 

Coupled with smart contracts – self-executing contracts with the terms directly embedded into code – this direct approach can overcome the time lags that have characterized traditional payment methods. Moreover, by avoiding intermediaries, blockchain reduces the overall expenses tied to global payments, lessening transaction costs and trimming currency conversion fees. This makes worldwide transactions not only faster but also more economically viable.

What sets blockchain apart is the enhanced transparency and security it offers. Each transaction, once recorded on the blockchain, becomes transparent and immutable. This means it cannot be tampered with or deleted, minimizing the risk of fraud, enhancing trust in the payment process, and significantly aiding dispute resolution. Real-world applications, like RippleNet’s blockchain-based global payments platform and Circle’s USDC, a stablecoin pegged to the U.S. dollar, exemplify the vast potential that blockchain harbors in revolutionizing the global payment landscape.

Future Outlook and Potential Challenges

As we gaze into the horizon, it’s evident that blockchain holds enormous promise for transforming the global payments ecosystem. However, this exciting path is not devoid of potential disruptions or roadblocks. Blockchain’s ability to eliminate intermediaries and enable near-instantaneous transactions could reshape how global payments function. 

It offers a direct, fast, efficient way of transacting that could catalyze innovation and inject more competition into the financial sector. The prospects stretch beyond today’s capabilities, with ongoing research exploring cutting-edge uses such as smart contracts automating multifaceted financial processes, tokenization of assets for streamlined transfer, and digital identities enhancing security.

Yet, this bright future faces some shadows. Regulatory compliance looms as a significant barrier, with legal uncertainties in many jurisdictions posing a challenge. Issues related to scalability and interoperability are equally daunting; blockchain must be scalable enough to handle global transactions, while different systems must be able to work seamlessly together. 

Public perception also poses a stumbling block; overcoming misconceptions associated with the volatility of cryptocurrencies and building trust in blockchain for everyday transactions will be a crucial part of this evolution.

Conclusion

The potential of blockchain technology in transforming the global payment systems stands tall and clear. It’s set to dissolve the inefficiencies and complexities of traditional systems, providing a solution that’s faster, more secure, and cost-effective. As we advance into a new era of global commerce, the hurdles to mass adoption become ever present. The legal ambiguities, technical challenges, and public misconceptions must be addressed. 

But with focused efforts, the intricate maze of international finance could turn into a clear path. Blockchain, acting as a wise guide, can lead us toward a future where streamlined, secure, and affordable global payments are a tangible reality. Like a masterful navigator, it directs us through the complexities, setting a course towards an exciting future, turning what once was a labyrinth into a roadmap for progress and innovation. 

 

spend invoice

8 Ways Your AP Process Leaks Spend – and How AI Can Prevent It

Today’s companies put huge efforts into negotiating the best terms with their suppliers. Procurement teams regularly spend weeks or months going back and forth on contract terms and volume discounts to get the most bang for their buck.

Too often, these savings aren’t realized. Suppliers may ignore the negotiated terms when invoicing, and AP teams, faced with a deluge of invoices and limited time to get payments out the door, only sample select transactions and only do basic 2 or 3 way matching of volume and price. This inevitably means costly invoice problems fall through the cracks — from mismatched invoice and contract terms, to unapplied discounts, to completely bogus charges, and more.

Optimizing your AP process may seem like a big undertaking, but it’s much easier than it might seem and worth the effort. According to The International Association of Contracts and Commercial Management (IACCM), companies that work to improve controls over invoice payment will see a return of more than 4 percent of invoice value.

Even if you’re ready to improve your AP process, one pesky question remains: How do you actually do it? Once upon a time, it would have been necessary to hire more people to check every transaction. But today, technology can provide a crucial and cost-effective assist for overstretched AP teams.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming more and more common in business contexts. Nearly 90 percent of companies planned to increase AI spend in 2019, according to a Deloitte survey. However, the idea of actually using AI may feel a little unrealistic for some. While more and more corporations are automating AP processes, 30 percent of businesses still rely on manual invoice processing, according to The Institute of Finance and Management.

If you’ve already implemented other technologies in your workflow, AI can fit in seamlessly. AI-powered spend automation software integrates with existing expense management, invoice automation, contract management, and ERP systems to augment rather than disrupt your status quo.

8 common (and costly) invoice problems

Here are just a few of the problems AI-powered solutions can help your team avoid during the spend audit process:

1. Fraudulent invoices: When it comes to invoicing fraud, if you can dream it, chances are fraudsters have tried it: From inflated invoices, to completely made-up charges, to shell companies, to vendor impersonation, and more.

Too often, the calls are coming from inside the house. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) found that occupational fraud (fraud committed by employees against employers) resulted in more than $7 billion in total losses in 2018. AI systems with a compliance component can spot risk factors commonly associated with fraud so your team has a chance to review these invoices manually before they’re paid out.

2. Duplicate invoices: Up to two percent of the average company’s invoices are duplicates, according to AuditNet. This may seem like a relatively small number, but for businesses doling out millions or billions on business activities, the figure is far from trivial.

Some vendors might double up charges on purpose, but often duplicate invoices are mistakes (after all, your vendors’ finance teams are overworked too). While some invoice automation systems try to catch these double charges, they usually only succeed if the invoices are labeled with the same number or have the exact same total — which isn’t always the case, particularly if there’s someone scheming behind the scenes.

 3. Missing discounts: You fought hard for volume discounts, but how often are you checking invoices to make sure they’re applied? AI-based systems can often compare contract and invoice terms automatically to make sure you’re not missing out on an early payment, loyalty, or quantity discounts. You’ll be notified of any missing discounts so you can remedy the situation before you pay. In the case of early payment discounts, this software notifies you that the invoice should be prioritized to get payment out in ample time.

 4. Mismatched service levels: You signed up for the standard package, but you’re being charged for the premium offering. This type of mismatch is all too easy to overlook amid your monthly deluge of invoices.

The correct AI solution can compare agreed-upon service levels in your contract with every invoice you receive to make sure that this type of costly problem doesn’t fly under the radar. When it comes to physical items, it can ensure you receive all the items you’re being billed for before you pay, by double-checking shipping documents against inventory systems.

5. Double payments: Double payments can happen as a result of vendors submitting duplicate invoices, but the problem can also originate from your own team. Accounting systems hold up an invoice for all sorts of reasons, e.g., it requires further approval or it failed a match. In many cases, an employee might intervene to get the invoice paid manually (to meet a deadline or because they’re being pestered by a supplier or don’t want to damage a relationship). Meanwhile, the invoice is still in your system and when the hold is later cleared up, it’s processed and paid… again.

This is another one of those sources of spend leakage that most companies never become aware of. AI-powered systems constantly cross-check invoices and payments and flag any duplicate payments before you send them out, so the money never leaves the front door.

6. Exorbitant pricing: It can be difficult and time-consuming to keep track of the market rate for all the various services and products your business requires. AI can regularly compare your current costs to thousands of other sources to determine whether your invoices reflect the market rate for the goods or services provided. It can also flag individual invoices where your price exceeds the market rate.

Knowledge is power, and this information helps your business negotiate more effectively with existing suppliers or look to new ones if there’s an opportunity for cost savings without sacrificing quality.

7. Unsatisfactory work activity: When it comes to hiring contractors, there are situations when it’s particularly difficult to understand and assess whether they’re fulfilling their agreed-upon duties, like professional and IT services. AI-based tools can ingest nearly unlimited data to build a profile of what comprises satisfactory work activity — e.g., regular activity in Slack or over email — and highlight changes in the typical patterns. This helps you verify that you’re paying contractors fairly for the work product they’re providing.

8. Overpaying for software: Are you licensed for seven software seats, but only using three? It’s not uncommon for organizations to overpay for software licenses without even realizing it. AI-based software keeps tabs on your organization’s software usage and compares it to the charges on your monthly invoices to help alert you to savings opportunities.

How AI can help

Implementing a best-in-class AI solution can support a consistent process and add an additional layer of scrutiny. These solutions make it possible to audit 100% of invoice spend prior to payment, automatically and near-instantaneously checking every invoice in your system for risk factors before they’re paid, and flagging the highest risk items for your team to review. This will help your team get ahead of problems and potential leakage, rather than try to recover it afterwards.

Below are the critical requirements for considering an AI solution for AP spend management:

Audit 100%, prepayment. Automatically audit 100% of invoices before reimbursement with AI.

Understand documents. Instantly scan every line of every invoice to understand charges and track the correct spend category.

Enrich with intelligence. Check online sources to identify better prices for similar goods and services.

Assess and refine risk. Flag suspicious addresses or billing changes to avoid fraud. Spot duplicate charges from other invoices, other invoice systems, or expenses.

Streamline process. Integrate into your existing AP automation system to audit every invoice in real-time to spot errors, waste, and fraud.

Conclusion

The best AI software can help your team regain control over your spending by checking every single transaction to identify high-risk invoices in your pipeline — saving time, streamlining processes, and ultimately reducing spend leakage.

If your AP team’s efforts to find problematic spend feels neverending, you’re not alone — but it doesn’t have to be that way. AI has changed the paradigm for modern finance teams, giving them greater visibility into their AP process and the time they need to address the highest risk issues. Not only can AI transform the way finance teams operate, but it also saves the business money by spotting problems consistently and before invoices are paid. By implementing a leading AI solution, your team can audit 100% of spend, make sure that every invoice complies with its contract terms, and ensure you’re receiving every savings opportunity you’re entitled to — all while paying your bills on time.

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Anant Kale founded AppZen in 2012 to bring AI into back offices around the world. As CEO he is responsible for the product vision and execution of the company’s broad mission. Previously he was the VP of Applications at Fujitsu America from 2009-2012, responsible for product management, and delivery of Fujitsu’s applications and infrastructure for enterprise. He has 15+ years of experience in software development. He has an MBA and a BS in Finance and Engineering from Mumbai University.