Ecommerce has made it easier for B2B suppliers to do business with buyers in other countries, but it has not eliminated the difficulties of receiving cross-border payments. It can take weeks, in some cases, for B2B sellers to receive payment. In addition, sellers incur currency conversion fees, and cross-border bank remittances made on Friday or the day before a holiday won’t be processed until the next business day, at the earliest.
The Western Union Company’s new cross-border payment platform addresses such problems that suppliers experience when conducting cross-border transactions. The platform, which Western Union developed as part of a partnership with Amazon.com Inc., eliminates the complexities of processing and settling cross-border ecommerce transactions, Western Union says.
The white-label platform, which Amazon calls PayCode, allows buyers in foreign countries to use cash to pay for purchases on Amazon.com.
After selecting the PayCode option at checkout, Amazon customers receive a QR code, which they take to a Western Union agent, who then validates the buyer using her ID, scans the code, accepts the cash payment, and provides the buyer with a receipt. A QR, or quick-response code, is a two-dimensional barcode that contains data for a locator, identifier or tracker that points to a website or application. QR codes can be used as a contactless payment method where payment is made by scanning the code from a mobile app.
Next, the buyer receives a payment confirmation email from Amazon and notification when the order has shipped. Buyers have four days from the time of ordering to pay for the purchase. Western Union handles the back-end settlement and currency conversion for Amazon. PayCode by Amazon is available in 13 countries with plans for further expansion in the works.
“We see this as a localized bridge to cross-border e-commerce for consumers that don’t have credit cards and that are unbanked,” says Rebecca Loevenguth, vice president of transformation for Western Union. “It can also be applicable to small businesses to help them attract new buyers, and even move money to vendors cross-border.”
Payment options for small businesses
Much like consumers, many B2B buyers in other countries prefer not use a credit card to pay for an ecommerce purchase. Alternatively, these buyers would pay for their purchase using a bank remittance. To complete such a transaction, the supplier’s bank and the buyer’s bank must have a connection over which funds, and the accompanying transaction data, can move digitally between one another. Unfortunately, such connections between financial institutions around the world are not universal, Loevenguth says. Consequently, a buyer in one country may not be able to transfer funds using his bank to a supplier’s bank in another country.
“There are a lot of complexities to connecting with other financial institutions globally, including variances in the regulatory environment by country, that require a lot of time and money to address,” Loevenguth says. “We have that bridge in place, which is why we are opening our ecosystem to third-parties and their customers for cross-border money movement.”
Accepting cash payment through Western Union’s new payment platform, which the company internally calls Pay@WU, can enable suppliers to become relevant with buyers in other countries that prefer to pay for B2B purchases using cash. “There is a lot of diversity in how buyers and consumers pay for purchases around the world,” Loevenguth says. “Our platform can broaden the ability of small businesses to accept cross-border payments, which can make them more relevant to buyers in other countries and grow their business.”
Western Union supports 130 currencies and offers digital payments to its customers in more than 70 countries. Overall, the company offers international money transfers to more than 200 countries and has more than 500,000 agent locations globally.
Looking ahead, Western Union is working with potential partners in other vertical markets, such as insurance and travel, to expand Pay@WU. “International money movement among our own customers is one of our core efficiencies,” Loevenguth says. “Our aim is to remove the complexity of cross-border payment for third-parties that are thinking of servicing the global market, and their customers, by opening our money movement ecosystem to them.”
Peter Lucas is a Highland Park, Illinois-based freelance journalist covering business and technology.
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