Opinion Series

Opinion series: Simon Verraest on the importance of digitalization

May 21, 2021

The opinion series aims to share knowledge, provoke debate and stimulate thought and conversation about relevant industry topics. The blogs reflect a range of perspectives from our team here at Pomelo Pay. We discuss the importance of digitalization in business growth with one of our co-founders, Simon Verraest.

Simon Verraest, Co-founder of Pomelo Pay

From freelance software engineer to tech team lead at VC-backed companies to startup-founder himself, Simon’s 16 years in tech so far has seen him working across multiple industries and regions. Currently heading the global tech team at Pomelo Pay across the London, Singapore, and Vietnam offices, he looks after the strategic IT development and scaling of our payments platform by closely working with the financial institutions, merchants, and end customers.

Hello Simon, welcome to the opinion series and thanks for joining us all the way from the Singapore office! The topic we have today is the importance of digitalization in business growth.

Thanks, happy to join and discuss this topic, especially at such a crucial time for lots of businesses.

As consumers, we are rapidly moving toward simpler, secure, and seamless digital payment options. However the same can’t be said for businesses. Why is digital transformation so important for businesses?

Now more than ever, businesses need to adapt to customer preferences to make this process seamless, integrated and contactless. For a very long time, businesses were stuck with limited options on how to accept payments. Customers now may have specific reasons for choosing a certain payment method and there shouldn’t be any friction for merchants to offer a multitude of options. For example, someone might want to use their British Airways Amex for points or cashback, use a specific Visa Credit Card for purchase protection, or even use Alipay or WeChat Pay for a better forex rate.

With digital payments, you will also get immediate business data insights too. Here at Pomelo Pay, for example, we provide multiple touchpoints for customers, and it would be very difficult to have a 360 view of your incoming payments if it was not integrated in a single system.

Track data and insights on the Pomelo Pay dashboard

What are the benefits of using an integrated system?

By using an integrated system, you and your team can get a snapshot at any time of the day, to see how your business is doing, where you can improve or track specific campaigns - these are really valuable insights for any business. As a result, we’ve found that businesses have really benefited with our help to bridge both online and in-store shops, whilst using our Dashboard as it gives insightful data across all of their payment channels. If it’s an all-in-one solution, it’s about adding a seamless process to your business rather than connecting yet another system. We want businesses to focus on what they do best and by adding a solution like this we want to be part of their growth journey.

Is digital transformation important for all business types and industries?

Some industries will always be the trailblazers but at Pomelo Pay we see the same challenges occurring for businesses across multiple industries, whether it's a Taxi Company in the UK like Sky Taxis, a resort in the Maldives like Park Hyatt or the Conrad, or a merchant in Vietnam. From food and beverage to travel and hospitality, and even large services companies, the need to adapt to expand to an international customer base and introduce different touchpoints, such as social commerce, has soared.

At the same time businesses sometimes struggle to efficiently do their reconciliation and finance reports. Across any business, you need to have the insights to see what strategies are working and adapt to the customer’s expectations. We see these challenges occurring across all industries, in multiple regions.

There remain significant hurdles for businesses to turn digital. What do you think is the main factor standing in the way of businesses adopting business change?

I understand businesses might find themselves facing a big hurdle to buy hardware or decide on a contract because it’s expensive or they are locked into a long term contract. Historically there was a big capital expense to get started in the first place. That’s why the feature we soon will be releasing is more approachable - Tap to Pay - can be used on your own smartphone device and there’s no contracts.

Another hurdle is that many people treat the ecommerce side as a completely different system and integration for how to run their business. But their ecommerce store should be an extension, a 24/7 version of your physical store. It will have different touch points and have things you can't do in store. The same goes for the other way - you will be able to do things in store that you can’t do online. But managing it should be an integrated strategy rather than a side business or an afterthought.

And I guess there’s a big question mark around whether these businesses can afford to be slow. Why shouldn't they wait?

The discovery of how people find products and how they will pay for them is dramatically different to 10 years ago. There’s an emergence of payment wallets such as Alipay and WeChatPay that became the actual marketplaces where businesses and consumers connect. If firstly you are not on there and secondly you are not selling online, then you will lose out. I believe this trend of regional super-apps will only continue to grow and we’ll see this more prevalent in the UK and Europe as well.

In terms of slowness, I think it’s up to us as fintech companies to leverage the ecosystem and see where the pain points are. It’s up to us to help and guide SMEs and businesses through these changes in the payments ecosystem. Making sure you use the devices you already have and giving you ready-to-go solutions rather than complicated hardware is already a big step up compared to what was there historically.

What is Pomelo Pay doing to help transform businesses digitally?

Our Shop function allows people to take your business to the next level when they start selling online. Some marketplaces can be really intimidating and take additional fees on top of already running your business. In a way, they make you feel like you are working for the marketplace rather than running your own business. We help to bridge the gap between managing your business online and in store by having a central place.

Pomelo Pay's free online shop builder

From a product management view, it’s the same and ties into the way that you already do business - it’s adaptable. We have made it so flexible that you can hook it up into any internal business flow that you already have, whether you are talking to your customers on social media, or whether you link it up to invoicing tools, there is a way to link Pomelo Pay into those flows.

At the same time, we are expanding and exploring more ways to take contactless payments. Whether it’s QR codes menus so not having to reprint your menus all the time, having your physical order link up to your back-office tools or whether it’s using your own phone to take NFC payments, we are lowering the threshold to start using more modern tools to take payments.

In turn, we are supporting business growth. We aren’t a tool that you stop using once your business reaches a certain size - our tools aren’t applicable to one size - we are helping SMEs all the way up to large enterprise customers, and whilst those businesses use our payment solutions, we are there to help them in the journey too.

Are there any other processes that you have made easier by digitalising?

We have made the onboarding process seamless. We can get merchants up and running in a matter of hours rather than going back and forth to collect documentation, wait for your hardware to arrive or to hear your account hasn’t been activated two weeks later. There’s no branch visits, no complications - we use digital tools to onboard our merchants, and the feedback has been really positive as they find it’s a much less administrative burden on the business to get started.

Phoreal has boosted revenue by 10% by going digital

Do you have any examples of companies that Pomelo Pay has helped to successfully transform their business digitally?

Covid brought many challenges to businesses too, and our QR codes are so versatile and proven useful. The hospitality industry has been hard hit, so being able to create digital menus with QR codes has transformed everything. Take Phoreal for example, who boosted his revenue by 10% with our QR code menu. The entire process is touch free, safer and streamlined.

Helping businesses to take payments remotely has been especially important in the last year. For example, Energy Performance Nationwide, uses Payment Links to accept payments from customers and we’ve had a lot of positive feedback. He finds that it’s easier to get paid, the payments are instant, and his customers are happy to use a more efficient system.

Where previously businesses were taking payments over the phone, and customers were less inclined to give their card details over the phone because of how important data security has become, that has now changed too.

With resorts taking bookings, you can get a better deal by liaising with the hotels directly and they can confirm the reservation by sending a Payment Link, no longer have to pay the 20% commissions that they sometimes would have to pay, and customers would get a better rate.

Finally, businesses that accept payments on-the-go have really benefited too, like Amran from Sky Taxis. He needed a contactless payment solution for multiple staff, and it’s great to see how he utilised our platform to track insights using the Dashboard so he no longer spends hours gathering accounts and financials from his drivers like he used to. I know he’s really excited for our Tap to Pay feature to release this year too.

About Pomelo Pay
Pomelo Pay is a hardware-free digital payments service provider, founded in 2017 by a team of financial services and tech specialists. As a principal member of Mastercard, regulated by the FCA, and with PCI at Level 1, it is a trusted partner of businesses, big and small, across the UK and Asia.

We help businesses by introducing multiple touch points for them to take payments on the go, in person, remotely, online, and through a payment gateway. Click below to find out how your business can benefit from digital payments by speaking with our Sales Team.