No, you didn’t read the title wrong. Conversational Commerce or cCommerce will be the next stage of evolution for eCommerce. Following the islandwide curfew put in place to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus, fintech has seen a mini-explosive boom in adoption. This growth can primarily be attributed to two factors. The first being consumers turning to eCommerce for obtaining daily essentials. The second was the closure of banks forcing us all to adopt apps and online banking. Even as more countries turn to lockdowns, it’s increasingly clear that the way we do business will change with fintech playing a central role.
This would be marked by a shift away from traditional eCommerce websites and towards Conversational Commerce or cCommerce. Businesses would directly interact with their customers and take orders over the phone, on SMS, on email, or on WhatsApp. This has been a phenomenon observed not only locally but across Asia.
Here in Sri Lanka, home bakers have been the face of cCommerce. For years, they’ve been promoting their products on Instagram and taking orders on WhatsApp. Regionally, you’ll find similar companies in various verticals born inside WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. These range from online recruitment platforms like Sama to shoe brands like Portblue.
Despite this, rise in cCommerce, many of these businesses face a critical challenge – accepting payments. Many are forced to accept cash on delivery for orders simply due to the lack of choice. Naturally, this presents several challenges. Maintaining exact change, relying on delivery partners to swiftly deposit payments, and the list goes on.
However, fintech serves as a powerful enabler to change this. An example of such businesses would be an online payment link generator by WEBXPAY. This tool allows businesses to accept online payments by simply sharing a link with their customers. Originally launched in 2016, you’ll now find other payment providers in the region like PAYTM also offering this. Currently, alongside this feature, WEBXPAY is also offering its payment gateways to merchants at below standard pricing.
With consumers increasingly wanting more information before making a purchase, eCommerce continues to be a small pie in Sri Lanka. This is why cCommerce will be the way forward. As it satisfies the need of consumers for more information, it will naturally drive increased online transactions. For businesses, adapting to this change will mean they can be more nimble and adjust to uncertainty.
Besides being more flexible, accepting online payments offers several other benefits. In the fight against pandemics, it allows contactless payments and promotes eCommerce. The latter in turn, allowing us to better practice social distancing as it eliminates the long queues in front of shops and supermarkets. Environmentally, it helps reduce pollution and road congestion. Most importantly, it’s a powerful enabler of social enterprises and for any business to operate anywhere in the world as long as they have goods to sell.
Looking at the current context, COVID-19 while terrifying will come to pass. But nobody can tell what we will face ahead. Hence, we must all prepare for the future. Like every business today has a credit card acceptance machine, they should invest in an online payment gateway as well. Given the current context of uncertainty, this investment will be essential and should be a utility for any business moving forward.
Looking ahead, I’m confident that fintech will play a key role in helping Sri Lanka emerge out of this current crisis as a stronger nation. In the past, many assumed when the tsunami struck, our tourism industry was doomed. Yet, critics were proven wrong and the tourism industry rose up and prospered. Now is the time for a new era and a new segment to rise.
In the coming months, fintech will see a boom. This boom will be driven by two key factors. The first being the wider introduction of new technologies such as QR codes and payment links to make paying for goods online more seamless. With digital wallets, this is now becoming a reality. The second being the evolution of regulations to better facilitate online payments. As evidenced by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka declaring 2020 to be the year of digital transactions.
As such, potential investors would be wise to look beyond safer bets like real estate and traditional business models. I firmly believe there’s a future with great opportunities for payment gateway providers like WEBXPAY. There’s much to be achieved in making online payments the norm in Sri Lanka before exploring foreign shores.