Interview: Amazon Payment Services is equipping MENA startups and SMEs with the tools needed to access global markets

Interview: Amazon Payment Services is equipping MENA startups and SMEs with the tools needed to access global markets 

By: Mark Anthony Karam

“Digital payment services allow startups and SMEs to bring the fight to the global players by offering access to far bigger markets than their home market.”

Seeing exceptional growth in a region that has been traditionally a slow-adopter, the MENA payment services sector has forever changed in the past few years. As customers are increasingly opting for digital payment solutions over cash, more players have entered the market, both big and small. 

Among the biggest of those companies is Amazon Payment Services, which has been empowering the region with some of the most advanced payment solutions the world has to offer. Additionally, the tech giant sees the value that SMEs and startups stand to bring to the sector, and as such, have rolled out multiple products and services to cater to their needs. The corporation has also taken a step further in its outreach, offering small and medium enterprises and startups access to discounts, resources, mentorship, and more via its myriad programs. 

Peter George, Managing Director at Amazon Payment Services, speaks with the Abu Dhabi SME Hub to share some insights about his company and the support they’ve been offering to the region and its up-and-coming ventures. 

Peter George, Managing Director at Amazon Payment ServicesAmazon Payment Services offers a wide breadth of financial services. Which of your offerings is in most demand here in the MENA region, and by which customers?

Due to the customizable nature of our services, we are able to serve clients of all sizes ranging from emerging startups to established enterprises, addressing the unique challenges faced by each merchant. Some of the main industries we serve include online retail, airlines, insurance, education, and entertainment.

One of our most popular services is Installments, a fully automated and secure service that breaks down large purchases into easy monthly payments, without the need for customers to make arrangements with their banks. Instead, we collect payments directly from their bank while providing the merchant with 100% of the purchase value upfront. Data has shown our Installments service to reduce cart abandonment by 10%, increase payment success rate by 12%, and increase overall sales by 8-12%.

What is the inherent value for startups and SMEs in leveraging payment services such as those offered by Amazon Payment Services?

Digital payment services allow startups and SMEs to bring the fight to the global players by offering access to far bigger markets than their home market. With secure and seamless digital payments, businesses are limited only by their ability to promote themselves and distribute their products. From sending payment links via text messages, to adding a secure payment gateway to a website, digital payments allow merchants to sell their products anywhere in the world. In addition, having clear and measurable analytics and quick access to financial reports and statements opens a path to potential venture capital funding.

Some digital payment service providers, such as Amazon Payment Services, walk the extra mile to support startups and SMEs. That is why we recently launched the ‘Startups Go Online’ program at Step 2022. The program, which runs until the end of 2022, aims to support startups across the MENA region who are looking to grow their business online. The program offers startups free and discounted services, tools, and resources to help streamline and accelerate their business expansion in today’s digital economy.

The digital payments sector is seeing significant growth in a region that has historically relied on cash. What are some of the trends shaping the sector today, especially in a post-COVID-19 world?

The digital payments ecosystem in MENA and particularly in the GCC has grown tremendously in recent years, partly driven by increased digitization during the pandemic. However, we predict this trend will persist in the post-pandemic era, as customers continue to opt for seamless and convenient purchase experiences through the click of a button.

Customers in the GCC have a strong appetite for digital payments, recognizing the convenience, security and speed they provide. In response to this consumer demand, businesses in the GCC are increasingly making new payment methods available to their customers, including options like digital wallets, Buy Now, Pay Later, payment links, and QR codes.

Another development is the democratization of digital payments. Whereas in the past only large retailers and e-commerce websites could afford to offer digital payments to their customers, today we see startups, SMEs and even market traders benefit from e-payments. With our Startups Go Online program, we are specifically catering to startups by improving the accessibility of our services and supporting them at the beginning of their digital transformation journey.

A lot of digital payment startups are popping up in the region. What synergies could up-and-coming players collaborate with Amazon Payment Services on?

At Amazon Payment Services, we fully understand the value and importance of startups as centres of innovation. This is why, apart from empowering startups to bring their operations online, we also make a concerted effort to connect with startups and SMEs to share knowledge and resources, identifying their different payment pain-points and coming up with collaborative solutions for them.

To this end, we created the Amazon Fintech Lab last year at the DIFC Innovation Hub, with an aim to support innovation in fintech by networking and collaborating with DIFC’s community of startups, SMEs, and financial institutions. Since the Lab was established, we have maintained an ongoing agenda of events and activities including networking, mentorship, roundtables, keynote speeches, workshops, and research. Through these efforts and the contributions of entrepreneurs, startups and business partners at DIFC, the Amazon Fintech Lab has become a breeding ground for innovative new ideas and fresh dialogues in the fintech and digital payments sectors.

What would you say are the top priorities for Amazon Payment Services in the region moving forward?

While we do not discuss specific future plans at Amazon Payment Services, I can tell you that our overall strategy is to develop strong partnerships in the region and enable the digitization of businesses across all sectors of the economy by innovating on behalf of our customers in the digital sphere.

To advance this strategy, we have signed partnerships with leading organizations across the region, including a recent partnership with Network International, which will enable us to provide merchants across the UAE with a wider selection of online payment solutions, including EPP and enhanced fraud monitoring. We also intend to expand digital payments into new sectors and industries, and explore new ways in which we can help businesses on their digital transformation journey.

Our goals for Amazon Payment Services are in line with our customer-obsessed approach to offer convenient, seamless and secure digital payments to our merchants across as many platforms as possible, in as many markets as possible.

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