Build Beyond: in conversation with Steve Klebe, Head of BD — Google Pay, PSP Partnerships
For the latest installment of our Build Beyond webinar series, I had the pleasure of speaking with Steve Klebe.
Steve is the Head of Business Development at Google Pay. He is responsible for driving partnerships to support Google Pay acceptance online and in-app. And, with nearly four decades of experience at the leading edge of payments, there are few better positioned to provide insight into the latest industry trends.
During the webinar, I spoke with Steve about the challenges facing merchants in the ‘new normal,’ the payment challenges merchants face going global, and what payment trends might develop in 2021 and beyond. He also provided a sneak peek into the future of Google Pay.
The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed many brick and mortar businesses online. What advice would you give to those businesses working their way through their digital payment journey?
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. That’s the challenge with payments—it’s never black and white. A restaurant has different payment needs compared to a gym or retailer.
But what’s important is that businesses don’t just accept the first payment solution they come across. As we’ve seen in recent months, payments are a critical business enabler. Merchants need to take the time to understand their unique requirements and pick a solution that creates the best experience for their customers.
Take a restaurant chain, for example. I’d argue that selecting the optimal payment provider is as important as choosing the best quality ingredients. Both have a profound impact on the customer experience. And if it’s not up to standard, their customers are unlikely to return.
I’d add that merchants also need to think beyond today. The world will continue to change. Also, merchants need to adopt flexible payment systems and adapt quickly to changing market forces.
Many online retailers are looking to expand beyond their borders and enter new markets in search of growth. What should these businesses consider from a payments perspective?
Global expansion is an enormous challenge for merchants. And it’s arguably the most significant challenge from a payments perspective. No two countries are the same. Each will have its unique payment systems, payment methods and behaviors that merchants must support to succeed.
We all know about the complex payments landscape in emerging markets. But developed markets also provide unique challenges. Take Germany, for example. Many consumers there are opposed to cards and instead prefer to use push payments when shopping online. This required Amazon, and many other merchants entering the country, to change their entire distribution and fulfillment process to account for this payment preference.
Fraud is another concern for merchants selling overseas. It’s a challenge for merchants to fight chargebacks in their home market. The challenge becomes infinitely more complicated when fighting disputes cross-border.
There is a lot for merchants to consider when they sell cross-border. So they must develop a nuanced understanding of their requirements and spend the time and effort to find a provider that meets their unique needs.
Google Pay is a payment method that’s available in many markets around the world. How have you seen organizations leverage Google Play in response to COVID?
Like everyone else, we saw the world fall off a cliff in March. But the recovery we’ve seen since April is stunning. Not only did transactions on Google Pay recover quickly, but we’ve also seen the trend line of new users grow exponentially.
What I’ve seen from a partnership perspective reflects this growth. In April, we had 15 new payment service providers contact us out of the blue with a strong desire to support Google Pay as soon as possible. That’s never happened before.
And what about the Google Pay product. Can you provide us with insight into any future developments?
The latest generation of Google Pay is already live in Singapore and India. And what we’ve worked to do is shift how consumers view and use the Google Pay app.
Typically usually see the Google Pay app as a utility. It’s what they use to make payments. Rarely do they go into the app when they’re not at the point of sale and making a payment.
But in the latest version of Google Pay, we’ve introduced new features that create more value for consumers away from the point of sale. For example, one feature we’ve introduced is called ‘Spots.’ This delivers users with a social experience that makes it easier for them to connect with and pay individuals and merchants.
We’re also providing a richer experience around loyalty programs as another way to deliver more value to consumers and merchants.
There’s lots more to come as well.
What do payments look like at the end of 2021?
COVID has accelerated the pace of change in payments. The U.S. payments landscape has advanced more in the past few months than it has in the past decade. And I don’t believe there is any going back. The genie is out of the bottle.
What does this mean for merchants? I’d like to say it’ll make the payments landscape simpler. But I don’t think that will happen—at least in the short-term. With so many minds now focusing on payments, I expect to see many new solutions emerge in the coming years. Many of these will come and go, while others will become a permanent fixture.
The challenge merchants face is keeping up with these payment trends to ensure they can meet their customers’ changing demands. That means that merchants will need to develop a deeper understanding of their customer base than ever before. They also must adopt flexible solutions that allow them to meet changing consumer preferences.