braintree-tag-logoThe next generation of online payments: As brands retool to meet consumers’ growing demand for convenience and security, we explore the future of online payments in this timely series brought to you by Braintree. Check out the whole series here.

Scaling an online business to go global is about ensuring that the same technology and best practices that have allowed you to be successful in your local market remain at the core of your global offerings.

But establishing your brand with that uniformity across lots of foreign markets and always providing a secure payment experience can be tricky. How are you going to make sure that a customer from San Francisco has the same quality experience with your brand in Santiago? And can you really accept and process payments from London in pounds sterling with the same confidence that you accept U.S. dollars in Utah or rubles in Russia?

Thanks to almost a decade’s worth of democratization in online payments solutions that have leveled the playing field for merchants of all sizes, the answer is Yes — if you follow a few simple guidelines for getting yourself established in foreign markets.

3 steps to scale

With thanks to the folks at Braintree for help putting this together, here’s what you need to know to get yourself set up to accept secure payments, pretty much anywhere in the world.

Step 1: Make the experience great no matter where your customer is

No matter where your customer is, you want their buying experience to be consistently great. So, if you’re Airbnb — a brand that’s well understood pretty much everywhere — and a guest from Boston is traveling to London, they should have a high-quality payment experience whether in the U.K. or the U.S. It’s also essential to make sure that the guest’s experience is optimized for different types of mobile screens, devices, and user preferences – see below for more on the importance of mobile-ready payment solutions.

Step 2: Start accepting local market currency payments as soon as possible

Many app publishers that start their business in the U.S. quickly realize they need to scale into other markets to maximize opportunity. Unfortunately, once they get there, they often find there are already clones on the market. To fend off the competition and get traction, you must move fast.

The first thing is to be able to accept different currencies. Letting your customer pay in their own currency makes them feel more comfortable about doing business with you, so your brand gets to bypass a potential roadblock between interest in your product, and a successful transaction. So, if you can accept GBP in the U.K., or francs in Switzerland, within a consistently great UX, you can more quickly move into a foreign market and start collecting revenue. There’s no limit on the size or scope of merchant accounts that are able to do this — solutions like Braintree can get merchants of any size set up to securely and compliantly accept foreign payments quite quickly.

Step 3: Establish a foreign domicile and bank account when it makes sense

Once you’ve established your presence in a foreign market and proven that you can generate revenue at scale, consider establishing a physical presence, as well. The big benefit of a foreign domicile is your ability to establish a related foreign currency bank account, which makes it less expensive for you to process payments, while reducing or even eliminating foreign exchange fees, which add to your cost of acquisition.

There are also some potential tax advantages to be had, depending on the marketplace– it’s best to seek professional help in sorting this out. In many cases then, accepting foreign currencies is the first step, and then local domiciling and a local bank account setup follows once a clear opportunity for ROI is proven.

How to pick a payment solution

The general guideline when selecting a payment solution that will deliver a seamless payment experience in global markets is to make sure that it’s PCI compliant, and easy to use for both you and your customer. In addition to accepting foreign currencies, you’ll also want to look for a payment acceptance solution that incorporates these critical features:

Purpose-built for mobile — Pretty soon, the world will reach a tipping-point when mobile transactions will surpass traditional web transactions in terms of both frequency and value. This is not a trend, it’s not going to reverse, it’s the future. That said, it’s important that your payment solution is built from a mobile-first perspective and can accept both native and in-app payments across on different screens and networks. Failure to enable this capability will severely limit your ability to be successful in foreign markets.

Accepts a broad range of payment types — There are a lot of ways to accept online payments: debit card, credit card, bank transfers, digital wallets, mobile carrier payments, crypto currencies, etc. There are almost as many brands leveraging these different methods (Apple Pay, Android Pay, PayPal, Bitcoin, Venmo). Often times, the relative subscriber base to these solutions varies wildly depending on the foreign market. In order to create the widest net and provide yourself with the best opportunity for monetizing, you should go with a solution that supports as many of these payment methods as possible.

Enables one-click buying — Just seven or eight years ago, there were only one or two web merchants offering an easy checkout solution to consumers. Thanks to the confluence of explosive user markets for mobile and social, and rapidly evolving secure payment technologies, now any merchant can easily enable one-click buying for web and mobile. This ‘democratization’ of online payments technology has been critical in leveling the playing field for smaller merchants, because high-end tools that only the big guys used to have, are now at their disposal.

Integrates easily with your tech — Done right, technology should help take your business to the next level with a minimum amount of pain and maximum of gain. It’s tough to get revenue production in your new market off to a good start if you’re spending weeks or months integrating a new payments tech. Why put yourself through that when all you need to do is a few lines of code, or pull in a secure payments solution from the cloud, and – poof – you can accept foreign currencies anywhere. That kind of thoughtful, easy integration and out-of-the-box business value is important to growing businesses.

Provides universal support — The online buying experience you provide to customers, regardless of where they are in the world, must make them feel secure enough to trust you with their data – that’s a given. But how about you, the merchant? If there’s a technical hiccup, or something you don’t understand, where are you going to turn? How will you know if your brand and revenue are safe and secure? Make sure that your payments solutions provider has qualified, empowered people on the other end of a phone, email, or chat that’s available whenever you may need them. Even if you’re not a billion dollar web brand, both you and your customers deserve to be treated like you are.

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