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How PayPal Is Working to Boost Online Sales

PayPal is looking at ways to help merchants increase conversion rates and find new ways to reach customers. One-touch checkout, social and contextual commerce, predictive fraud prevention, and virtual reality commerce were among the topics PayPal vice-president and general manager of retail Brad Brodigan discussed at an interview with EcommerceBytes at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Chicago last week.

Brodigan, a former Chicago resident who once lived near Wrigley Field, began by addressing the concerns of small- and medium-sized businesses.

“As small businesses grow, and they move into mid-market, they have a different set of needs,” he began. “We find that they’re no longer focused on survival. They really start focusing more on optimization and things like checkout conversion both on the web and in mobile.”

“Just having a mobile app isn’t enough because in many cases the experiences aren’t up to par,” he continued. “We are finding merchants, especially in mid-market, are focusing on options for web checkout as well as mobile and optimizing those checkout experiences so they have an increased conversion rate.”

Brodigan said removing some of the pain points of checkout is one way PayPal is helping merchants. “If you have ever used your mobile phone to checkout to complete the information about your name and address, you know payment is painful. We have a service called PayPal One Touch that allows consumers to provide permission to have us use their PayPal credentials and pay with one click.”

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PayPal One Touch, launched last year, has 21 million consumers opted in around the globe. “We have more than 50 percent of the IR 500 who are one-touch enabled. It’s an exciting new product that’s really helping to improve conversion,” he said.

Here are some highlights from the interview.

What other things are you hearing from smaller sellers?

Brad Brodigan: As merchants get larger they start to differentiate themselves. They need more sophisticated products from their partners, and more flexibility. It’s important for us that we identify partners that can continue to grow with them.

We’re working with system integrators who are helping merchants upgrade their experiences. We are working with partners like Big Commerce, Magento and others. We’re making sure our integration with those partners is seamless.

We have also seen interest in global commerce and cross-border trade.

What kinds of trends are you following in ecommerce?

Brad Brodigan: One of the trends we see is the whole concept of kind of social and contextual commerce. We all use social media frequently. We spend more time on it than we like. There are some really interesting opportunities to utilize social media to create merchandising opportunities.

Example: contextual commerce. We have an integration with Pinterest. Consumers can be going through Pinterest to make purchases. I was on Pinterest the other day, waiting for my daughter, and I found a Zombie Survival Kit for someone I know who loves zombie movies. Because of our integration with Pinterest I was able, in two clicks, to provide the merchant with address and payment credentials and have the item shipped to me at home.

It was a great in-context experience because I didn’t have to leave Pinterest to do it. It was for me a better buying experience than traditional shopping. That’s really, to me, what technology should be all about.

Peer to peer payments are really interesting. Venmo, a PayPal company, is a fast-growing application for consumers to pay each other. It used to be we would write checks to our friends. I went on a camping trip with a group of guy friends past week, and we had to pay someone for camping fee. Rather than writing checks we all used Venmo. It’s impressive for old guys our age!

Venmo generated $21 billion in payment volume in Q1 from peer to peer payments and is growing 54 percent year after year. We’re identifying ways to use Venmo beyond just peer to peer payments.

We’ve announced that we will be trying Pay with Venmo. Highly active Venmo users who use the app two to three times a week will now be able to pay with Venmo with merchants online, mobile, and in stores, similar to PayPal. We’ll give those very active Venmo users the ability to pay with their Venmo accounts.

We’re hearing a lot about artificial intelligence and robots these days. Is PayPal thinking about that at all?

Brad Brodigan: What I would say is we think about something that is related to that, more about cyber security perspective. We’re always thinking about ways of using smart technology to continue to advance our cyber security efforts, our fraud detection services and systems. We continue to build out what we think are best in class fraud detection monitoring services. We acquire companies that help us. We feel they can help us advance our efforts there. We build out our best in breed fraud detection using those services.

There is some intelligence or automation at play in fraud detection?

Brad Brodigan: We’re looking into predictive fraud monitoring. In most cases, if fraud has occurred it is too late. We have to be able to use predictive modeling to be able to understand potential areas so we can proactively prevent fraud and help our merchants.

If shopping can be done with virtual reality headsets such as those from Oculus, payments may not be far behind. Is PayPal looking to get into virtual reality payments?

Brad Brodigan: It’s kind of an extension of that contextual commerce experience. We don’t want to necessarily create the experiences, but make sure consumers can utilize PayPal as the fastest way to pay within any experience.

If you can imagine all kinds of new buying experiences that may happen in physical or virtual reality, we want to make sure PayPal is always the best way for consumers to pay.

It’s been a while since PayPal split from eBay. Has PayPal benefited from that?

Brad Brodigan: We’ll always remain close with eBay. They are our number one customer and likely will be. That partnership is still incredibly strong.

I think the one thing that it’s helped is many consumer saw PayPal as a way to pay on eBay and by separating as a standalone company we have products and services far beyond our relationship with them. That has helped consumer perceptions, that they can with PayPal pay millions of merchants around the globe, not just eBay.

Greg Holden
Greg Holden
Greg Holden is EcommerceBytes Contributing Editor. He is a journalist and the author of many books, including "Starting an Online Business For Dummies," "Go Google: 20 Ways to Reach More Customers and Build Revenue with Google Business Tools," and several books about eBay, including "How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business," second edition, and "Secrets of the eBay Millionaires," both published by Osborne-McGraw Hill. Find out more on GregHolden.com, which includes his blog, a list of his books, and his fiction and biographical writing.