Against this backdrop, The Australian Financial Review recently co-hosted the Digital Commerce Surge roundtable with financial services powerhouse Visa to discuss the growth of digital commerce and how business and consumers are evolving in the digital age.
Speaking at the roundtable, Visa’s group country manager for Australia, New Zealand South Pacific, Julian Potter, said he remained bullish because technology is making the world a smaller place.
“It’s putting more things in reach of more people,” he said. “Typically, a small or microbusiness would serve people coming to their premises and now they can be open for business 24/7 and they’re able to ship their goods and services and accept payment online.
Technology has transformed the way we not only engage with our own people, but the way we engage with our clients whether that be large entities such as Visa or small-to-medium business.”
More pertinently, digital commerce’s exponential growth shows no sign of abating even though consumers are returning to bricks and mortar stores post-pandemic. Reason being, as we become more connected, the more things we are able to access online – whether that be shopping, streaming entertainment or accessing services ranging from healthcare to local government.
“In fact, according to Euromonitor, digital commerce will be worth about $2 trillion a year in the Asia Pacific by 2025,” Potter said.
Fellow roundtable participant Ciyi Lim, said the pandemic had driven people online as they were unable to go out, but even as society opens up again, they have stayed online. Lim, who heads up innovation for Visa in the Asia Pacific, said that with more people having moved online, our relationship with the digital world is evolving rapidly.
“Back in the early nineties with Web1, the static web, it was really a one-way library, where we went online and read information that was published,” she said. “Now, we are at or near the peak of Web2 or the social web where the platforms, the marketplaces and the social networks, like Google, Meta, Airbnb and more, sit in the middle of two-way networks managing and monetising data and content.”
And what we’ve learned with Web2 is the power of data and how it can be used to hyper-personalise the customer experience.
For Lim, that powerful data flow has mostly been controlled by the technology behemoths such as Google, Amazon and Meta but that’s slowly changing as we “see the green shoots of Web3 emerge where there is a shift from centralised models to a more distributed one”.
“A place where the user can take control of their content and data and we’re doing this through new technologies such as distributed ledgers, blockchain and smart contracts,” Lim said.
Mark Hansell, roundtable participant and chief product officer of digital financial services provider Shaype, said technology had enabled the world of
payments and the transferring of value to be democratised.
“The barriers of entry into the payments space have dropped significantly over the last 10 years, primarily due to technology and the new emerging technologies. At present, you can count the ways of moving money around on one hand but as we move forward that’s going to multiply exponentially.”
Hansell said the end customer did not care how they paid for their goods or services, whether that be in fiat currency such as Australian dollars or a digital currency. The current challenge was transferring between ecosystems. “As e-commerce evolves, we’ll see the conversion happen seamlessly in the background with integration partners such as Shaype.“
The chief executive and founder of data aggregation platform Basiq, Damir Cuca, is excited about the potential of open banking as it gives consumers the ability to share their financial data with any third party.
He says every bank now needed to open up the data they had on consumers and, should a consumer consent, share that data with a third party.
“It’s incredibly ground-breaking because our bank accounts are effectively leaving trails behind of exactly what we like, what our preferences are and all of that.“
Visa’s Lim said the future of digital commerce boiled down to three main trends: the continuing explosion of digital connections and the blurring of the physical and online worlds; the availability of data not just for personalisation but in a predictive sense so commercial activity becomes more seamless within our daily lives; and the emergence of Web3 and an explosion in (digital) goods we don’t even know about yet.
Yet Visa’s Potter says getting there is going to require business to really embrace the concept of trust in the digital world. “You need to trust in something before you prepare to open up – it’s going to be critically important as we move forward.“