By Chantal Willis, VP eCommerce, Skrill

The Internet has removed many barriers to trading, giving businesses the ability to reach an international customer base. The benefits in doing so are many, and include the ability to dramatically grow their businesses and also to reduce dependency on potentially struggling domestic economies. However, in order to do this, customers everywhere must be able to pay using the method that they know and trust — be that debit card, credit card or alternative payments.

With recent industry figures from Juniper Research [1] estimating that global online sales were worth £1.5 trillion in 2013, the opportunities for businesses wanting to go international are clear. And with nearly three billion people around the world now online [2], it’s a market that can only continue to grow. There are huge numbers of international retailers seizing this opportunity and entering new markets so the race is on to grab market share before it’s too late.

Of course, becoming international doesn’t just work one way. Research from the British Retail Consortium shows a surge in international customers searching for UK retailers online [3]. However, for merchants wanting to take advantage of interest from overseas markets and convert searches into purchases, offering the right selection local payment options is crucial.

This can be more complicated than it sounds. As fintech ventures around the world have launched innovative solutions to meet new and changing demands in different markets, the payments industry has become incredibly fragmented across geographies. For example, while in the UK credit and debit cards are the primary method of payment, in Brazil people use Boleto, in Germany many consumers opt for ELV, and in Portugal Multibanco is a popular choice. These alternative payments offer a familiarity that inspires trust and enable online businesses across the globe to be as relevant to the consumer as their local counterparts. Supporting local payment types ensures customers will not abandon the shopping cart once the hard (and often expensive) work of getting them to make a purchase decision, has been done.

Realising the power of the internet to do business wherever they choose, and desperate to offer more payment options, merchants often end up purchasing payment services from multiple suppliers, which can be complex, time-consuming and costly. Choosing the appropriate online payment platform, enabling acceptance of multiple local payment methods, is essential to streamlining this process and — most importantly — to minimise costs. With availability of solutions that offer a simplified integration experience, there is no justifying expenditure on maintaining numerous supplier relationships and disparate, complex technology platforms.

It is also important for merchants to appreciate the different fraud and risk profiles associated with each payment type and how this may impact delivery and fulfilment decisions. The right payment mix can be an effective tool for not only managing conversions but also reducing payment costs and fraud.

With so much opportunity to benefit from global reach that the Internet provides, the right technology to break down transactional boundaries can put international expansion on the roadmap for many businesses.