Tapping the potential: Visa ramps up ecommerce in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific


Credit card giant Visa is fast-tracking its digital revolution to the Pacific due, in part, to COVID-19. According to its senior South Pacific executive, there will benefits for both businesses and consumers.

Credit card giant Visa’s plan for the Pacific involves making payments ‘seamless’, working with more partners and helping lead a recovery in the tourism sector, says Andy McCowan, Visa Inc’s New Zealand Client Director and Head South Pacific.

‘COVID has really fast-forwarded a lot of the things we have been working on behind the scenes for the past few years, they are coming to the fore now,’ he told the recent Business Council of PNG/BSP Digital Commerce Forum.

‘Ecommerce and contactless forms of payments are increasing. With people not being able to travel, and due to hygiene concerns, people are using their Visa card more than ever before and debit cards are taking off more than credit cards, as people have financial concerns [about the cost of credit cards].’

‘Things like surcharging won’t help the industry evolve if we really want consumers and businesses to take up digital payments.’

McCowan said Visa is monitoring ecommerce transaction data and electronics, grocery goods, fast food and pharmacy items top the list of busiest ecommerce categories.

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‘But new ecommerce experiences are also emerging. Contactless click-and-collect, contactless delivery, and emarketplaces are starting to emerge across the world as well – AirBnB is a great example [of the latter].’

New technology has its challenges


Visa’s Andy McCowan.

McCowan said he saw mostly positives from these trends, with businesses being paid faster and more securely, and able to offer a better customer experience online.

There were some challenges, however.

‘One of those is surcharging by merchants on domestic transactions and even tourist transactions,’ he said. Surcharging involves businesses adding a fee on top of what they charge for goods and services to cover the cost of processing online payments.

‘Things like surcharging won’t help industry evolve if we really want consumers and businesses to take up digital payments – so industry really needs to think very carefully about things like surcharging.’

Other challenges for the development of ecommerce in PNG are the need to increase internet access, the logistics of fulfilment and delivery and the simple need for more Visa cardholders.

‘With eight million people in PNG, we need to make sure there is good penetration of cards so people can make ecommerce and contactless payments,’ he noted.

Security is also a key issue, with fraud detection requiring properly-trained staff within a business.

McCowan sees continued innovation as essential to the growth of digital commerce, with the widespread use of QR (quick response) codes the next step forward.

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