2C2P | Digitalising Bill Payments Across Southeast Asia
600x654 3

Digitalising Bill Payments Across Southeast Asia

Digitalisation plays an important role in so many aspects of our lives. From trusty washing machines to weekly grocery shopping, tasks can now be completed with a few button presses and in just a few minutes.

Digitalisation has become so deeply ingrained in our lives that we don’t even give it a second thought. Yet it’s still very much evolving, extending its influence into practically every segment of our lives.

Bill payments are one of these segments, and it is one of many areas that my Digital Goods Team at 2C2P are upleveling. In fact, bill payments were the first digital goods product offered by 2C2P in 2014.

Before I dive into how we are changing the way people pay bills and how businesses are invoicing, let’s set some context.

What are digital goods?

At 2C2P, we broadly define “digital goods” as any product that doesn’t have a physical, tangible form.

Air tickets are an excellent example of a digital good. When you purchase one, you receive it as an email that you present at the airport to confirm your seat. Gift cards are another example, where you receive them as pin codes to input during checkout.

Bill payments are also classified as a digital good when the service is only available online. You hop onto a website to key in your account details and bill amount to perform the transaction.

Why is 2C2P investing in the bill payments process?

It's a fair question to ask. After all, 2C2P has other products in its suite of digital goods, such as mobile top-ups, online tickets, digital currencies, loyalty programmes, and prepaid gift cards.

We have two fundamental reasons here. The first of these is related to legacy and heritage. 2C2P first launched bill payments in our home ground in Thailand, which performed very well. And so, we wanted to replicate this model across the rest of Southeast Asia.

The next reason is that bill payments are an essential service. When you analyse digital behaviour, you always begin from the fundamental needs. Bill payments are some of the most important items in this basket of needs, as everyone has to settle their bills throughout the year -- you can’t escape the process!

That’s why we chose to focus on bill payments over all our other digital goods first. We’re slowly rolling out our other products like gift cards and game credits, but bill payments are currently our top priority.

How do digital bill payments work?

Now that you’ve got a clearer understanding of 2C2P’s digital goods and bill payments, I’ll take you through the power of digital bill payments.

Let’s start by picturing the old days of paying your bills. You begin by receiving physical letters from your utility companies. You then have to bring these letters to your nearest bank or post office, where you can only settle the payments either with cash or direct bank debit.

It’s a clunky process: imagine the long queues and waiting times whenever the start of the month rolls around. I don’t know how our parents and grandparents did it, but they’re truly masters of patience!

With digital bill payments, this whole process is entirely streamlined. Taking Singapore as an example, you can easily open the AXS m-Station app on your phone, choose the company whose bill you want to settle, and then select your preferred payment method - this could be anything from credit card, PayNow (digital banking transfer) to direct mass transfer.

From the businesses' perspective, digital bill payments make it easier for them to credit bills to their customers. This is all thanks to the availability of an efficient backend system that syncs all billing information on one platform. The system automatically pings customers to remind them of their outstanding payments.

On top of that, digital bill payments are environmentally-friendly! You can say goodbye to most of your paper invoices and reminders with it on board. How’s that for killing two birds with one stone?

Benefits not just for consumers, but also businesses

I’ve spoken about the ins and outs of digital bill payments, but what value does it bring to you? Put simply, it makes life easier for everyone. Let’s start with the analogy of your local 7-11 stores and mom-and-pop shops. Apart from the many knick-knacks and convenient curios they offer for sale, they also provide services like bill payments.

These stores essentially become convenient one-stop hubs that enjoy greater foot traffic as more people stop by daily to buy essentials and pay their bills on the go.

The world of digital bill payments works similarly. When 2C2P adds digital bill payments to apps and websites, we drive more significant traffic as they are now better equipped to engage their visitors and drive user acquisitions.

Lazada is one of our major clients who took on digital bill payments. Although it’s primarily an ecommerce platform, Lazada uses digital bill payments as a gateway for people to start using its platform. From this point, Lazada can eventually retarget these consumers to access its ecommerce arm to order electronics, health and beauty products, and so on.

Apart from Lazada, we also have BNPL provider Mocasa in the Philippines. Its primary focus is never on bill payments; instead, bill payments are offered as a bonus solution for its existing users to tap into.

That’s not all, as 2C2P’s digital bill payments also come with a cross-border element! This means that foreign workers will be able to pay their bills back home with any payment method, no matter where they are located.

With so many foreign domestic helpers employed across the region - Singapore recorded 247,400 in 2020 - I am pleased that 2C2P’s digital bill payments serve as an easy and convenient means for these workers to better support their families back home.

Southeast Asia is ripe for digital bill payments

With all the great benefits digital bill payments bring to your business, you’d think the adoption rate is high, right? Unfortunately, this can’t be farther from the truth in the vast and diverse region of Southeast Asia.

We’re looking at just under 5% of market adoption as a ballpark estimate. So yes, the bill payments market is underpenetrated in Southeast Asia. However, we see a silver lining here: there’s a wealth of opportunities for growth and expansion that are untapped.

That’s why 2C2P is tirelessly investing in the bill payments space - and we aren’t slowing down any time soon! We can fully expect even more customers to go digital as we move forward.

Tackling the challenge of going digital in Southeast Asia

That said, digitalisation in Southeast Asia can get pretty tricky. In my opinion, the unbanked populations and mobile adoption serve as critical roadblocks to digitalisation in the region.

Looking at Southeast Asia as a whole, Indonesia is the most challenging market in the region because of its high concentration of players and low levels of loyalty.

The biggest challenge we face in Indonesia is its urban-rural dynamics. The needs of the urban population in a capital city like Jakarta are vastly different from the needs of a secondary city like Surabaya.

For one, your mom-and-pop shops in rural areas may not have access to technological tools like digital terminals and registers.

On top of catering to both urban and rural cities, we also need to be able to leverage working with all the different market players while generating minimal competition. Lazada, for example, is a solid technological player, but they are looking to streamline their tools under one vendor.

Given this spiderweb of needs, 2C2P is thus still figuring out a middle ground and devising a system that works best for everyone.

A saying goes, “Whoever wins Indonesia wins Southeast Asia” - 2C2P will continue to work on conquering Indonesia!

What governments can do to support digitalisation

Apart from the obvious measures of funding and supporting small businesses, governments should focus on upskilling and education. After all, what’s the point of having incredible tech at your disposal when no one knows how to use it?

As of 2021, Southeast Asia is taking the lead globally in mobile connections, recording over 887 million or 132% of the total population. Breaking this further into individual countries, Statista collated the following smartphone penetration rates in 2020:

  • Singapore: 88%

  • Malaysia: 88%

  • Thailand: 77%

  • Philippines: 72%

  • Vietnam: 71%

  • Indonesia: 67%

  • Myanmar: 54%

  • Cambodia: 47%

  • Laos: 40%

This connectivity is something that governments in the region should leverage with education, teaching people how to optimise their mobile phone use with digital payments. We can accelerate the overall digitalisation process by helping all merchants, including small businesses, digitalise.

Governments can take a leaf out of the books of tech giants who have been driving education initiatives. Grab Financial Group (GFG) is one such tech giant with a dedicated financial inclusion programme to empower Southeast Asia with digital products.

GoTo has also been crucial in digitalising Indonesia’s population, with its latest initiative being a digital security education system for MSMEs.

Over in Singapore, Lazada and Shopee have played a massive role in digitalising mom and pop shops and hawker centres, where business owners may not be proficient in using technology.

2C2P’s education initiatives for digital bill payments

2C2P has also been hitting the ground by educating people on the use of its digital bill payments. Across Southeast Asia, it’s not uncommon for small business owners to not understand the value that digital tools can bring to their businesses.

Just blandly explaining the benefits isn’t enough either. 2C2P frames its tools based on what owners are missing out on and how these innovations can add value to their businesses. Adding a personal touch to these walkthroughs is important, too - that’s why 2C2P has personally been deploying ground staff to meet with these owners in person. We also give them a range of products to use without requiring them to invest heavily in technology.

Mom-and-pop shops have shown great interest! These small retailers are essential in rural areas, mainly left untapped by huge convenience store chains. Such shops see a lot of footfall daily, as the locals frequent them for their day-to-day needs like groceries and other services.

Mobile penetration is also typically low in such areas, which means that people have difficulty accessing apps designed to access services like bill payments. 2C2P sets up bill payments as a key product for mom-and-pop shops that can then offer the service to their customers.

Levelling up digital bill payments with automation

We're now adding automation to advance 2C2P’s digital bill payments even further. Specifically, we’re looking into automating invoice management systems for small businesses.

We’re not looking at larger organisations simply because there are already many applications designed for them, such as Oracle and SAP Financial Accounting. For the longest time, no one has catered to the invoicing needs of small businesses.

I don’t just mean small companies when I say small businesses. I’m also talking about freelancers like swimming coaches, personal trainers, and private tutors - these are people who will also stand to benefit from an invoice management system tailored to them.

2C2P will launch our invoice automation product in the Singapore market to enable micro-businesses to generate and send customised invoices instantly. The system will also keep track of the details of every single transaction - no longer will it be necessary for business owners to verify every payment manually.

The best part? This new product won’t cost a lot, helping small businesses improve their efficiency and maximise profits.

Digitalisation is the way forward for bill payments

Bill payments will never go away. Your utilities will always need to be paid, and every membership and subscription you take up will only add to your basket of bills.

Going digital is the only path that makes sense for bill payments. And it’s our job at 2C2P to make your life easier by streamlining the bill payment process with the most advanced and secure technological tools.

About 2C2P

2C2P is a full-suite payments platform helping businesses securely accept payments across online, mobile and offline channels, as well as providing issuing, payout, remittance and digital goods services.

With over 250 payment options ranging from credit cards to mobile wallets and an alternative payments network of more than 400,000 physical locations, 2C2P is the preferred payments platform of tech giants, airlines, online marketplaces, retailers and other global enterprises.

Want to empower your business further with digital goods? Our friendly team is ready to help - talk to us today.