Mikael Lijtenstein: Tapping into the UK’s rapidly evolving payments sector

Mikael Lijtenstein: Tapping into the UK’s rapidly evolving payments sector

Mikael Lijtenstein recently revealed that ASTROPAY would be strengthening its presence in Europe, with the UK highlighted as a key target market.

Speaking to SBC News, the AstroPay CEO delves further into the reasons why the UK presents a “window of opportunity” for its products before addressing why technology and payments solutions must “keep up with ever-changing user preferences”.

SBC: AstroPay recently announced that it would be expanding its services into the UK market. Can you tell us a little bit about why you picked the UK?

ML: The AstroPay journey started 12 years ago when we launched our operations in Brazil and since then the business has grown exponentially with the number of consumers and merchants using our service having increased significantly, along with the payment methods available globally. Having established a firm foothold in Latin America, Asia and Africa, the business is expanding into Europe as part of our international growth plans. 

We chose the UK to launch our operations in Europe as we already have a presence there.  Furthermore, the UK has a rapidly evolving payments environment which plays a remarkable role in the economy. 

According to a recent report by UK Finance, cash payments in the UK continued their long-term decline in 2020, with the pandemic induced rapid digitalisation resulting in the use of cash falling by 35% compared to the previous year. 

Nearly a third of the adult population (32% which equates to 17.3 million people) had registered for mobile payments in 2020, an increase of 7.4 million people (75%) compared with 2019. These figures together with the continued growth in popularity of contactless payments, such as wallets, opens a window of opportunity for our product in the UK market.

SBC: Why do you think security is becoming more and more prominent in the UK payments sector?

ML: Both consumers and merchants have always regarded security as an extremely important aspect in the payments sector and its prominence has continued to increase due to the uptick in the number of digital payments processed daily. 

From our perspective security is not something people can achieve just by using a certain tool or technology, but it’s holistic, and more about a way of doing things in different layers to make the product and the process secure. 

Over 12 years’ experience working in emerging markets has helped us acquire a strong understanding of the risks and challenges faced by the payments industry as well as customers. Therefore, our team applies all that knowledge and uses the latest technology in an integrated and ever-evolving design environment to develop our products and to make them more secure. We also have strict KYC and compliance procedures to assure a secure environment to our clients. 

SBC: How is AstroPay ensuring that it is delivering an elevated customer experience for its customers? 

ML: We devote special attention and resources to provide an elevated user experience by executing A/B testing, surveys and listening to our consumers’ feedback to understand their needs and what they value most. In fact, user feedback is one of the key pillars of our engineering process. 

We devote many resources to specific tools to get this information and to process it. We also use different metrics to measure conversion rate and then make tweaks and adjustments when necessary. AstroPay is unique as it’s very agile and quick to respond which is why it can make changes easily. 

SBC: And why do you think there is now an increasing focus on customer experience?

ML: There is clearly a big shift in the focus from products to experiences, in fact, buying has become much more about how we do it and how we feel about it, than what we purchase. Each touchpoint has an incidence on the perception of a brand, and the payment journey is no exception. 

There is a need to remove all traces of friction at the checkpoint to increase the conversion rate and avoid losing users during the payment procedure. Therefore, it is important that merchants consider the relevance of making users feel at ease when processing their payment. 

SBC: How does AstroPay plan on competing with the established payment providers in such a mature market?

ML: We have a strong knowledge of the differences between the European market and emerging markets such as Latin America, Asia, or Africa where many consumers are unbanked and do not have a credit or debit card. 

Although we target a wide range of age groups, we will be especially focusing on what we call early adopters –young people who are interested in new ways of paying such as digital wallets which they can manage from their cell phones.

SBC: In your opinion, what role can both technology and payment solutions play in helping merchants to stand out among their competitors?

ML: I strongly believe technology and payment solutions should keep up with ever-changing user preferences. It’s pivotal for these solutions to help merchants build a solid understanding of what consumers look for when paying, especially in terms of security, trust, agility, and instantaneity. Furthermore, those who manage to combine a secure environment and a smooth checkout experience are likely to achieve better results and stand out amongst their competitors.

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