SBC News Sara Rita, AstroPay: navigating market peculiarities and shifting trends for digital payments

Sara Rita, AstroPay: navigating market peculiarities and shifting trends for digital payments

AstroPay CCO Sara RitaWhen it comes to balancing payments security with the user experience, businesses can face some headaches. However, an in-depth knowledge of market intricacies and user segments can help create a more streamlined process. That’s according to Sara Rita, Chief Commercial Officer at AstroPay.

Speaking to SBC, Rita began by reflecting on her experience within the payment sector and the evolution of digital payments.

For the CCO, she came into the payments industry “by chance”, she told SBC, but she never looked back: “So I first started out in the payment industry about 15 years ago after moving to London. If I’m being completely honest, I got involved in the payments industry by chance really but I fell in love with it. It is such a dynamic environment, it constantly changes and impacts people’s everyday life.

“My first role was as a Sales Manager, and since then I covered various leadership positions within strategic and commercial functions at various payment companies.”

Joining AstroPay in April 2022, the CCO predominantly oversees the Account Management and Business Development teams on a global scale, as well as defining the commercial strategy for the business.

When asked about the reasons why she decided to work for AstroPay, the company’s vision and expertise within the emerging markets were particularly important factors.

She continued: “I started at AstroPay at the beginning of this year. The reason I picked AstroPay was that it is a company with a clear, ambitious objective. It has done really well to navigate through challenging markets and grow beyond their initial set-up in Latam.

“It is a company which started out in the emerging markets and became experts in making the complex simple. This is especially true for those international companies that wanted to enter and grow in emerging markets.

“They have done incredible work and I think that AstroPay has got the potential to really become the number one digital wallet in the gaming sector.”

Conversation soon turned towards the biggest developments taking place in the payments sector. Understandably, the growing use of digital wallets was a key trend highlighted by Rita – however, she also drew our attention to the rise of alternative payments.

“There is a big pool of changes to choose from, so I may not be able to choose just one. But in the payments sector, digital wallets have really strengthened their presence; let’s think about more traditional gaming wallets, but then also the likes of ApplePay and GooglePay. These innovations really have changed the payments landscape!

“More recently, we’ve seen an emergence of alternative payment methods beyond the traditional card transactions – be it wallets or account-to-account payments, and even just anything that is digitising cash. There is a big variety here. But I think that a bigger market share will be held by alternative payment methods – that is what strikes me as being the biggest change that has taken place.”

A topic which cropped up is the ever changing payments landscape, including the introduction, and changing of, regulations. This, in and of itself, can present a unique set of challenges.

While for some it may seem that regulations are changing on a daily basis, Rita highlighted that this is where AstroPay truly comes alive – having proved itself over and over again to be a trusted partner for international companies looking to navigate the intricacies of different markets.

“So AstroPay, as I mentioned before, started out in Latin America and in emerging markets. So we became experts in navigating difficult environments pretty early on. Such markets tend to be prone to change,” the CCO said.

“We started at a time when the payments landscape was quite complex. This allowed us to really become experts in supporting our merchants and partners through the intricacies of each market. With us, as well, they find a compliant and regulated partner to work with – we are obviously someone that they can trust and that can help them scale their global operations.”

For a global company, it is of utmost importance to ensure that it deploys robust security systems to best protect its customers’ information. But with that in mind, such measures should not detract from the user experience.

Achieving that balance between security and UX is no easy feat, and according to the CCO, there is no “magic solution”. But, by gaining in-depth knowledge of each market and user segment, businesses can provide a streamlined, secure payment experience.

Rita concluded: “It’s always a delicate balance between security and user experience. Being too heavy in preventing everything that could happen will have a significant impact upon the user experience, and vice versa. It’s a delicate balance and the truth is, there is no magic formula for that.

“That understanding comes with experience, and with the flexibility of understanding that each market, each merchant, each user segment is different. These different groups will all behave differently. So you really need to comb through lots of data sets and set yourself a very high expectation in terms of both user experience and security is the key. You need to be flexible and thoroughly comprehend the peculiarities of each individual market and specific segments within that market too.

“It is hard to tell how these groups will behave, and it changes all of the time. As I mentioned, we’ve seen this trend of shifting away from cards and more towards alternative payment methods. Which alternative payments that players prefer changes constantly, and entirely depends on the cultural habits of each market. But I do really think that this shift will continue.”

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