Creating better payment experiences for business communities

Creating better payment experiences for business communities

The MENA region’s digital economy has moved from strength to strength in recent years and vast opportunities have opened for merchants while also raising the bar of what is expected from them. Contactless payments have gained even further momentum, prompting merchants to swiftly pivot to digital solutions. Remo Giovanni Abbondandolo, General Manager, MENA, at, talks about the opportunities of Digital Transformation and how the region’s payments ecosystem has matured in the past ten years.

Tell us more about what does and how it started. is a global payments solution provider with a mission to help businesses and their communities thrive in the digital economy. With a global team spread across 19 offices worldwide, we offer innovative solutions that flex to businesses’ needs, along with valuable insights to help them get smart about their payments’ performance. We work with some of the leading brands globally and regionally such as Netflix, SONY, Talabat, Careem, Carrefour, Al Shaya and Western Union.

The story started with our Founder and CEO, Guillaume Pousaz, who after working in the field of payments was fascinated by the scale of this domain and by how the world of online shopping was transforming the retail and consumer experience. Fuelled by the desire to enable businesses to create better payments experiences for their communities, he launched in 2012. The company has been servicing the MENA region since 2014 with offices in Dubai and Riyadh.

In your experience, how can merchants better capture the opportunities of Digital Transformation?

The MENA region’s digital economy is expanding at an unprecedented rate. This is opening vast opportunities for merchants while also raising the bar of what is expected from them – with consumers quick to spend elsewhere if their expectations are not met. Businesses in every category therefore need to prioritise and optimise their digital presence, including payments.

My top two recommendations for merchants that wish to maximise their benefit from the Digital Transformation are:

Adopt local digital payment methods:
Digital wallets and FinTech apps are becoming essential offerings for digitally savvy consumers. Data from our latest Digital Transformation in MENA reveals that digital payment methods are the preferred payment option for 70% of consumers across the region. This represents a 75% increase in 24 months. This number is testament that digital payment methods such as Apple Pay, stc pay mada, Google Pay, QPay, OmanNet and Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) are here to stay.
Put data at the heart of their payments’ strategy:
Payments are an excellent tool from which merchants can gain extremely important information and data that allows them to unlock precious insights in real-time.
False declines, such as when a payment gets rejected despite the customer having sufficient funds in their account, are a real silent revenue killer at a global level. Merchants increasingly recognise this with 30% of retailers across Europe and North America claiming that high false decline rates pose a very high reputational risk to their business. MENA is not immune to this problem, with a staggering three-quarters of consumers abandoning their shopping cart upon experiencing a falsely rejected transaction.

For merchants across the region, it’s simply money left on the table. However, although ignoring false declines is a damaging and very costly mistake, removing them from the equation doesn’t have to be a complex task, particularly with the right data analysis support at their disposal.

How does your recent direct acquiring licence from the UAE Central Bank affect the company’s day-to-day operations?

We’re very proud to be the first global payment solution provider to be granted an acquiring licence in the UAE. Securing this acquiring licence allows us to unlock our full proposition for merchants in the country. This means offering them acquiring solutions, payment aggregation services and cross-border fund transfers.

Fundamentally, with our direct acquiring licence, we can offer superior payment performance for our merchants in the UAE. By having more control over processing outcomes through our powerful platform, we can drive best-in-class payment acceptance performance for our merchants.

How have you seen the region’s payments ecosystem mature in the past ten years?

The region’s payment ecosystem has matured in an extraordinary manner over the past decade. This is due to several factors, including increased Internet penetration, the proliferation of Smartphones and a rising young and tech-savvy population. The culmination of these factors has led more businesses to switch to digital-first models. That said, one of the most important factors was the role of governments as they encouraged and fostered the adoption of digital payments which facilitated this shift in a region that has long been associated with the primacy of cash.

Furthermore, during 2020 and 2021, we charted a seismic shift in the region that had been accelerated by the pandemic. Contactless payments gained even further momentum, prompting merchants to swiftly pivot to digital solutions.

Today, 91% of consumers in Saudi shop e-commerce and 14% of them do so at least once per day, in the UAE the number is as high as 96%.

It is also worthwhile to note that collaborations between banks, FinTech firms and non-financial entities have flourished. A vibrant FinTech scene has emerged in the region backed by regulatory support and sandbox environments, fostering innovation across payment domains.

If there’s one thing for certain, it is that this ever-evolving landscape holds increasing global significance.

How is this maturity reflected in the region’s e-commerce volumes?

Consumers in the region are adopting digital commerce at an unprecedented rate. Overall, the region has developed a particularly robust e-commerce marketplace in the last decade, particularly the UAE and Saudi Arabia that are emerging as strong global contenders. According to an Amitad study published earlier this year, MENA leads the online marketplace orders globally with over US$25 billion in 2022. Furthermore, our recent report shows that the future looks even brighter with 88% of consumers in MENA saying they’ll maintain or increase their current level of e-commerce spending over the next 12 months.

How can better payment data drive revenue benefits for organisations in this environment?

Payments provide a wealth of data that not only allow businesses to enhance their acceptance rate, combat fraud and increase their revenue, but that also inform business strategy and decision-making, and improve the overall customer experience.

With many merchants entering the online space at breakneck speed during the pandemic, payment data collection and analysis have often been overlooked and underutilised. Indeed, our report shows that 49% of the merchants based in KSA and UAE do not have time to analyse their payment data and turn it into powerful insights. This finding proves that payments are not yet widely treated as a strategic business function that brings sustainable value. The ramifications of these statistics go far beyond limiting a business’ ability to optimise its payment performance. They’re stopping payments from being a catalyst for growth and innovation within the business.

Here is an example: by understanding their payments data, businesses can unlock significant cost savings by identifying costs such as scheme fees, interchange, mark-up or real-time FX fees. Furthermore, payments data provides insights into customer journeys, pinpointing issues during shopping experiences. This empowers businesses to streamline checkouts, address cart abandonment and enhance payment experiences. Furthermore, payment data can provide customer-related information such as their demographics, purchase behaviour and spending patterns, all which can allow businesses to boost the shopping experience and increase customer loyalty.

Payment data is truly the only way that businesses can iterate and measure the results, then use that to fine-tune the way they perform an action and derive that result.

How can companies address concerns about fraud online?

As e-commerce grows to dominate a larger segment of the global economy, it is inevitable that cybersecurity issues will emerge. Just like innovation stimulates advancements in the payments industry, it enables fraudsters to refine their scam methods. As one example, 65% of businesses in the UAE claim to struggle to prevent payment fraud. Failure to do so will not only cost them financially but may also make them susceptible to reputational damage.

Therefore, designing an end-to-end fraud strategy, built around a flexible fraud detection solution that uses cutting edge technologies such as Machine Learning, is key to protecting businesses.

Intelligent Acceptance, an AI-powered optimisation engine we recently launched at, is specifically designed to allow merchants to optimise their acceptance rates and minimise fraud regardless of how long their digital payment experience is.
In most cases, merchants alone lack sufficient data to effectively train an AI algorithm, however, Intelligent Acceptance is trained on billions of transactional data points from’s global network and insights from the business’ domain expertise after a decade at the forefront of the digital economy. This allows us to leverage our expansive global transaction data to provide real-time insights, allowing merchants to constantly combat fraud, optimise acceptance rates and unlock more revenue.

When it comes to digital payments, where is innovation likely to happen next?

Based on what we have seen over the last 10 years, it is difficult to predict what we could be talking about in five years’ time due to the pace of innovation and consumer adoption of new technologies. However, what we will surely see more from is emerging technologies that will power the experiences of customers in the future. This is why at we continue to build our technology with agility and adaptability at its core by working very closely with our merchants.

Our most recent product, Identity Verification, is a great example of this. The product utilises proprietary Artificial Intelligence and is trained on billions of identity and facial recognition documents and is helping businesses scale by having a friction-free, compliant and quick customer verification process. Identity Verification’s AI can quickly verify authentic identities across over 3,000+ identity documents. By moving the identity document on the video, the AI can monitor hologram and colour changes common in most documents, as well as transparency and opacity.

This is just an example of how innovation and continued technological advancements improve the world of payments by offering an even more seamless and reliable experience.

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