In the context of PayPal launching the results of a 2021 survey of 210 online small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in Singapore, to learn about their experience and how they survived and thrived through the pandemic, Asia Tech Podcast had a super conversation with Kasia Leyden, the VP of Marketing for PayPal International.  Kasia covered a lot of ground and gave her insights on the results of this survey.
We also discussed:
  • Kasia being a true global citizen and how it has made her more resilient and empathetic
  • Growing up all over the world was great ‘training’ for her current role
  • The trend of digital transformation reaching SMBs in Singapore and around the region
  • Not just in the B2C space but in the B2B space as well
  • Social media and social selling as the focus and entry point for going online for SMBs
  • The importance of ‘brand’ as a connection to customers
  • Market expansion and cross-border trade
  • How increased payment options build trust and enhance conversions
Other titles we considered for this episode:
  1. A Very Specific Market-level Nuance
  2. The World Has Gone Online
  3. Meet the Customer Where They Are
  4. Is That Your Primary Channel?
  5. It’s Not Just about a Storefront
  6. Dynamic, Intimate and Connected
  7. A Beacon of Trust
  8. I Have an Instant Global Business
  9. Feeling Really Optimistic and Excited

Read the best-effort transcript below (This technology is still not as good as they say it is…):

Michael Waitze 0:00
Michael Waitze Media…Telling Asia’s Stories.

We are on. Hi, this is Michael Waitze. And welcome back to the Asia Tech Podcast. Today we are joined by Kasia Leyden, the VP of Marketing for PayPal International Kasia, it is super great to have you on the show. How are you doing today?

Kasia Leyden 0:23
Thank you so much for having me my full, feeling really optimistic and excited. It’s the first week of the new year. So I’m ready to go. The world is before me,

Michael Waitze 0:33
optimism and excitement. Before we get into sort of the crux of this conversation, let’s get a bit of your background for some context.

Kasia Leyden 0:42
I kind of think of myself as a global citizen, I was actually born in Poland, grew up in Germany, moved to Australia for all of my childhood and schooling and Early professional years, relocated to America in 2010, spent almost a decade there and have spent the last three years living and working in Singapore. So all around the world. Oh, actually, in between there. I also lived and worked in London, so.

Michael Waitze 1:13
So do you feel at some level, like a third culture adult?

Kasia Leyden 1:17
A little bit? Like I think I really think I identify with this concept of a citizen of the world, just having lived and worked in so many different countries and cultures. And, you know, I think people ask me today they like, are you Australian? I’m like, Yeah, I am Australian. But Australians are inherently I think, Nate by nature, immigrants and very global in their travels and experiences. So I’d say I’m pretty authentic Australian in that sense, although I haven’t lived in Australia for more than a decade.

Michael Waitze 1:48
It’s one of my least favorite questions, actually, is when people ask me, where am I from? I was born in California, raised in Massachusetts, grew up in Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and then went to Japan for university, came back to the States worked in New York, and then lived in Japan for the next 22 years. Wow. Yeah. And then in Bangkok for the next 10. So it’s like, I live my entire adult life, not just in a different place, but like in a different culture. Right, yeah,

Kasia Leyden 2:16
I get that. It sounds like my introduction.

Michael Waitze 2:19
But that’s why I’m saying like, it’s really interesting to me to other adults that are like this, I feel like a third culture adult, because I feel like, I look like one thing. But inside I’m kind of two things, if that makes sense.

Kasia Leyden 2:32
Yeah, totally, totally. And I think you know, it makes you more resilient, and also empathetic in terms of the culture and the business context. In today’s world, particularly, I mean, look, we’re, we’re in COVID times today, right, which is all about wherever you are, you’re connected, and you’re digital. And therefore it doesn’t really matter where you are, or where you’re from, depends on kind of like, what you’re talking about, or what you’re working through or kind of pushing towards.

Michael Waitze 3:01
But in a way, it makes you perfectly situated right to run an international business, if that makes sense, right? Because you’re not so focused even inside of your own head just on the Polish part, the German part, the British part, the US part, the Australian part. So it gives you a context, this is why I love to get people’s backgrounds to understand it gives you this global context regardless, and it can’t get taken away from you if you know what I mean, right? Because now that you’ve lived in all these different places, you have to have that kind of perspective. No,

Kasia Leyden 3:29
yeah, completely, completely. And, you know, in the role that I have professionally, it really requires me to think about a very specific market level nuance in China, or Japan or Mexico, for example. But it also requires me to think globally, or from a regional perspective for a market like AIPAC or a specific market like Singapore. So you sort of have to jump between these different levels or lenses, if you like, which is kind of cool.

Michael Waitze 3:58
Yeah, Nuance is one of my favorite words, because most people don’t have it and don’t understand it. I want to talk about what has impacted the world in the last two years, right. So I run a bunch of other podcasts. And we spent a lot of the time in the last two years talking about digital transformation. But most of that has been in the context of these big incumbent, maybe global businesses. But do you think this has spilled over just from your perspective in Singapore into smaller businesses and even more localized businesses as well?

Kasia Leyden 4:29
Yes, absolutely. In fact, this week, we’re actually launching a survey that we ran with small businesses in Singapore to really assess and understand the impact of COVID in their business context, and what we found was that 26% Want to make their products available online. And it’s not just small businesses, it’s consumers, it’s enterprise businesses. It’s you and I doing this digitally in a virtual environment today, you know, I think the world has gone online. And it really has transformed the dynamic for buyers and sellers and interactions across the board. You know, specifically, I think what we found there that’s quite interesting is that there’s a silver lining for small businesses, 43% of them actually haven’t seen any negative impact. And so you know, that aspect of silver lining and how do you make the most of this digitization of Commerce for your small business, is now quite an interesting business growth opportunity rather than a hinderance

Michael Waitze 5:35
and do you think this is just in the b2b? I mean, just in the b2c space, or is this in the b2b space as well?

Kasia Leyden 5:41
I think it’s across the board. I mean, they’re, you know, COVID has not is not biased towards business owners and consumers. So really, it’s it’s across the board, I think the difference really lies in how businesses respond to that opportunity, and how they harness that, that opportunity to grow their business to connect with customers to engage in social commerce, and global commerce as well, from a cross border standpoint.

Michael Waitze 6:13
Yeah, I want to dig a little bit deeper into some of those topics in a second, but I’m really curious about was this consumer driven? In other words, did consumers call or contact the stores or the businesses with which they wanted to interact? And say, hey, look, if you’re online, I’d keep buying? Or did the businesses themselves realize this? Because a lot of these local businesses are really traditional? Do you know what I mean? Do you feel like the business is like, Oh, we’ve got to digitally transform, or was it more consumer driven?

Kasia Leyden 6:40
Yeah, it’s the chicken and the egg, right? I’m not sure which one which one, it is first, like, personally, my own experience has been hours and hours spent looking at my phone, shopping online, you know, dreaming of what to buy as a gift or for my family, or an experience or a product that I want to gift to someone. So I know that my own buying behavior. And we certainly see that come through when we talk to consumers, has just grown immensely from a digital and a social standpoint. And I think small businesses are noticing that and what they’re realizing in that engagement from a an online, and particularly a social media standpoint, is that they have to be there to meet the customer where they are. And if they’re not there, then they miss out.

Michael Waitze 7:33
Do you think there was some pushback maybe from some of these businesses at the beginning, right? Because if they are local, it’s likely that it’s not the first generation of these businesses, and maybe they’re just not so technologically savvy. I mean, I hear this a lot in Thailand, we tried to build a business two or three years ago that basically brought businesses online. And their response was, we don’t know how to do that kind of thing. Do you feel like that that changed, and that now they’re just saying, like, we have to bring in younger people, we just have to figure way to get past this technology?

Kasia Leyden 8:03
Yeah. I mean, I think what we know, and again, you know, from from the survey that we that we took to really listen to customers, is that we know that small businesses are actually finding social selling on platforms like Facebook, or Instagram, as an example, easier, a lower cost option, and a lower maintenance option in terms of selling directly to customers. And so that I think, is encouraging for a small business owner who’s got plenty of other things on their mind. And they just trying to find ways to grow with their business to connect with customers in in new ways.

Michael Waitze 8:44
I’m really curious about this, I would think that a normal business would just say, hey, let’s just build our own website. Let’s connect our existing customers to it if we have an email database and stuff like that, and then just send out the fact that we have our own website to this, but we see the same thing in Thailand, social selling, it’s called F commerce here. And I’m wondering why social media ends up being such a great platform for this, like, what’s the difference there between just being on Facebook or Instagram to sell, which, frankly, the same company right, then having your own website, and I think we’re gonna dig deeper into this, because I have real questions about why that works and doesn’t work.

Kasia Leyden 9:21
I think it’s, it’s not either, or I think it’s both. Okay. I think when you think about digitizing your business, you know, I do believe that the concept of a website gives you some legitimacy and credibility and builds trust with the consumer. But is that your primary channel in terms of, you know, revenues? Probably not. I mean, we also see that I think 53% of the SMBs that we surveyed, actually sold on marketplaces like a Lazada or or a q 10. I think third party platforms are secondary. To that maybe like a quarter of the population would have presence on like an E commerce platform like Shopify, which also kind of gives them an opportunity to have a storefront, which is really important. But I think in today’s world, it’s not just about a storefront. It’s about a brand and a connection to the customer. And again, thinking about this idea of meeting the customer, where they are, the customer is on social media, and they’re looking for inspiration and ideas and fulfillment against their wish list in the palm of their hand. And I think that’s what makes social selling a unique and social commerce, if you like a unique channel, because it’s two way rather than one way.

Michael Waitze 10:49
Do you feel like that’s different? We can use Singapore as a proxy, although it’s not such a great proxy for the rest of Southeast Asia, right? Because the GDP per capita is so much higher. But let’s just do it anyway. Do you see Singapore and Southeast Asia having different sort of social selling experiences than you do in other international markets, like in Europe and in the United States?

Kasia Leyden 11:09
Completely? I mean, I just I love this question. Because it’s, it’s the exactly the experience I had when I first moved to Singapore, you know, I was buying a whole bunch of furniture for my house. And all of a sudden, I was on these Marketplace apps that then wanted to connect to my WhatsApp account. And I was interacting with a small business owner on my private WhatsApp, which initially, I felt like was really strange, weird, feels it was good at the beginning, and then I grew to love it. I’m like, great, I’ve got like, I’ve got a, I’ve got a concierge service to this business that I need to buy from, and I can ask them whatever question i want, I’m able to get a response immediately. And I think that’s, that’s pretty powerful. So you know, the shopping experience in the Asia marketplace is just so much more dynamic. And I would say intimate and connected, versus a bit more of a transactional experience in some of the more Western markets in Europe or America.

Michael Waitze 12:14
Yeah. And it’s interesting, because there are two businesses whose names escape me at the moment right now, but one in one in Hong Kong and one in Taiwan that have basically built their entire tech stack around using WhatsApp for business to connect both b2b customers and b2c customers, to their end customers as a communication tool. Right? So the customers feel like, like you did at the beginning, it feels really strange. Like, why are they texting me on WhatsApp? That’s through my cousin or from my sister for my husband or wife? But then once it’s there, it just feels like normal, right? It’s like better than a phone call, in a way. Right?

Kasia Leyden 12:47
Yeah, completely. And, you know, I think one of the, the aspects of connecting you to a brand and a business is a sense of connection. And you know, what better way to build that then feel like you’re talking to a person rather than a business or a robot? Or, or a brand, you know, behind, you know, behind the facade?

Michael Waitze 13:11
Well, this is my whole concept, right, is that people connect to people, they don’t necessarily connect to businesses. So if the business itself can make it feel like it’s an individual, like you said, a concierge service before, it’s so much easier to deal with it, it makes you so much happy to do it. The other thing you mentioned, though, was expanding. Like if the benefit of being on social selling is that you can expand if you’re in Singapore, to Malaysia, to Indonesia, to Thailand, or to London, frankly, if you want to. But if you do that for a business that’s smaller, right? How do they transform from a really local business into what’s potentially a global business?

Kasia Leyden 13:46
Sometimes, for a small business, this can feel very intimidating. It’s like this concept of all of a sudden, I’m gonna have to be thinking about currencies that are not my local domestic currencies or languages or logistics. And, you know, particularly when we look at a market like Singapore, it’s a very small domestic market. It’s a great market. I love Singapore. But the opportunity for cross border still exists. I think, around 67% of SMBs are currently selling online in Singapore. There’s still headroom there. And I think 14% of them said that we have plans to expand internationally. And I think consumers are much more comfortable now buying from businesses across borders. And I think, you know, that’s one of the cool things I sort of respect about PayPal as a brand is at the core of the brand is this tenant of trust. And when you feel like you’re on a website that you don’t know, and you know, you’re talking about Thailand, let’s say it’s a seller in Thailand. That PayPal button on their website is a beacon of trust. is in Europe or in America, or anywhere else in the world. And I think that’s incredibly powerful to build brand equity for smaller businesses who are still forming that affinity with consumers around the world. So

Michael Waitze 15:13
this is also really interesting, right? Again, when people think about online payments, right? They’re thinking about e commerce websites, like you mentioned, like Sharpie like Lazada, like Tokopedia, like even the smaller ones like q 10, and stuff like that. But they’re not really thinking about smaller merchants using this, how does that pandemic change this right? In other words, how to these small sellers figure out how to do electronic payments and other things that are electronic? I mean, all the logistics, all the currencies and all that stuff, you said, how do they figure that out? Like what other tools are they using as well?

Kasia Leyden 15:45
It is, for sure, intimidating and complex. And I know that businesses are looking for partners, like Pay Pal, who can take that complexity away from them, who can make it really easy for them to toggle between markets and currencies and payment types that consumers want and feel comfortable with in their markets, and take that hassle away. So they feel like they’re experiencing that brand and that business in their local market as if there was a storefront there for them. Right. So, you know, for us, as a business and as a brand. It’s about partnering with small businesses, and taking that burden away from them and making that really simple and easy for them to build seamless experiences for their consumers.

Michael Waitze 16:37
So I like to talk about sales cycles and sales sales experiences, right? Because I think it’s kind of a window into the thought process that customers use. And I want to use my example with the iPhone. So back in 2007, or 2008, when it first came out, I walked into a store in Oyama to buy an iPhone for myself with my wife. And she was like, nobody needs this thing. Nobody. And I bought one for myself, I waited an hour in line to get it. And I walked out and I started configuring my email, like my real email, like, you know, am waitz@mac.com. And she was like, you can get email on this thing. And you can type normally, because in the old days on those dumb phones, you had to do all this crazy typing. And as soon as I walked out, I had to walk back in again, and buy another one wait another hour. And I’m curious what it’s like in the sales cycle for these services as well, when you walk into an SMB that hasn’t gone through digital transformation yet and say, Hey, we can make payments easier for you, and it has all these other benefits. What’s the feedback you get? Once they start using it and say, Oh, my God, this is like an epiphany for my business kind of thing.

Kasia Leyden 17:36
I mean, I think it’s such a great example from you know, that you raised, which is kind of like this moment of clarity. It’s like, oh, I didn’t think I didn’t know it could be this easy. I think that’s, that’s sort of how I like in the experience for PayPal in terms of our relationship with businesses, it’s like, start a PayPal account, decide how you want to use it, whether it’s for your website, whether it’s to create a link that you can use to sell a product or service on a social media site or in a WhatsApp message. and off you go. You know, it is that easy. And I think that moment of it’s almost like you recognize someone else is on your side, helping you in your, you know, on your team to help you be better and be more efficient or more effective. And, you know, I guess as a payments platform, that’s the business that we’re in.

Michael Waitze 18:29
But you get feedback from the SMBs. You know what I mean? We’re like, it took a while to sell to them. It gets installed, it gets integrated into their business. And then they’re, they call back and say like, oh my god, this changed everything we did, like we’ve never made a sale in Indonesia before kind of thing

Kasia Leyden 18:44
completely all the time. And I think like the concept of, oh, I put PayPal on my site and all of a sudden I have an instant global business. That’s the feedback in a nutshell. It’s like Pay Pal allows me to have an instant global business and global slash digital, of course, because that’s what it is. It allows you to sell across borders and connect with buyers across you know, more than 200 markets around the world.

Michael Waitze 19:12
And once you get this thing installed for them, do they ask you for other services? You know what I mean? Like do they care about Buy now pay later? And

Kasia Leyden 19:20
I can answer that because actually it is very relevant and on trend. We’re seeing a huge response to our Buy now pay later offering for consumers across the international markets specifically from bigger markets like Australia or the US or the UK so merchants in Singapore are able to offer the Buy Now pay later button on their website within their shopping experience. And consumers from these bigger markets, you know are looking for that in a way to deliver choice for them in terms of how they pay for purchases or services from from these businesses. So we’re definitely seeing a huge trend in that direction.

Michael Waitze 20:08
If payment is easier, does that also help loyalty and trust from the consumers? And does it drive business expansion as well, even just in the local market, if you know what I mean, I think

Kasia Leyden 20:23
payments being easier, really translates to a seamless customer experience. And going back to your example of getting the phone, and all of a sudden, that email worked, and it was a light bulb moment. If payments just works, and you have that magical, like, oh, I don’t need to worry about that. I don’t need to worry about filling in my card details and my address every single time because it’s all stored behind your PayPal account. You know, you click the button and you’re done. There is an inbuilt and an inherent trust and a growth in that Trust Bank, as it relates to you and that brand.

Michael Waitze 21:02
Do you see SMBs in this region investing in more payment options to provide their customers with a frictionless experience?

Kasia Leyden 21:10
Yeah, I think, again, you know, the survey that we’ve launched this week, really gives us a strong indication that looking at the payment types, and the payment experiences are really top of mind for SMBs. I think 78% of them want to invest more in their payment options. And I think 49% of them want to convert to showing PayPal within their experience, because they recognize that trust that that signals to consumers within the market and also outside of the market. You

Michael Waitze 21:47
talked earlier about this optimization on social platforms and the ease of use on social platforms. And I’m curious if you think is if this is just the entry point for the SMBs. And that over time, it’ll just be one of the things that they do. And they’re gonna go omni channel like the rest of online sellers, I do an entire show that we called ecommerce undercover. And we talk to a whole bunch of different sellers, people that are on Shopify people that are on platforms in the Middle East, people that are on platforms in Eastern Europe. And a lot of them start on social because it’s easy for them. But once they start understanding how selling occurs online, they then go omni channel, like we talked about earlier, building websites becoming going on platforms like that, do you see that as a trend for these SMBs as well?

Kasia Leyden 22:35
I think it’s an interesting starting point. And I think it’s a valid one for a large proportion of the audience, which is okay, well, I was offline to begin with, you know, maybe I had a store front. You know, in a hotspot in Singapore, I realized that I need to maintain my business and grow my business in a COVID space, which requires, you know, highly digitized means of communication and E commerce and sort of connection and transactions. So they move into the social space. And then, you know, I think the next question is, well, how do I grow outside of that? And I think the tentacles are, you know, yes, you can go back to your roots from a in person, storefront perspective, if that makes business sense. I think marketplaces are incredibly popular in markets like Singapore, and the broader APAC region. But in addition to that, you know, I think this concept of opening your business to the world and having a, you know, your own personal web experience, just adds that layer of maturity to a business that I think is needed at a particular life stage. And we certainly see that journey for some SMBs. Mind you, others are happy enough staying in the social space. And we know that social commerce is growing substantially and will continue to grow into a far bigger business in years to come. So if you look at your growth rate and your share of the pie, you might find that the engagements and the customers and the growth that you’re getting through social commerce, you know, is more than enough to keep your hands busy. Over the course of the next few years,

Michael Waitze 24:28
I want to go through history a little bit just in the offline retail space, and then try to make an equivalency to online and see what you think about it. Okay, so just work with me for a second. In the old days. There was in in small towns, even in cities, right there was a street where there were a bunch of shops, so you can think about Madison Avenue you can think about the small towns in which you grew up, right. There was a bakery shop, there was a tailor there was a shoe store, right and it was a clothing store. And then to make things more efficient and also to increase sales you then had department stores right it morphed into department stores in mind department store is really just just like a marketplace. It’s like Sharpie. And one of the things that happened in these big department stores, they got too noisy. Too many people were there, product discovery was really hard. And then big brands like polo, Ralph Lauren moved out of department stores like Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s and moved uptown onto Madison back under Madison Avenue. And I feel like this is going to happen again. And I think that this idea of these SMBs that realized maybe I should be on a marketplace, but it’s nothing else I need to be online. Do you think that that circle of what’s the right word of transformation is going to happen there as well?

Kasia Leyden 25:37
I like that, that example. I do. I do think that, but I don’t think it’s going to happen for everyone. You know, I think it’s going to be, you know, a little bit of a pyramid, if you like. So you know, the cream rises to the top, and those that have a big enough business are going to go and create this storefront, again, you know, whether it’s standalone from a digital perspective, or it’s in person on on Madison Avenue, they’re fortunate and successful enough,

Michael Waitze 26:06
you know what I mean? You don’t I mean, like, Yeah, you don’t want to go to a department store to buy shoes, you want to go to a shoe store now. Whereas in the old days, like in the 80s, maybe in the 90s, you would have gone to the department store. But now people just saying, and I think this is going to happen on the online space in the marketplaces, as well as that there’s too many products, 2 million, 3 million, 4 million products. But that the key points about this is not going to be the overwhelming number of products, but the ease of use of the sites. And that’s why I think that like the payment options, the checkout options and stuff like that are going to be so much more important than simply the number of products that you offer. Because discovery matters, right? So if you discover the product you want, and you get to check out and it’s hard, you’re still not going to buy. But if you find the product that you want quickly and easily, and then can check out or pay for things simpler. That’s cold enough.

Kasia Leyden 26:56
Yeah, completely. I mean, 40% of online shoppers will just abandon the cart if they don’t have the payment method that they’re familiar and comfortable with using. So there’s like, proof in the pudding right there. Which is if it’s not tailored to my needs, and how I want to pay and how this experience feels to me, then I’m not going to go through with it.

Michael Waitze 27:20
Yeah. You know this, right? Like if you’ve ever walked into a restaurant, with like one of your friends you haven’t seen for 10 years. And like, I’ve always wanted to come to this place, the food is great, the service is great, the wine is fabulous. And you say you walk in you say um, can I pay with my credit card or whatever? And they say, oh, cash only? Well, that’s a dropout at checkout, right? It’s the same.

Kasia Leyden 27:45
I just feel insulted when I get told cash, oh, my, it’s like, come on 2020.

Michael Waitze 27:52
Like, can’t I do something electronically, but this is again, gets back to the SMB thing. Now that their customers are fitness, they figured out that they can do things digitally. In a way it has opened up a whole new world for them. But now they’re going to transform even further because they feel the power of that digital transformation in a way that’s visceral. My sales just increased. I think that’s the real key. No,

Kasia Leyden 28:14
Exactly. I think that’s that’s a really powerful way to sort of think about it and the sense of emotion that comes with emotion and satisfaction, for a business to feel to feel that post and interaction and the feedback that they get from their customers is really powerful.

Michael Waitze 28:34
Yeah, I agree. I really want to thank you Kasha laid in the VP of Marketing for Pay Pal international for coming on and doing this today. That was super great.

Kasia Leyden 28:43
Thank you very much Michael really enjoyed our conversation. Appreciate you having me

 

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