We have all experienced a dreaded checkout payment horror story. You go through all of the hassle, put in your card details, your card gets rejected and you have to do it all over again! As businesses of all sizes and backgrounds navigate through increasingly complex payment demands, there’s a danger of neglecting the very foundations that allow for sustainable growth.

In this episode, Commerce Talk host Aziza O’Beirne sits down with Tee Chayakul, a visionary leader who led the team responsible for launching Stripe in Thailand just last November.

During this conversation, Tee emphasizes the importance of providing customers with seamless payment journeys. Highlighting the significance of businesses prioritizing their basic payment processing to address the unmet needs of customers while giving an insight into emerging trends that are coming down the tracks that businesses should pay close attention to, such as cross-border payments and shifts towards subscription payment models.

Aziza (Host): You and your team were responsible for launching Stripe in Thailand in 2022, an incredible achievement as the Thai economy continues to grow! I know this launch was a personal highlight for you. I’m wondering if we can talk a bit about some of the main payment barriers that businesses were facing before this launch, and still today,  and how Stripe has helped to break down these barriers?


Tee (Guest): Do you know an analogy that I would like that I often like to use with regards to this question that if you think back to us back in the early 2000s when we were pretty happy to have the Nokia 3310 phone? The one that you could use to simply make and receive calls and it had such a sturdy cover that if you were to throw it at someone, it wouldn’t break. Those things were great, right? Because it was good enough for us to communicate at that time, it was relatively convenient and it was good enough for it. Is it the best product by today’s standards? Not. But it was good for that time. I see Stripe as basically a smartphone coming into the Nokia 3310 market.  For so many users here, all they have known so far is the local payment gateways, which by all means are good and they get the job done. But what if users have unmet needs? What if they need things like going international, accepting reliable international payments,  using subscription payments, or getting onboarded very quickly, those things they would not be able to do with the current option quite as easily. The same way though with someone with a Nokia 3310, right?


If they’re going to see a smartphone at that point and all they need is to receive and make calls, they’re never going to need a smartphone, and fair enough. There are going to be people like that who are happy with that phone. But a lot, the large majority of us, would want to know what Wi-Fi is, and how to use a smartphone. We want to know how to use the apps on the smartphone. So for us at Stripe, it is our job to educate people because they may not know that these cool gadgets and cool features exist, all they might see is something that’s three times the size of their current phone and twice the price. So a lot of the good technology, the way I want to summarize it, can cost a little bit more, but it can bring in that much more utility and value to your business, and that’s how I see Stripe coming to Thailand, bringing in options with better solutions that hopefully can answer a lot of the needs of businesses that are looking to integrate online more.


Aziza: That’s a great analogy and I think it’s really interesting because, in a way, it’s almost creating new needs by just showing a world in which you can have that seamless experience. You’re bringing people along on that journey and letting them come through when they’re ready and when it makes sense for them to make that big step.  Looking specifically at Startups, it seems that Stripe is playing an important role in helping to open up opportunities for Startups worldwide. I saw a figure that mentioned over 1,000 new ventures launch each day. How does the right payment infrastructure help to transform the future of these startups?


Tee: If you think about startups, Stripe started as a startup itself as well back in 2010. So when we think of startups we need to ask ourselves, what do they want? They want to be able to have a seamless payment experience. They don’t want to spend a lot on resources. Or have to spend a lot of time thinking about this payment stuff. They want to be able to onboard within minutes really and ideally, they want to be able to have a lot of technologies to go into different business models that go along with the vision of their whole business. These are the things that Stripe answers the call for those startups. You can get onboarded within minutes and start receiving money within that time as well. Everything is very self-guided. There’s a lot of documentation online that you can go online right now and see how the technical integration should be.  So all of these startups can get integrated and get onboarded without actually even talking to any one of us and we have a lot of options on our dashboard for you to choose from. So, if you want to do more subscriptions or if you are more of a marketplace… there are a lot of tools that you can play around with. They’re all very self-explanatory and they can fit within whatever business models that you need. All of those functions are available in Thailand similar to what the American startups have access to. That’s the power Stripe brings to any startup that just wants to get to a place where they can start accepting payments as soon as possible.


Aziza: Do you see it as a very exciting time in Thailand for startups?


Tee: I think Thailand is a very, very interesting market and an intersection of startups, with millions of small and medium businesses and large enterprises. There is still so much room for growth, and the government provides a lot of support to cultivate the startup environment. There are many initiatives in place to encourage the emergence of thriving homegrown startups and Stripe is here as an alternative option that can help propel their growth both domestically and internationally.


Aziza: I’m wondering, from your standpoint over the last couple of years, what have been some of the main emerging needs from customers? What can businesses do to best meet these needs to drive better conversion rates and checkout experiences?


Tee: Let me tell you a story. We had this one customer recently who came to us and said that they had a very very bad experience concerning their existing payment processors and they told us that they were receiving a lot of complaints from their customers to the point that they felt that they need to find something to help change the problem. They came to Stripe and we listened to their pain points and heard about the things that they wanted to change. They weren’t sure whether or not we could help them to address these issues, so we proposed this;  why don’t you try us, and see how we compare with your previous regime and how you’re currently operating? So the result from all of this was positive in the sense that they managed to reduce their level of complaints down to nearly zero, they significantly increased their conversion rates and improved their platform to the point where we are looking forward to seeing how well their returns are by the next quarter and towards the end of the year too.  What this highlights to me is that whatever the business is going through, the proof in the pudding is that you need to be able to help them to increase their return on investment. So if they’re going to change the payment processor,  or if they’re going to adopt some new business models. Whatever they’re doing, in the end, the return has to be to justify whatever they’re changing. What we have done, well at least for this user,  is relatively universal. We were able to improve a lot of the checkout experiences for their end customers. So that once they get into the checkout period. They don’t just leave because, well, I’m sure you’ve been through some of the experiences that I have –  where I want to buy something I click on the payment, and it asks me to fill in about 3 pages once it gets to the end…then it rejects my transaction and resets my cart. That is quite infuriating.


Aziza: Oh that pain, I know it well!


Tee: It can happen a lot more often than you think and many people do not even realize that it’s happening until they start to dig deeper into where their conversions fall off and start looking at where things are not going well. So, I think there’s a lot of basic hygiene and maintenance that we can actually bring to a lot of these users and help them to get that better return on investment for whatever type of businesses that they are doing.


Aziza: That’s a great point actually because even in my head when I was asking that question I was just thinking of that checkout experience. But actually, there’s the whole other side of that you mentioned there and it’s those smaller experiences of entering your card details 2 or 3 times in a row and the pain of that!


Tee:  It’s one of those things that sounds simple in the sense that why can’t anyone do it? But it’s not easy. Payment is not simple, right? So that’s why at least we can come here and provide that certainty. It’s a bit like you can outsource all of that payment infrastructure to us so that you can focus all of your engineering resources and all of your operational time on doing what you do best to serve your end customer.


Aziza: Zooming out with a wider lens on emerging trends in the world of e-commerce and online purchasing. What emerging trends are you keeping a close eye on at the moment?


Tee: A couple of things that I would highlight is that a lot of the transactions that we see right now are just simple payment processing ways. You go to the checkout, you buy the stuff…end of story.  There are going to be a lot more companies that want to meet more complex payment needs for their customers. When I say complex, I mean things like subscription models. So, instead of you having to buy everything every month, you can give them the peace of mind of the utility. Say if I want a water purifier I don’t have to buy a water purifier myself right? I can pay say 200 baht and then I get that water purifier plus auto maintenance. So instead of me just buying an asset, I can now buy the utility. From that point of view, we have seen many subscription models start to come up worldwide and as we move forward, that figure will increase by 5 x times in the next ten years. Similarly, we will see more marketplaces where you’re connecting the buyers and the sellers. We see a lot more of that in e-commerce, basically from just retail e-commerce,  but potentially a lot more users are going to start to want to do that in their little niche or ecosystem as well. So, many of those complex use cases are going to start coming up to satisfy the different needs and it’s going to require a lot more complex payment processes to help deliver that.


The next thing I want to highlight is cross-border payments.  If you want to buy stuff from the US or you want to buy stuff from Australia right now for a sub-website, it can be relatively straightforward, but from others, you still have to jump through a lot of hoops. You may have to end up using some payment processor that you don’t even trust and with that, you don’t know whether they’re going to steal your money or not, and you may have to pay very high payment fees. It’s very difficult to get a refund for whatever it is. There are a lot of issues that come from trying to transact overseas and from the merchant side, Thai merchants have a lot of amazing services and products that could go overseas.  How easy would it be for them to accept money from overseas without a lot of issues? There are a lot of things that they need to think of, such as customs. There are many issues that merchants have to deal with, so being able to make that cross-border payment journey simple is going to be a big focus for Stripe, as it will for a lot of other processors worldwide as well.


Aziza:  That’s interesting that you said that about cross-border purchasing because our last guest, Mei Lee, actually had that as one of her emerging trends too.  I think it’s becoming more and more evident that we can no longer look at the world as one-dimensional. All of our online experiences have zero borders and zero barriers, so The purchasing experience will have to follow suit.  I think it’s really interesting that within all of the pain points that you mentioned, there seem to be a lot of opportunities for people in the future to serve those pain points. Are there any things coming up for Stripe Thailand?


Tee: Since launching just last year, it has been pretty exciting to see the reception of a lot of different users as well as the different use cases that they are applying within the country. We are continuously working to uncover product solutions that can best serve the enterprise market in Southeast Asia.  To be honest, there are quite a few exciting solutions in the pipeline that we are hoping to announce in the coming months, so please stay tuned!

If you liked this, why not hit the play buttonand delve further into a thought-provoking discussion with Tee Chayakul. In addition to this, for book lovers; Tee shares his two most recommended books for those seeking inspiration as leaders

Don’t forget to contact SmartOSC Fintech for more information on other technology issues!