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Even as digital advances, cash still matters

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A truly global presence demands a globally minded payments infrastructure. Brands will only win when they cater to the needs of their diverse, ever-changing markets.

To do that, they must offer payment options that speak to the different regions in which they operate, and that means bank transfers, a wide variety of local mobile wallets, local debit card schemes, online credit options, convenience store payments and our old favorite: cash.

Cross-border ecommerce is booming, and the opportunities will only grow in 2020 and beyond. Online retail sales will top $4 trillion in the coming year, and by 2023 APAC e-commerce sales will be greater than the rest of the world combined, signaling the massive growth of digital business worldwide.

Cashless payments have been one of the major stories in payments for the past several years. Certainly, China's push to become a cashless society is a remarkable one, with companies such as Tencent and Alibaba leading the charge toward digital payments there. Singapore and India are also aggressively promoting the growth of cashless payments.

It's true that this mode of payment is growing — but the trend isn't universally applicable. Roughly 20% of e-commerce payments around the globe are still cash-based, meaning that cold, hard currency is still a crucial part of a competitive payments strategy, particularly in massive markets like Indonesia, Korea, Japan and India. Given that 4.5 billion consumers globally do not have credit cards, capturing their business requires other payment options, including cash.

Additionally, digital consumer payment preferences are evolving rapidly. We're seeing massive adoption of real-time bank payments such as UPI in India, PromptPay in Thailand and PayNow in Singapore. E-wallets like LinePay, Boost, FavePay and GrabPay, as well as online credit services like AfterPay, Kredivo and Hoolah, are also making big waves.

So, while hundreds of millions of people use cash online out of necessity today, that picture will continue to change rapidly over the next several years, accelerated by the growth of these options, as well as new classes of digital banks and other services to provide innovative pathways to financial services. As new options emerge, different markets will gravitate toward different solutions, and brands must be ready to accommodate them all, and to adapt as tastes change and winners emerge in every market.

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