Firoz Patel, Executive Vice President at Payza, speaks with Alastair Greener at the Telegraph Studios for Business Reporter’s Future of Payments campaign to talk about the future of e-commerce, both in Europe and abroad.
It’s telling that one of the most popular colloquial terms for a cryptocurrency is “altcoin”, a portmanteau of “alternative” and “bitcoin”. Bitcoin, the original cryptocurrency, has become so ubiquitous that it is the definition of its own category. But the future of Bitcoin is currently in question and, because of this uncertainty, many traders are switching to other cryptocurrencies.
On March 10, Bitcoin hit an all-time high trading value of $1,325 as investors banked on a US proposal for a bitcoin-backed exchange-traded fund (ETF). However, the proposal was rejected by US authorities, which happened to coincide with a crackdown on bitcoin exchanges by Chinese regulators. Together, these two events caused Bitcoin’s value to drop by over $300.
The root of the problem putting the future of Bitcoin in question is scaling: Bitcoin is becoming too popular for its own infrastructure. The number of Bitcoin transactions that can take place at any given time is limited, which is causing a backlog of transactions in queue for processing, slowing down the whole system. This is because of the limited computing power of the blockchain, a distributed database that records all transactions and serves as a public ledger. In some cases, the backlog becomes so great that some Bitcoin transactions are not confirmed for hours or even days, and in some cases, the bitcoins being sent never reach their intended destination.
The Rise of Cryptocurrencies
Blockchains, invented in 2009 by the anonymous developer of Bitcoin, would prove to be a core technology of all cryptocurrencies. Blockchains are the key software that allows digital currencies to break the double spending problem by timestamping transactions into a public ledger on a peer-to-peer network. Without this solution, double spending represented a flaw in which the same digital token can be spent twice, rendering it useless as a currency. This technology allowed bitcoin and other digital currencies to be decentralized.
Cryptocurrencies are a subset of digital currencies, distinct in that they are decentralized: they are not tied to any real-world assets, not backed by any government or central bank, and no one is required to accept them as valid forms of payment or exchange them for any real-world currencies. Nonetheless, Bitcoin became so successful that it is now accepted by major companies such as Microsoft and Dell. You can even use Bitcoin at some brick-and-mortar stores and coffee shops around the world. In fact, there’s a coffee shop in Prague that only accepts payment by Bitcoin!
Naturally, Bitcoin’s success inspired imitation. Many copycat coins failed, but those that refined and built upon Bitcoin’s model attracted investors looking to capitalize on the technological innovation promised by these new altcoins. While some digital currencies like Litecoin and Dogecoin may have already hit their high water mark, there are still lots of intriguing cryptocurrencies that have something new to offer.
Here are the up-and-coming Bitcoin alternatives to keep an eye on in 2017.
Today’s Top Altcoins
Ether (founded 2015)
Shortly after Bitcoin’s crash in mid-March, Ether, the cryptocurrency that powers the Ethereum network, reached an all-time high trading value, surpassing $55 on March 16. Ethereum is an interesting case, as 2016 saw its value rise and fall erratically due to the same scaling problem Bitcoin is currently facing. To solve it, Ethereum split their blockchain into two parallel streams, a solution bitcoin has sought to avoid.
Known as Ethereum and Etherium Classic, these two cryptocurrencies both trade in Ethers, but they can have two different values depending on which stream they belong to, which can rise and fall independently of each other. Microsoft, the Royal Bank of Scotland, and J.P. Morgan Chase are all investing in proprietary software built on top of the Ethereum blockchain, lending credence to Ether’s reputation as a preferred network for digital software applications.
Zcash (founded 2016)
Zcash is one of the highest-valued cryprocurrencies today, currently trading around the $65 mark. The success of Zcash in what is now a very competitive landscape is due to its revolutionary, totally anonymous blockchain. The public ledger reveals no information about the parties involved or the amounts transacted; no other cryptocurrency provides complete privacy and anonymity.
Dash (founded 2014)
The third most valuable cryptocurrency by market capitalization behind Bitcoin and Ethereum, Dash hit an all-time high of $108.32 on March 20. This is a huge leap in value from its 2016 peak of $14.42.
After two different name changes, it appears Dash has finally taken off, driven by its proprietary InstantSend technology that allows transactions to be verified without the longer confirmation times of Bitcoin and other altcoins.
Monero (founded 2014)
From the beginning, Monero set itself apart from other cryptocurrencies in a way that is proving very important: scalability. Unlike Bitcoin and most altcoins, Monero has no hard-coded limit on its block size, meaning that it will never face the slowdowns that provoked Ether to split its blockchain and that are causing Bitcoin’s current existential crisis.
This scalability is key because the popularity of cryptocurrencies has now reached epic proportions. Bitcoin’s inability to handle its own popularity has led one of its key developers, Mike Hearn, to state that bitcoin is a failure as more altcoins rush in to take its place.
Nothing is certain in this crowded, complex market, and cryptocurrencies should still be seen as experimental and high risk in terms of an investment, but their potential power within the digital economy cannot be understated. More and more people are investing their real-world money in Bitcoin and altcoins, while businesses of all sizes have begun to accept cryptocurrencies in exchange for goods and services both online and in-store. If you’re curious about digital currency, now might be the time to start trading, and it’s still possible to find coins that have not reached their full potential yet and still have room to rise in value.
We’ve only skimmed the surface of the history, complexity, and capability of cryprocurrencies, but this is a subject we at Payza will be following closely in 2017. Subscribe to the Payza Blog to get email notifications about more in-depth articles about this and other FinTech disruptors, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for even more e-commerce news from around the web.
2017 has only just begun and it’s already an exciting year for Payza. Wednesday night at the Merchant Payments Ecosystem Conference in Berlin, Payza was announced as the winner of the MPE 2017 Online Payment Method Award.
“2016 was a banner year for Payza,” said Firoz Patel, global executive vice president of Payza, who accepted the award on the company’s behalf. “The United Kingdom, for instance, saw over 150% year-over-year growth in terms of new merchant accounts. Overall, Payza saw 50% YOY growth in business signups and 225% growth in merchant payment volume. To be recognized as the best online payment method from among Europe’s leading providers is a credit to Payza’s continuing effort of providing local payment options to our users in Europe and across the globe.”
The MPE Awards, which celebrate and honor the achievements of companies and personalities across the European merchant payments ecosystem, selected Payza as the Online Payment Method Award winner based on its built-in fraud protection and state-of-the-art unique account security features, such as tokenized dynamic payment buttons, custom avatars and greeting messages, and Password and PIN protection; its flexible payment options, such as recurring subscription and split payments for marketplaces; and its hassle free integration that provides European merchants the choice to set their payment preferences based on the countries to which they are selling.
In addition to winning the Online Payment Method Award, Payza was also shortlisted for the Data Information Award, which recognizes achievements in using big data to improve the customer experience, decrease fraud, and increase profitability.
“Winning this award wouldn’t have been possible without the combined contributions of each and every Payza employee,” continued Patel. “From our amazing customer support staff, and our dedicated IT team and software engineers, to our merchant account managers, and our banking, fraud prevention, and account security teams, this achievement was the culmination of a full company effort.”
Payza’s staff has been growing rapidly to keep up with the increasing demand for the company’s services. That demand is a testament to the company’s focus on providing specialized local payment solutions for unique markets while offering an online platform where consumers and businesses in both developed and developing economies can participate.
With new offerings targeted at some of the fastest growing e-commerce markets in the world, including India, Brazil, and Bangladesh, Payza is poised for yet another breakout year.
In most industries today, small business owners will find that e-commerce is the only true route to success. If you’ve already built your online business and are now struggling to turn a small but devoted customer base into a large and vocal fandom, maybe it’s time to recruit your customers to sell your product for you. If you’ve already come this far, maybe it’s time to look into affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing is often confused with multi-level marketing (MLM). In light of the recent Herbalife settlement, people are once again thinking of MLM as a bad word – just Google “MLM” and you’ll see that one of the first results is “Is multi-level marketing a pyramid scheme?” But that’s missing the point of the settlement, which we believe is actually a good thing for the industry.
In 2012 Bill Ackman, founder of Pershing Square Capital, a hedge fund, began a campaign against Herbalife, accusing the 35-year-old dieting supplement company of being a pyramid scheme. After a lengthy investigation, the company agreed to establish a $200M fund to reimburse distributors for lost wages and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) found that Herbalife was operating legally.
This settlement is meaningful because, despite the fine, it reinforces that MLM is a fair and legitimate business model. In the words of Herbalife CEO Michael Johnson: “The settlements are an acknowledgement that our business model is sound and underscores our confidence in our ability to more forward successfully.”
While it shares superficial similarities with MLM, affiliate marketing is itself a distinct business model from both multi-level marketers and illegal pyramid schemes:
Pyramid schemes require that people pay to participate in the scheme and only profit when they recruit others to participate. The “product” is only redistribution of money pumped into the scheme: the business is built on recruitment. It’s a closed system and the money flows overwhelmingly toward the top. With no incentive to actually sell a product, those at the bottom of the pyramid eventually run out of new recruits and the pyramid collapses.
Multi-level marketing companies rely on the sale of real products for their cash flow. New recruits are brought on board and the company incentivises recruiters, but the profits at all levels still come from actual sales. Rather than profiting off fees charged to recruits, the company rewards recruiters with a percentage of profits based on sales. In other words, the product is everything.
Affiliate marketing is a single-tier system which rewards affiliates for each visitor or customer the affiliate directs to the business. The affiliate is not selling the product but is instead marketing the business and directing traffic to the company’s website.
Affiliate marketing is often overlooked by digital marketers. Though the methods are more or less identical – SEO, SEM, PPC, email campaigns, etc. – instead of coming from the business directly, the content is actually being promoted by a third-party “publisher” (the affiliate). This is a powerful tool for building trust in a brand; when somebody else speaks up for your product, it makes a greater impression on consumers than hearing it directly from the merchant.
The product is still everything, however. Some people get into affiliate marketing or MLMs because they seem like a solid, profitable business model, and then figure out what the “product” is later. But the medium is not the message. There is no product that is a poor fit for affiliate marketing as long as you’re doing it for the right reasons. Get your product right first – the best time to introduce affiliate marketing to your business is once you have a small but growing customer base, a group of potential brand ambassadors who can prove to you and others that you have a great product.
Affiliate marketing is not a “get-rich-quick scheme” and it’s certainly not a scam. It’s good business. If you know you have a great product and a great online business, affiliate marketing is right for you.
From the start, our mission has always been to provide freelancers, self-employed professionals, entrepreneurs and small business owners with convenient and affordable tools for growing their business. We believe in small business and want to do what we can to help improve the lives of your customers – check back often with the Payza blog for the latest tips and tricks on growing your online business, and be sure to follow us on: Facebook and Twitter
Don’t know what are UPI, NPCI, IMPS, NEFT, or RTGS? Don’t worry, we can help!
The people of India are still adapting to the sudden demonetization of the 500 and 1000 rupee banknotes. Emerging from what experts have described as a “debacle” and utter “fiasco” in monetary policy, many Indians are frustrated by media reports that offer confusing information about India’s financial system.
To help bring some clarity to the situation, we wanted to go over some of the unclear terms in finance and digital payments that are common in media reports about demonetization.
What is UPI?
Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is a digital payment system network. Using an app on a smartphone, the UPI enables citizens to transfer money between bank accounts of 19 major Indian banks. In addition to simplifying and increasing access to many basic banking services, the UPI app lets a customer to transfer funds to the bank account of a merchant to make payments without the need to share private financial information.
The National Payments Corporation of India along with The Reserve Bank of India developed the app to encourage Indians to replace cash transactions with digital payments.
For more information, see this article about UPI and the related app in The Hindu: What is Unified Payment Interface?
What is IMPS?
Immediate Payment Service (IMPS) is a digital payment system network. IMPS enables the instant, digital transfer of funds between major banks.
Like the UPI, the IMPS platform makes it easy to digitally transfer funds between banks using mobile phones. Using this service, citizens can transfer funds whenever they please, even during off-hours and bank holidays.
The IMPS platform is managed by the National Payments Corporation of India and operates using the National Financial Switch network.
What is NEFT?
National Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT) is the most extensive banking network in India to transfer funds digitally. This network provides a simple and cost-effective means to transfer funds throughout India and is popular for settling retail remittances. This banking service is available during business hours and closes for bank holidays.
What is NPCI?
National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) is a non-profit organization that oversees all retail payment systems in India. The organization aims to offer all Indian citizens unrestricted access to digital payment services. Endorsed by the Reserve Bank of India, the NPCI is a leader in advancing India’s “cashless society” initiative.
What is RTGS?
Real-time gross settlement (RTGS) is a money transfer system within a country that enables the transfer of a high volume of funds between banks. Finance companies use this system to transfer money or securities instantly, where the funds are sent individually rather than bundles or batches that are mixed with other securities. The RTGS provides essential financial infrastructure for a country’s Central Bank and monetary system.
Do you know of other banking and finance terms we should add to our list? Would you like for us to explain the details of a digital payment system? Tell us in the comments section below.
Here we provide a strategy to ensure your customers will find
your online business when conducting internet searches.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO), a fundamental component of website building and digital marketing, has been around long enough that we in the business already look back fondly at the “good old days” of SEO. Once upon a time, getting your website to rank was as simple as cramming enough keywords into a page, a practice that now has the opposite effect. These days, SEO is a complex set of best practices that is constantly being changed and updated, so keeping your website optimized can be a full-time job.
Before we go any further, to understand SEO we need to understand how search engines work. Basically, Google, Bing, etc. send robots all around the internet that “crawl” every website they can find. They pull all the data from these sites and, using a very large set of complex algorithms, attempt to identify which ones have the most valuable information for their users.
For example, when you type “e-commerce” into Google, it attempts to sort the search results in order of what you are most likely to find useful. The problem with this is that robots are not that good at deciding what is and isn’t useful to humans.
The practice of search engine optimization then is to find ways to tell those robots that your website is the one people are looking for. But this comes with a problem as well, which is that even poor or spam websites can still have good SEO, and so Google, etc. have to constantly improve their algorithms in order to filter out the sites that are trying to “trick” them into thinking they’re useful and return only the best possible results for their users.
So as search engines get smarter, SEO practices have to get more sophisticated. Let’s have a look at some of the key elements of SEO and how you can use them to increase your online visibility.
Terms you need to know
Keywords: Keywords are the terms or phrases browsers are searching for. Search engines catalog the keywords you’ve incorporated in your website and use them to rank your site appropriately in their results pages.
In-bound and out-bound links: Search engines consider how many other websites link to yours, as well as which websites you link to, to measure the legitimacy of your site. The quality of the in-bound and out-bound links will also influence your score.
UX: User experience is a broad category of its own which includes ease-of-use, intuitive navigation and quick loading times. Search engines consider how pleasurable it is to use a website when ranking them in their results pages.
Bounces: When someone clicks through to a site only to discover that it is not what they were looking for, they will hit “Back” to return to the results page. This is called a “bounce” and it signals to search engines that your site is not what visitors are looking for, so they will rank it lower in future search results.
Tips to get you on track
Don’t Get Comfortable
If you haven’t updated your SEO practices in the last year they’re at least partly out of date, but there’s another reason why you need to be constantly tweaking and maintaining your website. Search engines rank websites lower if they appear stagnant – if the content of your website is updated infrequently, it may do damage to your SEO score.
Understand Your Audience
The main function of SEO is to leverage keywords. By modifying the structure and content of your website, you can incorporate keywords that are relevant to your products and that your target market is using to search for similar products on the web. However, it’s important to focus on target keywords very specific to your potential audience. Popular search terms are a double-edged sword – avoid common keywords unless they’re definitely favored by your specific audience, otherwise you risk a high bounce rate.
Analytics can help you keep it fresh. By keeping a watchful eye on your website analytics you can identify which of your SEO campaigns are performing well and how to deploy your resources most effectively. Pay attention to your bounce rates, paid vs. organic traffic, brand vs. non-brand keyword performance, and long-tail vs. short-tail traffic.Search engines also use analytics to identify the legitimacy of a website. If you can increase the average time your visitors spend on your website, search engines will see that as a vote of confidence that your website is indeed useful to their users.
Optimize Your Site
There are a few ways to optimize your site:
Pages more than three levels deep into your website are rarely going to be seen by a human being, so keep all the important information close to the surface. If users have to click more than twice from your homepage to get to the information they’re looking for, most of the time they will go looking for it somewhere else.
Trimming unnecessary pages from your site and eliminating duplicate content can increase your score since both of those are interpreted by search engines as spam.
Search engines consider loading times and broken links when ranking sites, so make sure your site is running smoothly at all times.
Leverage Marketing and Social Media
Good customer service never goes out of style – it’s even more important to the overall success of your business than SEO. In the age of social media, a bad review can spread like wildfire and severely impact your ability to reach new customers. Social media is a boon to SEO practitioners for its utility in link building, user-generated content and reputation management. Signals from social media, including the number of followers, community engagement and content sharing tells search engines that your brand and website are valuable to their users.
More traditional forms of marketing can be effective as well, such as email marketing, maintaining a local physical presence, and getting your business reviewed by popular blogs and news outlets.
We are far from the age of “If you build it they will come”, especially not in the crowded and competitive online retail industry. Search engine optimization is the key to standing out in this market –9 out of 10 consumers use search engines to make purchasing decisions, and SEO is the way to compete for their attention. If you have any further questions about implementing good SEO practices for your website, leave a comment below, and keep visiting the Payza Blog for more tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your e-commerce business.