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Martin McCann, OTT Pay’s CGO, talks about supporting retail clients during the Covid-19 pandemic

by | April 28, 2020

We recently spoke with Martin McCann, Chief Growth Officer at OTT Pay, about how Covid-19 is affecting the marketplace and what we’re doing to help our retail merchants during this unprecedented period. Has your role changed since the COVID-19 outbreak? Before we begin, I want to acknowledge and praise the work of first-responders and first-contact people (healthcare workers, grocery store clerks, cleaning and maintenance crews, mail and package carriers, truck drivers, politicians and any others that I may have missed) whose essential work keeps our country running. Stay safe and healthy, we need you more than ever. Now, about my role. As CGO, I look for ways to grow the OTT Pay business that complements our strong year over year organic growth. I have to solve for the question, “What other products and services can we offer that value add to our offering?”  With the outbreak, my focus has changed slightly. Many of the business discussions we were having with potential partners are being postponed, for obvious reasons. So, I’m now uber focused on seeing how we can create more value for our OTT Pay merchants in the very near future a shorter time frame. What are your top priorities now? We’re constantly trying to anticipate what is required. Within this context and the scope of my position, I’m looking for ways to “pivot” and see how we can assist our merchants with their existing business as well as having an eye out for future growth opportunities. For example, everybody knows that brick-and-mortar retail is taking a beating. However, E-Comm is growing. Not just traditional E-Comm as in “online retail shopping and having it delivered to you” but as in businesses now turning to E-Comm and entering new areas of service. You have merchants today who didn’t deliver before, who didn’t have an E-Comm presence or experience who are now looking for ways to stimulate sales.  OTT PAY is finding ways to help them. What is OTT Pay doing to help its retail merchants? We’re focusing on helping a lot of our existing merchants, who only worked in a brick-and-mortar space, expand their business to include some form of online commerce so they can increase existing sales or stimulate new ones. In early 2020, we went full tilt and launched a new QR code-based service with China Union Pay, as a complement to Alipay and WeChat Pay, called UPI QR. We then made the decision in Q1 2020 to pivot and re-align our resources and have pulled forward a project that was slated to launch this summer. The new payment offering is called China Union Pay UPOP . It is an Ecomm solution that caters to the consumers that presently use a China Union Pay Credit Card. This allows our merchants to bolster their Ecomm offering. And we’re re not stopping there, our team continues to meet on a regular basis to see how we can help our customers through this crisis and we will continue to pivot where required and if needed. How has COVID-19 impacted the Toronto business community? It’s pretty much like you would imagine. Every facet of the economy is taking a hit. Every business, big or small, is suffering. What’s impacting merchants right now is the way the outbreak has changed consumer behaviour. The only brick-and-mortar transactions you’re probably doing right now are groceries, gas, coffee, adult beverages and a couple of other ones. The way we shop now is very limited. Customers are not getting access to products and services or are spending less, like they would do during a recession. Put all this together and it’s easy to see why businesses are suffering. That’s why we’re focusing on consumers who want to shop, and how we can make it easy for them to connect with our merchants. What is the biggest benefit of mobile payments in a time like this?  The benefits have always been there for both merchants and consumers; the speed, security, and the convenience of use. Consumers trust mobile payments because they know they’re not going to get hit by fraud, and merchants know they’re going to get paid. But now, because of COVID-19, the marketplace has placed a huge value on limiting physical contact, and mobile payment obviously supports that idea. So, any time we can offer mobile payments is another opportunity for merchants to take payments from their customers in a non-physical way. What will business look like after this is over? It’s a hard question to answer. The temptation is to answer based on your current state of mind and right now, we’re in the eye of the storm. After 9/11 people said they would never get on a plane again, but the travel industry did recover. I’m not trying to compare the two situations, but the point is, there is going to be a new norm. We don’t know yet what it will be but consumers and merchants will have to migrate towards it. And because we’re social creatures, the idea of physical distancing will lessen, but I think that innovation and technology will help us find a happy medium. There is a massive amount of innovation going on right now in the Paytech space.  OTTPay is looking to make investments in this emerging area.  To draw another analogy, I would look at the Movie industry There are no movies being produced but I bet there are millions of scripts being written in anticipation of when it returns. The environment that we’re in right now is going to accelerate a lot of advancements, and the world of mobile payments is no exception. These changes were already on the verge of happening. They’re just going to happen quicker. Another thing that I’m often asked is if COVID-19, and the subsequent sensitivity to physical contact, will mean the end of cash. My response to that is that the story that ends cash was already being written. In China for instance, more and more merchants do not take cash today, which is why Alipay and WeChat Pay are so popular. Canada and countries like Australia and the UK, and Europe, had already started migrating to contactless payments before the outbreak. The U.S., who were the last ones to convert to EMV, are now discovering the advantages of tap, and the current situation is only going to accelerate the change in the U.S. market. What is your message to the OTT Pay Community (employees, clients, partners)? Since the beginning of the outbreak, OTT Pay like a true Canadian company, have been asking ourselves “what can we do to help?” With the support of our parent-company OTT Financial, we’ve donated tens of  thousands of masks and medical equipment to different groups who needed them here and in China. Even though we are a Canadian company, we have deep roots in China. Through OTT Financial, we were aware of what was unfolding in China, and we started taking safety measures way before we were mandated by the government. Even though we are deemed an essential service, the vast majority our employees work from home, and the few that do come to the office are very well spread out. For those of you who have visited us the old Wrigley Factory on Leslie Avenue, you know what I mean. We understand what our clients are going through because we share the same challenges. But they can rest assured that OTT Pay is on solid financial ground. We will continue to make sure that their payments arrive on time, and to invest in products and services that will help them with their customers as soon possible. Is there anything else you would like to add? In the current context, retailers are doing everything they can to serve existing customers and try to find new ones. Chinese consumers (Chinese Canadians, Chinese students) is a powerful consumer group, and you should consider tapping into their preferred methods of payment. Not only can OTT Pay help you process the transactions, but we have deep expertise in dealing with the Chinese community, and we can help you effectively market directly to consumers here and in China. We can help you get signed up online almost ASAP, and tap into a market you may not be tapping into today.