AstroPay is now fully focused on the delivery of its prepaid virtual card solution for markets across Latin America, Africa and Asia. So much so, that the company decided to sell off its B2B payment gateway to concentrate on the ‘flagship’ B2C solution.
We caught up with Mikael Lijtenstein (pictured), AstroPay CEO, for more on the stand-out features of the AstroPay Card, including simplified integration for operators and reliability for the end-user, as well as which countries are next on the ‘go-to markets’ list for its adoption and why the world has become hyper-globalised due to COVID-19.
PaymentExpert: The AstroPay Card has become a key part of your offering; can you tell us what sets it apart?
Mikael Lijtenstein: AstroPay Card, our virtual voucher, has been designed to provide users with a simple, fast and reliable experience to be used in different international sites. Following very easy steps, users can purchase an AstroPay Card to be deposited in online sites. They can also use it to withdraw their balance from merchants.
Through it, operators offer their users a variety of well-known and convenient local payment methods, which enables them to obtain AstroPay Cards in local currency.
Being a globally accepted solution tailored to each region, merchants can receive deposits and process withdrawals from one single integration. AstroPay Cards are a simple, fast and reliable payment option either for final users or operators.
PE: How has the recent health pandemic accelerated consumer desire for virtual vouchers and do you believe this trend will continue?
ML: As we stated at SBC Digital Summit Latin America in June, we strongly believe cashless payments are here to stay. This shift towards it was going to happen one way or another, but it has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
We have seen that this trend has its nuances according to the reality of each country and region. Therefore, in order to change a culture, it is necessary to lay the groundwork for easing the user experience.
This means as little friction as possible (when purchasing a virtual voucher), simple steps, personalise communication, and turning the experience into something known and close to the consumer in their own language. We now go hand in hand with cashless. In fact, for some countries we already have only cashless solutions.
PE: When it comes to virtual vouchers, what are the innovations that can take them to the next level in terms of adoption?
ML: Thinking like the customer is the key to take virtual vouchers to the next level. User experience takes place every time they are in touch with something related to the product or service: i.e. when they talk to customer support, when they receive an email, when they make a transfer, or when they change their email or phone number.
It is not limited to what they go through when they enter the application and they register, it is not just when they make a deposit, or when they purchase. Anything they do on the platform is the user experience. Making it as natural as possible for the user means understanding him/her.
In addition, it is paramount to get regular feedback from clients to know what their tastes and preferences are. As part of an initiative to improve the user experience, we launched a help center tool where, once the user solves the problem, they have the option to answer whether the help was good or not, and if the product is useful or not. This helps us to make informed decisions.
PE: As a global company it would be interesting to hear your take on which regions are most eager to adopt virtual vouchers?
ML: In our experience, we can say that users located in emerging countries are the most interested in purchasing virtual vouchers, often moved by the lack of other payment options. We can cite as example countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa where we are increasing our sales volumes.
However, the situation generated by the pandemic has highlighted the need for other alternatives also in developed countries where we are starting to operate, for example Japan and some European countries. In a way we can say that the world has become hyper-globalised due to COVID-19 and that generates certain standards of behaviour at a global level.
PE: AstroPay recently diversified its offering into games console gift cards; can you tell us more about this move and the challenges it presented?
ML: The main challenge in this new vertical is accessing a new market segment that has its particularities and requirements which is important to understand. As a B2C company which is always on the lookout for new options, we have a team of professionals that analyse consumer needs to provide new options.
Also, we are focused on user experience, so we paid special attention to the buying process to make it easy and fast. To access these new game cards (Nintendo, Xbox, PlayStation, PUBG and Steam), the user must perform the same procedure as to purchase an AstroPay Card.
So create an account through AstroPay Web App or AstroPay Card App, select the preferred game card and the most convenient payment method. Once the payment has been made it is available in the virtual wallet. It only takes seconds to purchase.