Bahamian small businesses told: Embrace e-commerce


BAHAMIAN small and medium-sized businesses must embrace digital payments and transactions if they are to properly participate in the tourism industry and wider global economy, a provider says.

Jeffrey Beckles, Island Pay’s managing director, told the Grand Bahama Business Outlook: “The global digital payment market size was valued at about $81bn in 2022. It is expected to expand at a compound growth rate of 20.8 percent between 2023 and 2030.

“Anything that you have that will grow at an annual rate of 20 percent is worth having, which tells you that most of the people that we will engage with from here on in are going to be referred to as digital citizens. If we intend to be successful as small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), then it means that we must take the initiative now to position ourselves to be able to engage those individuals. That’s our reality: The world has gone to a global platform.”

Mr Beckles said the majority of tourists that visit the Bahamas come from digitised economies - the US, UK and Canada. As a result, small and medium-sized businesses must begin to accept digital payments so as not to potentially cut themselves off from conducting transactions with this market.

He added: “When we consider the top 10 digitised economies in the world, three of them - Canada, the United States and the UK - provide almost 100 percent of our tourists. We must remember, then, that the tourists that are coming to the Bahamas are digitised citizens, and if small businesses are unable to accept digital payments, it means that the separation between the customer, your revenue and your progress is going to remain.

“That gap is going to remain, and it’ll get probably larger and larger. The reality of it today is that more and more consumers are conducting transactions in a digital format than they ever have. Yes, cash will be around, but the reality of it is the access and the usability of cash will continue to diminish as the global digital space evolves.

“The takeaway, then, for us as we evolve in our business environments is to what degree are you facilitating or accepting or enabling your business to be able to accept a digital payment?”

Mr Beckles said the emergence of digital transactions and currencies have shifted consumers away from traditional methods of purchasing and engagement. He said: “The emergence of CBDCs [Central Bank Digital Currencies] and other forms of digital currencies, new online shopping methods and, of course, the metaverse offer businesses a new landscape of possibilities.

“Many of these emerging opportunities are tied to the increasingly digital world in which we live; a trend that is going to move quickly and will continue to accelerate in the coming years. As our personal and professional lives continue to move online, so does more and more of our economic activity.

“We understand more than ever before that the brick-and-mortar model that we used to have, where we told customers ‘come to us’, that’s dying very quickly. Consumers have moved away to being online. Not only do they have access to online products, but the expectation is that if you want me to look at your product, want me to buy your product, then you must be able to facilitate the payment online. Many companies are still struggling with that fact.”

Mr Beckles asserted: “Digital tools transact at a fraction of what traditional institutions will charge you. There are more than 52,000 Bahamians using our digital apps, and not just for domestic use. But because of our global partnership with MasterCard they have access to global markets.

“When you think about a taxi driver who no longer has to be concerned about whether the consumer has cash or not, but he can tap and pay and be done..... When you think about SMEs on the beach, straw vendors, bakery workers and bellmen today are receiving gratuities via tap and pay technology. When we think about a country where your websites have integrated, where people from around the world can conduct and close a transaction in a matter of moments rather than having to come and see you to close those....

“We are enabling them to participate in an ecosystem. We’re enabling them to be able to develop state of the art websites where there is an e-commerce platform that is integrated into their platform so that customers have an opportunity to make a buying decision. We have SMEs who are able now to provide digital payroll for their staff.”

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