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Supporting both sides of e-commerce transactions, with ZEN.COM


Challenger banks first began to appear around a decade ago and gained momentum during the pandemic. These new financial service providers aim to take on high-street banks by providing a better customer experience and correcting the more inconvenient or costly features of the traditional banking providers: such as high transaction fees, inferior exchange rates, and time-consuming administrative processes. Moreover, while legacy banks are stuck with ultra-low interest rates, challenger banks now try to attract customer by offering relatively higher saving rates.

Non-banking FinTech companies are on a similar quest – correcting the inefficient elements of traditional financial services have, for many, been a recipe for success. What gives an edge to these firms and startups is that they make the customer experience the focus of their services, as they try to change the narrative around finance and restore the trust that has been lost between customers and service providers.

One of the frontrunners of these FinTech firms from the CEE region is ZEN.COM, “an international payment system that allows virtually everyone to pay and be paid in a fast and simple manner.” We talked to founder and CEO Dawid Rożek about his company’s philosophy and the many benefits that he believes ZEN.COM can offer for both consumers and businesses in e-commerce transactions.

Finding where customers are losing out

Dawid’s career began, much like that of many other Polish entrepreneurs, with the largest Polish marketplace, Allegro. However, given that he had always believed in the opportunities offered by cross-border trade, he soon decided to go global. That’s how he started his gaming business – and how he first encountered difficulties with payments.

“This experience gave a lot of food for my thoughts,” Dawid remembers. “While it was really rewarding to be able to supply gamers from across the globe with their favourite products, it wasn’t always so simple. As an entrepreneur, I had to face a whole assortment of the difficulties concerning banking and payments. Huge amounts of formalities, bureaucracy, complicated processes – dealing with traditional banks is plagued by all of this.”

The challenges he had encountered while running his business – as well as the potential he had seen in the emerging FinTech market and the rising number of firms embracing digital transformation – provided Dawid with another business idea. He founded ZEN.COM to spare other entrepreneurs and consumers from all the inconveniences he had experienced during his business journey.

The company’s mission is to restore the “zen” in the lives of both customers and businesses, and create a more transparent payment system. Dawid explains that the name is a reference to the Far-Eastern idea of Zen, associated with calm and peacefulness. It is also an acronym standing for zero-effort non-bank. Both meanings are designed to highlight that ZEN’s clients can manage their finances easily and effortlessly.

“ZEN.COM is the answer to all those needs and difficulties you might face as an entrepreneur or consumer in the online sphere – whether you’re only beginning or you’re a veteran of the digital,” Dawid explains. “There are far too many things that we’re used to because “it’s just the way it’s been” even though they aren’t really convenient. That’s what we aim to change.”

“I learned a lot from the mistakes I made as a beginner entrepreneur,” he remembers. “But what matters is learning from these experiences and understanding that in order to win, you have to learn to lose. This is the key point of running a business and those are rules I’m applying at ZEN right now. We keep on listening to the users and their suggestions about what they are missing or where they are losing. The feedback from consumers and businesses helps us see what truly matters to them.”

One of the things that matters above much else for customers when it comes to e-commerce transactions, or any kind of financial services, is trust. Currently, the main priority of ZEN is building the community and gaining the trust of both sides of e-commerce transactions, consumers and businesses. This forms an integral part of their wider mission, answering the needs of the rapidly growing e-commerce across the globe.

“The greatest value that matters for me when running this business is trust – and this is what we build our relationship with the client on. That’s why you get all ZEN.COM functionalities and benefits without any hidden costs. Everything is outlined and explained very clearly when you’re asked to choose a plan. In the case of customers, the choice will depend on how intensively you intend to use ZEN.COM. For businesses, it will depend on how many payments you are going to process on a monthly basis.”

“We have a separate offer for both groups, as their needs vary a lot. While consumers need to be able to shop securely, while obtaining best possible deals in terms of price and quality, the businesses require support with attracting potential clients to their e-stores and maintaining a smooth checkout experience, to minimise the number of abandoned carts and maximise the profits.”

Redefining customer experience through innovation

Customer experience has been perhaps the most important keyword for business success in the 21st century. One only has to think about how FAANG, the five biggest American tech companies  (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google), operates to see this. Apple’s iPhone has been a huge success as its functioning makes the user feel like an expert rather than a technological illiterate. Or take Jeff Bezos, who has built the whole philosophy of Amazon on customer experience. Hence the term “Amazonisation” which refers to companies with a heavily client-centric approach, that are able to provide tailored solutions to their clients quickly.

The Covid-19 outbreak has amplified these trends, as more and more services have been shifted to online channels. In line with this, the demand for better online shopping experiences, as well as faster and more reliable financial transactions, has grown too. In response to these demands, innovation in the FinTech market is offering more and more new features.

“These solutions can be expensive, difficult to understand, and overstuffed with features,” Dawid thinks. “Eventually, when you wait for a resolution of the issue for hours, you realise that it’s yet another business that wants to meet the ends rather than cater to your needs. Our idea is something else – it’s about staying “zen.” Our goal is to eliminate the chaos in the world of purchasing, payments, and financial management.”

Some of the benefits that ZEN brings about for consumers include a multi-currency card to pay both online and offline “without any extra hassle.” Furthermore, transactions with both the physical card and those added to external e-wallets can be tracked in the ZEN app. But one of the most notable benefits of ZEN, Dawid thinks, is ZEN Care.

“If anything goes wrong, the ZEN Care is there to help out with virtually anything. I mean it. We had typical cases of receiving an item other than ordered one, but also more unusual cases of a hotel room that didn’t quite fit the standard described on the website. We want our clients to feel seen and understood. Therefore, our customer support agents do their best to provide every consumer not only with a refund if it’s applicable, but also an extra discount or voucher from the shop which disrupted their state of zen.”

The company also supports its users with cashbacks. ZEN has partnered with stores from across the globe to provide great instant cashback offers, including well-known companies such as AliExpress, Allegro and BangGood.

“You click in a link in the app, shop in the e-store using this link and observe the money coming back to you instantly after the purchase is made,” Dawid explains. “We do our best to find more partners so we can offer our customers even more value.”

ZEN has also cooperated with Mastercard from a very early stage, which extended beyond payments. ZEN also received comprehensive support from Mastercard, including access to innovative technologies, business partners, and Mastercard experts.

“In my opinion, every FinTech needs a partner in the form of a card issuer that will be accepted all over the world. We presented our philosophy to Mastercard, showing how we aim to provide a feeling of calmness in the field of finance, and we showed them our drafts. Mastercard immediately liked our minimalist design and we felt the chemistry. I can frankly say that this is the first such example of cooperation between a FinTech in on the CEE market and a global company in the area of ​​payments.”

A constant challenge faced by ZEN.COM, as well as many other innovative startups, is the low financial literacy rates. That’s why Dawid thinks it’s important to change people’s awareness, and show them that “regulations and procedure are a relic of a bygone era.”

“ZEN provides unique benefits and comprehensive protection. It lowers the costs of paying for purchases thanks to the lack of commission on currency conversions or online payment processing, as well as the solutions that bring savings, such as cashback or no chargebacks. At the same time, customers’ money is deposited in the banks with which we cooperate on the basis of appropriate licenses, meaning ZEN’s customers can feel safe. We are redefining customer experience through innovation.”

Expanding business horizons

It is similarly important for ZEN.COM to maintain a close and trustworthy relationship with the sell side of e-commerce transactions, too. Therefore, they have come up with various solutions tailored to the needs of businesses.

“We want to be a long-term business partner for merchants,” Dawid says, “and that is why we are constantly implementing new functionalities, tailored to individual markets and corresponding to their needs.”

One of the greatest benefits the ZEN delivers for businesses is the payment gateway, which makes the payment options closely linked to the ZEN business account. What gives ZEN an edge over its competitors is maintaining close partnerships with various payment processors and providers, such as Mastercard and PayPal. “The ZEN payment gateway increases the quality of customer experience while shopping as well. Regardless of the payment method – whether they choose Mastercard, Visa, PayPal, WeChat, UnionPay, iDEAL or Paysafecard – we make it possible for them to choose the option that suits them best.”

“For businesses, this means a world of possibilities, as they only need to start cooperating with ZEN in order to accept both domestic and cross-border payments. You don’t need to make deals with all of these payment providers – we did it for you. All you need to do is to install ZEN Checkout in your e-store and you have access to all of these, plus a multi-currency payment account that will help you in tracking the financial flow on many markets.”

The enhanced feeling of trust provided for customers is also a win for businesses. It can benefit both local e-stores who want to reach customers from markets other than their domestic one, but also provide support to global players in expanding to local markets, as they need to gain trust of users from a particular country.

“Including a vast range of local and global payment methods in your e-store helps the customers to see that you are a trusted entity, because you provide their favorite way to pay. If the customer sees a payment method that they trust and use on a daily basis, they are more likely to finalise the transaction. A well-selected payment method can help both small and medium enterprises looking for success, as well as major entities seeking to replicate their strategies in new markets.”

“Moreover, combining our value for business with our offer of consumer benefits brings more value to the former, because these people also buy things for the company and use ZEN as a payment method. Various reports show that modern B2B relationships are going to resemble B2C ones, as young people, who are used to the benefits of consumer-oriented e-commerce, are becoming the decision-makers in the businesses. And this is just one example of how that is coming true.”

In the case of e-commerce transactions, the businesses aren’t able to receive their funds from sales instantly. The money usually goes to the technical account, where the only activity possible is to withdraw these funds to a proper payment account. This means that the sellers need some more time before they can use the money to pay employees’ salaries, taxes and investments, or to purchase more assets.

“Meanwhile, ZEN proposes a real multi-currency payment account,” Dawid continues. “The funds from incoming transactions reach the account in a few moments and are immediately ready for use, either for further bank transfers or payments with a ZEN Mastercard. That means the possibility of paying business taxes fast, or even simply investing in good opportunities without having to majorly rebalance your budget.  This is a big difference and it turns out that among the payment processors we might be the only entity to provide it.”

“We also do not charge our fees on incoming transactions, so the merchant cover payment operator charges only. With ZEN.COM you purchase one monthly subscription based on the number of payments that are processed by your e-store. If your shop becomes more popular, you switch to a higher-value subscription – it’s as simple as that. And if your business is really active and processes large sales volumes, the savings that come from this way of operating are really significant.”

ZEN.COM is an excellent example of a company that understands the significance of customer experience in this new era of finance. They are embracing it not just theoretically, in their company’s core philosophy, but in how they actually operate as well. We are keen to see how ZEN will help shape customers’ financial consciousness in the CEE region and beyond.

Author: Benjamin Jenei

#ChallengerBanks #DigitalCustomerExperience #LegacyBanks #FinTech #CEE #DigitalPayments #DigitalTransformation #Ecommerce #Amazonisation #FAANG #Innovation #Mastercard #FinancialLiteracy #PaymentGateway

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