There is potential for cross-border e-commerce especially with the Western Balkan countries

Changes in the habits of customers who under the influence of the pandemic turned to online shopping are a decisive factor for the increase of as much as one third of the average monthly number of virtual POS terminals compared to the first quarter of the previous year, says Filomena Pljakovska – Asprovska, director of the International Card System (CaSys), in “Lokalno”.

In addition to the fact that almost all stakeholders have adapted during the crisis, Pljakovska-Asprovska points to the increased confidence in e-commerce as a significant benefit.

“As a company, we meet all global standards in the payment industry to ensure secure e-payments for our e-retailers and their customers,” she said.

The wide network for processing card transactions is also aimed at satisfying the needs of the users, because the CaSys systems are directly connected to the card networks of Visa, Mastercard, Diners International, processors and banks from the region.

“This allows for realization of transactions, ie ability to use a card issued by a client bank of CaSys, anywhere in the world”, says Pljakovska-Asprovska.

There was an expansion of electronic payments in 2020 and the rapid development of e-commerce, due to the pandemic and the restrictions imposed by this situation around the world. What do the trends for this year show? What is the number of e-retailers and registered customers?

– In pandemic conditions, changes occurred in many segments of everyday life. Many people made their first online orders and payments for products and services. The advantages and benefits offered by e-commerce came to the fore, to order and pay for a wide range of products and services from the comfort of your own home, without physical presence, and to have your products delivered to your home address. The users of this method of payment have found that online payments are simple, fast and secure, as opposed to past experiences with waiting in lines and unnecessary health risk exposure.

As you can see, pandemic-induced expansion is evident. Last year we saw a rapid growth in the electronic payments and the number of e-retailers. This trend continues. If we make a comparison, there is a 36% increase in the average monthly number of virtual POS terminals compared to the first quarter of the previous year, ie compared to the period before the pandemic took off. In the eCommerce system of CaSys, the number of e-retailers has already exceeded 900 and 30,000 registered customers, which is a share of more than 70% of the total Macedonian market. When it comes to the virtual POS terminals in the first quarter of 2021, the average monthly number of transactions compared to the same period last year increased by 82%.

Why do we have a smaller volume of e-commerce in our country, unlike the developed countries? How to increase the trust of the security of electronic payments?

– The benefits and advantages for all participants are great. For retailers, this is an additional channel for marketing products and services, faster and easier communication with customers and conquering new markets and customers. For some retailers, the e-shop is the only channel, which in the new digital age is a very efficient and successful approach. For customers and clients, access to products and services 24 hours a day, the ability to pay and buy from home and without restrictions, high security are the advantages with which e-commerce is superior to traditional payment methods and channels.

The increased volume of purchases is due to several factors, including the increased trust in e-commerce. As a company, we meet all global standards in the payment industry to provide secure e-payments for our e-retailers and their customers. We are continuously working on improving the infrastructure to be resistant to cyber threats, we are identifying and implementing appropriate protection solutions, promoting a culture of information security, in order to comprehensively understand, build and enhance the necessary protection capacities, strengthen capacities for prevention, research and future risks, and cooperation and exchange of information nationally and internationally.

The development of technology, the demands of customers for different types and possibilities of payments are the main factors that drive us to constantly enrich the offer of functionalities and options that e-retailers would integrate in their e-shops. The increased number of functionalities, the facilitated integration of e-shops with the system and the increased offer of products and services result in increased volume and increased customer satisfaction.

The pandemic has forced businesses to adapt to new situations and seek new solutions to sell their products and services. What was your role in that process?

– In a situation of pandemic, many Macedonian businesses had to temporarily close their physical sales facilities. In addition, a number of companies introduced work from home, then isolation, curfew, which influenced the habits of customers to change, ie to focus on online shopping. These events have been a motivation for many businesses and stores to turn to e-commerce and take advantage of the new living conditions, to adapt faster and overcome the pandemic more painlessly.

As a company, we are dedicatedly and continuously following the Macedonian market, the demands and needs and the growing trend of the number of virtual POS terminals and the increased number of transactions. CaSys met the challenges and needs of e-commerce users, by introducing promotional periods for financial incentives for new traders together with the banks with which we offer this service. We have also provided technical functionalities for easy and fast integration of the e-shops with the CaSys e-commerce system, which significantly shortens the start-up time. We have been and are focused on providing e-commerce and their customers maximum support, both in the integration process, and afterwards, during the operational work. Our goal is increased satisfaction and improved e-commerce experience.

As a company that follows the new technologies in the card industry, which projects are planned by the Processing Center in the segment of digitalization of services in order to achieve a user experience that will be fast, modern, safe and accessible at any time?

– When it comes to the growing transition from traditional to digital shopping, the care and attention paid to customers is of huge importance. CaSys and the banks we work with in the world of e-commerce are continuously making efforts to modernize and simplify e-commerce. We enable e-retailers to make the transaction in a few simple steps while observing all security protocols. In the last year, several facts can be stated:

  • E-commerce is growing continuously in our country;
  • There is potential for cross-border e-commerce especially with the Western Balkan countries;
  • Almost all stakeholders have adapted in times of crisis.

On the other hand, in order for the population to accept the digital transformation of finances, it is necessary to have financial and digital literacy. In general, we need to constantly work on education of the population, to strive to increase the quality of education towards the new times and to keep young people in the economy, because they are our future potential for economic growth.

It is no coincidence that CaSys was also the main sponsor of the organized virtual Hackathon within the E-Commerce Association. It was a special honor and pleasure for me as a mentor to guide students through their professionalism towards successful concepts for their innovative solutions. We have recently started educating the general population in the field of electronic payments, safe use of cards, safe online shopping and the benefits of encouraging the growth of e-commerce through a series of texts published on the most read Macedonian portals.

Will the wave of novelties include the part of monitoring and prevention of suspicious transactions and payment card abuses?

-CaSys e-commerce system and the entire infrastructure is continuously in accordance with the standards and regulations of Mastercard, Visa, PCI DSS, ISO, and the Law on Personal Data Security. CaSys is constantly up to date with the latest advances in security enhancement. We have implemented a standard for secure e-commerce (3D Secure) for online shopping with increased security, which is already available on the Macedonian market for cardholders issued by the Macedonian banks-clients of CaSys. The new standard for the cardholders provides the highest level of security through additional authentication and also provides a sophisticated and improved user experience. This standard (3D Secure) provides the opportunity to soon introduce authentication with biometric data.

At the same time, CaSys manages a system for monitoring and prevention of risky and suspicious transactions in real time and it is used by some of our clients. The resolution of such events is constantly in cooperation with banks and relevant institutions.

How far does the card transaction processing network extend?

– Card transaction processing network has full global coverage. CaSys systems are directly connected to the card networks of Visa, Mastercard, Diners International, processors and banks in the region. This allows for realization of transactions, ie ability to use a card issued by a client bank of CaSys, anywhere in the world. Of course, it goes the other way around as well, the CaSys client banks and their retailers can accept payment card transactions issued abroad.

You started this year with an investment in a new machine for personalizing cards. What are the experiences so far and how much has this activity proved to be worthwhile?

– CaSys started the year 2021 with the investment in a new production line – a machine for personalization of cards with additional modules for personalization of stickers and the possibility for automatic packaging of the card in an envelope. Our imperative is the continuity of business processes, high quality and opportunity for innovative services. The growth of the number of personalized cards, as well as the number of new clients, imposed the need for this investment in order to increase the capacities, the quality, and continuity of the service. We are planning additional investments in order to further increase the capacity and stability of the systems, modernize the cPay e-commerce system of CaSys, and introduce new innovative services. With the motto to work hard and dedicated, we believe in positive results.

Is it necessary and is a new legislation for card personalization already being prepared that will provide greater opportunities for the development of this service?

– A legislation is necessary. CaSys operates in accordance with the international standards of MasterCard and Visa. Every year the Company is controlled by authorized companies from international networks, and the outcome of these regular controls is a certificate of continuous renewal. Regarding the role of CaSys as a payment systems operator, we welcome the Draft Law on Payment Services and Payment Systems. It integrates several directives and regulations of the European Union in the field of payments, so we expect that there will be significant changes in terms of expanding the list of payment service providers and the set of payment services. This law opens the market for payment services, it opens many opportunities to offer new innovative payment solutions, but also challenges in terms of trust and security.

How common is the certification service with payment institutions and retailers and why are they necessary?

– The certificate issued by a relevant institution or standardization body, is more than a signature and a stamp. The certificate is a certificate of compliance with global standards, a certificate of continuous investment in providing safe and quality services, a certificate of high- quality team that manages the company. CaSys, is dedicated to investing and works on maintaining all the necessary certificates related to the operation. For the customers, our certificates, in addition to the above, simply say that we do our job successfully, and they instill trust and security in the use of our services. I can freely say that we are on the same level with the biggest global suppliers like Amazon, Ebay, AliExpress, ASOS.

The Covid-19 pandemic affected all segments of the economy except the banks and CaSys is the main supporter of part of the banking sector. Did the difficult working conditions and the restrictions imposed by the pandemic affect your work?

– The pandemic was reflected in all segments of the economy. Remote operation, and the commitment to ensure continuity of services on the one hand and preserve the health of our employees, were part of the aggravating conditions. As a development-oriented company, we are focused on achieving long-term cooperation with banks and financial companies, and offer many new services aimed at our customers in segments of digitalization of services on the one hand, which contribute to increased employment, economic development of the country and growth at the level of competition.

We continuously follow the world trends for card operations and plan to invest in new digital technologies, invest in improving the quality of our staff and at every step incorporate our corporate values: transparency, culture of open communication, social responsibility and tolerance, high professional degree of personal integrity and commitment.

Our company participates in workshops and educational events, and we are unreservedly ready to give our contribution wherever needed. We will continue to be committed to providing and developing secure, modern and affordable solutions in the field of card and digital payments.