200: PayPal Brings Us Up to Speed on the New Ways to Purchase Product

Written by Rob Stott

February 6, 2024

Today’s customer expects a lot out of their retail partners, from the time they discover you online to when they make that major purchase – down to how they actually want to spend their money with you. And, just as every other step of the customer journey has evolved, so too have payment options. Head of Global Customer Advocacy at PayPal Dr. Tiffany Raymond shares the latest on some alternative payment methods that you ought to be offering your customers.


Rob Stott: We are back on the Independent Thinking Podcast and excited today to dive into the world of consumer finance, well payments, right? And we got who better to talk to than probably the leading global brand in this payment space and alternative payments in PayPal. And today we’ve got Tiffany Raymond, head of… Dr. Tiffany Raymond, correction, rewind, repeat. Dr. Tiffany Raymond, head of global customer advocacy at PayPal. Excited to have you on talking from the other side of the state, right? I’m in Philly, you’re in Pittsburgh. So we’ll try to keep it cordial on this podcast.

Tiffany Raymond: Yeah. Cordial and nothing but love. I think of that as team PA.

Rob Stott: No, that’s fantastic. They didn’t tell me that when I went to school at Duquesne, but they gave me trouble for my orange and black Philadelphia Flyers fandom. But that’s okay. I appreciate all of the black and gold and everything that goes on out in Pittsburgh. So excited to have you on.

Tiffany Raymond: Thank you.

Rob Stott: Awesome. Well, first of all, we’ll start right with you. Tell us about yourself, your background, your role at PayPal, and then we’ll kind of dive into it all.

Tiffany Raymond: Okay. Well, thanks so much, Rob. First of all, I just want to say it’s just a pleasure and it’s an honor to be here. So thanks for inviting me. And that’s a lot of question, but I’ll do my best to hit all those bases around a little bit about me and my background and my kind of path to PayPal. So as noted, I’m Dr. Tiffany Raymond or Dr. T as they like to call me here at PayPal among friends as we are. And so I do lead global customer advocacy here at PayPal. I’ve been here for over nine years, so in fact, it’ll be a full decade next August. So excited to hit that milestone. I think background wise, my background is pretty untraditional for someone who’s in the fintech space. A lot of my colleagues came up through the card networks and acquirers and things like that.

For me, both of my parents were writers. My dad was an academic, and that’s what I thought I was going to do, my whole upbringing. And so I was really laser focused on that. I went straight from high school. In fact, I grew up in northern California, if you want to now in the wine country in a town called Petaluma, where I was actually the fourth consecutive generation graduate from the same high school, which is extremely rare, particularly in California. And so I went straight from there to earn my undergraduate at the University of Arkansas where I graduated with honors. And then I went to the University of Tennessee where I earned my master’s degree. And then I came back to California, but kind of like the two sides of Pennsylvania, I went to the dark side and I went to Southern California and I attended the University of Southern California and I earned another master’s degree and my doctorate.

So I was definitely on that track to being an academician. And as I was working on my doctorate, I needed some extra money for… that teaching stipend did not really cover life in Los Angeles, and so I had my own little side hustle. And so I started working at a .com. And so kind of unusual perhaps, and this might sound weird to say, but I really fell in love with working in business. And it had never really entered my consciousness as something I might do or even pursue. But I loved the kind of just collaboration, teamwork, really getting to work together with people towards a common goal. And that’s something that you very much don’t have in the lonely halls of academia and something that I very much didn’t realize how much I craved that, but I’m kind of a stubborn person.

And so I did continue and I finished my doctorate even though I knew well before I finished it that I was not going to pursue that as a career path anymore. But it was a goal I always had and so it was good to accomplish that. So anyway, so when I worked at this .com, I worked at a company called legalzoom.com, and they were the original really legal tech company, so they kind of founded that whole space of legal tech. And I was actually employee number 12 there. So it was a one room startup, truly when I started working there. And then I was there for over a decade. And by the time I left, it was very much a mature enterprise business. So I really got to go on an incredible journey of seeing and learning so many parts of the business and what really all of my favorite roles were really around serving our customers and being that kind of customer advocate.

And so particularly we were of the largest former of small businesses in the US through limited liability companies and through corporations. And so that was something I worked with very closely, worked with our merchants. And so that was a really amazing journey. And so then I kind of made the jump from legal tech over to fintech working here at PayPal. So I think PayPal and LegalZoom are both kind of the pioneers in their space. They’re both the originators and they both really leaned into using technology to scale and using technology to really make life hopefully easier and better for people. And that’s really, I think what I love so much about PayPal is that we were that pioneer in the space of digital wallets and digital payments, and we’re still the industry leader over 20 years later. So that’s not an easy crown to keep hold of, but testimony, just kind of our innovative spirit.

Rob Stott: Yeah, been able to do it. And it’s kind of funny you think about the first thing that comes to my mind is you mentioned obviously academia, a lot of writing and heads down that sort of stuff. But to PayPal where it’s more numbers and finance, do you ever joke, I’m sure you get a lot about wanting to be a writer, but then kind of getting into a company that’s in the finance space and writing. And how are those SAT scores in terms of math as opposed to reading, right?

Tiffany Raymond: Very strong in both. I was a valedictorian.

Rob Stott: Oh, there you go. So you were set up to do what you wanted.

Tiffany Raymond: Yes.

Rob Stott: No, that’s awesome. Well, tell us a little bit about the role of customer advocacy too. What does that mean at PayPal and what you’re doing?

Tiffany Raymond: Yeah. Well, I like to think I have the best job at the company. So it’s always a good view to have. So customer advocacy, in our case, in my team’s case, when we’re talking about customers, we’re really talking about merchants and partners specifically. Now, PayPal has over 35 million merchants in our portfolio. So that is a very large family globally. We’re very proud to serve that family. And really customer advocacy is about identifying those merchants and partners who have had a good experience with our products and solutions.

And then really helping them amplify that experience and externalize that in a form factor, it could be a video, it could be a case study, it could be a testimonial, it could be an event. So there’s lots of different ways that our advocates can… kind of altitudes that they can engage at. And our goal, one way I really think about what I do is just unlocking the power of our super sellers. Because when you have a happy customer who wants to talk about how your products and solutions have driven value for their business, that’s much more relatable to other businesses than you talking about how great you are.

Rob Stott: Yeah. Well, it’s an important thing to point out because I ask it for a couple of reasons. One, to set up sort of where we’re going, but two, because our members too, right? As retailers, they need to know that that’s something that they should be doing too, and I think a lot of them do. But the idea that you can talk about your business and how great you are and it means something, right? But to have your customers, it’s those online reviews, especially in the retail space that we kind of harp on and try to get them to find ways to get them out of their customers, to go online and give that review, that Google review about the experience they had with that business.

So it’s an important point to make about the role of the customer in your success as a business, but also back to the PayPal side, it gives you line of sight into the things that are going on today in this landscape. And how your customers or the advocates are using the platform in a way that is amplifying their business and helping them succeed. So kind of sets up the pickup. You mentioned the breadth of how many customers you guys work with. What’s that landscape like today? E-commerce is such a big… we’ve seen it explode in retail over the last 15, 20 years. So paint that picture for us of what the e-commerce landscape looks like today and in the scope of PayPal.

Tiffany Raymond: Yeah, yeah. Well, I think e-commerce has only continued to be more relevant since this sort of supercharged acceleration of the pandemic. I think post pandemic, there was some sort of… I don’t want to say concern, but are things going to back off and to what extent they might back off, but we haven’t really seen that. I think it really comes down to the fact that consumers who are maybe more slightly digitally engaged on the e-commerce side are now more fully engaged and really like the convenience, the speed, the choice, the price that they can find when they’re in the e-commerce setting. And then I think just thinking about this particular moment in time, we’re in a high inflation zone and shopping online gives consumers a lot more choice around pricing. You’re not limited by the prices that you can drive to. And so as consumers are looking to economize and stretch their dollar, e-commerce is also a great way for them to do that.

So it really helps them at any given moment in time, whether that’s sort of pandemic and being in lockdown or now how can we stretch our dollars in maybe tighter economic environment with the price of goods and services going up. So I think that’s why it’s really so critical to have that online presence regardless of what type of merchant you are, because that’s not going to slow down, and it really provides a secondary front door for you. Your business can only be physically open during certain hours, but if I’m browsing online at midnight in my pajamas, as we often all do, then you can be there to meet and greet your customers or your potential customers through an online presence. So participating in that e-commerce opportunity and that landscape is really critical.

Rob Stott: I mean, the last couple of years I think proved that to any naysayers that may have still existed, especially I feel like you’re always independent retailers, they’re so locally focused, so they feel like, “Well, yeah, necessary evil in terms of the website and e-commerce.” But really kind of proved its case, I think especially over the last couple of years with just… It is that, to your point, the second front door. If a customer can’t get out of their house, be it a pandemic weather, any reason, they work from home, there’s reasons to have that online presence and put it forth as something that you want to put effort into and treat it like a second showroom even, right? It’s where so much of the research today goes into prior to making, especially in appliance and furniture and major consumer electronics, customers are going to do that research before they make that big purchase.

So having a website that has the tools and the info, the payment opportunities to be able to check out and make those purchases all the more important. And when I say payment, we talk about e-comm and what that’s become online more than just debit and credit cards today. We dove into this recently on the, I don’t think the podcast, but the independent thinking blog for Nationwide Marketing Group, just about alternative payments and kind what that means today, sort of new in the retail vernacular. I think people, when they think about online payments, the first thing that comes to mind is those debit and credit cards just punching in numbers, but it’s so much more today. So set that up for us and what that looks like and define those alternative payments for us, if you will.

Tiffany Raymond: Yeah, yeah, for sure. And I think first, I’ll kind of double back around this online presence because I think if there are holdouts out there, or maybe you’re thinking I can’t sell my actual products online, maybe as a local provider, I can’t sell a refrigerator online. I’m not set up for that, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still have that website and that secondary front door. Because the reality is in the Amazon era, people do tend to think more of big box retailers. And so you want to make sure you don’t get lost in that consideration set. And that’s really where having your website something as simple as an about us page, that’s your chance to tell your story, introduce yourself. If I was opening a business in Petaluma where I went to high school, I would forefront that I was a fourth generation graduate from Petaluma High because that demonstrates I have roots. You can trust me, I am someone who is committed to the community.

And so I can’t talk to every person who comes through my door, but you can talk to them through your site and really differentiate yourself, really humanize yourself. Not to say that big brands lack humanity, that’s certainly not the case with PayPal, but it’s your chance to differentiate yourself and help people understand who you are, build that trust. And trust is ultimately a driver of purchasing behavior, right? I’m going to get emotionally attached to you reading about you, and then I’m going to want to give you my business, right? I’m going to prioritize you. And so don’t miss out on that opportunity. And I like that we were talking earlier about reviews, because that was another thing that I wanted to touch on as well, is that that’s where people turn to for information. And so make sure that you’re asking your happy satisfied customers to write reviews on Yelp and on Google. Because you don’t want to just be in a position where unhappy people are going to be a little bit quicker probably to write those reviews.

And so you want to make sure you have that counterbalance because the reality is the vast majority of your customers are going to be happy and satisfied. And you don’t want that vocal minority to end up skewing your reputation online. So make sure that you’re asking those customers to do that. Give them a little card, something to make it easy for them when you’re delivering and dropping off, and just think about yourself as a consumer. So just the other day I was sort of going, “Okay, I need a…” I was looking for a bakery and nothing was really springing to mind. And so I looked online, of course, and then there was one that came up that had zero reviews and then there was one that came up that had 686 reviews with a 4.7 stars. So think about yourself as a consumer, which one are you going to choose in that scenario? And I can tell you which one I would choose, right?

Rob Stott: The one people have been to.

Tiffany Raymond: The one that has the 4.7 star reviews because I thought, “Okay, this place is obviously well-loved. Here’s my opportunity to fall in love with it too.” So help facilitate that journey for your customers to help them fall in love with you before you even walk in the door. I was anchored on the fact that I was going to have a great experience before I even got there, so don’t miss that opportunity.

Rob Stott: I feel like, did someone give you the nationwide playbook? Because there’s a lot of words you’re using that are similar to conversations I feel like we have on a regular basis with some of our members. Because I also feel like I have to bring up the fact that we didn’t provide that to you or pay you to say that… That you’re saying no, I jest, right? You’re saying the things that are, but it’s important to hear because I feel like it’s one of those things. I relate it to being a parent and kids or parents say things to their kids so often, but it takes the teacher or some other figure in their life to say it where it’s like, “Oh, maybe I’ll listen to that.” Right? But it’s true. They need to hear it from a different voice.

Tiffany Raymond: That’s so true. I think it’s a massive point. Took them to swimming lessons, it worked.

Rob Stott: However they said it. However, that other person who said the same thing, the same words, word for word what you said, no, it happens to get through. But it’s important for sure to hear that because it’s also cool to me too to hear you say those things because I know that it almost validates like, “Hey, maybe we’re onto something with how we’re talking about the retail business and talking about e-commerce and talking about websites.” It’s a proven method, and it’s just understanding consumer behaviors today and adjusting.

And that’s one of the things I think independent retailers, especially if there’s anything that they have that’s a major leg up over a big box corporation, is that they can adjust. They have the ability to pivot their strategy on a quicker turn. They’re more of that tugboat as opposed to a giant steamer that can make those quick maneuvers. So to be able to adjust to those new ways of a consumer behavior, they can do it. And they just have to find the ways, find the things that resonate, find the differentiators for them, and lean into them. So I appreciate all that. It’s cool to hear you talk about that in that way and validation for us, I think as well.

Tiffany Raymond: Well, good, good, good, good. Well, e-commerce is kind of what I spend. That’s really what I spend the vast majority of my time working on through-

Rob Stott: You get the same.

Tiffany Raymond: … our merchants and through our partners, and so this is really an area of expertise for me. So I’m glad that we’re all singing out the same songbook.

Rob Stott: Yeah, right. No, that’s awesome. Well, to get to the alternative payment methods because I know that’s something that is new that we’ve been talking about a lot with our members because it’s one of those things that I feel like they were around and there were opportunities, and we kind of saw them sort of creep into e-commerce over the last couple of years. But really, again, it’s one of those pandemic things that I feel like that helped it take off and become a thing. And that’s just for Marcy, but I’d love to hear your perspective on alternative payments and first of all, what they are. And then we can kind of dive into the ways that our retailers and our members can implement them.

Tiffany Raymond: Yeah, no, that’s a great question. And I think when you think about payments, you think about your, we’ll call it more traditional forms of payment, to your point, you think about your credit card, your debit card, checks if we’re going old school here or your ACH. But I really think almost the phrase alternative payment methods is almost a misnomer these days because the alternative payment methods are just as commonplace now as the traditional payment methods. So in some ways, I really think the phrase alternative payment methods just need some rebranding and probably some execution from the vocabulary because it’s really just about payment methods. And even if you think about PayPal, I’ll take us back pre-pandemic. So in the last five years, over 70% of adults in the US have used PayPal to make a payment online. So that is an absolutely massive number when you think about the adult population of the US. So that tells you it’s not really an alternative, it’s not a fringe, it’s not just for a few special people, but this is really the mainstream as far as how people pay.

And that really directly correlates to the rise and the dominance of e-commerce, right? As people are buying things online, digital wallets like PayPal, the original digital wallet, which was really solved, which was created back in the nineties to solve this problem of paying online. Those things have really gained even more traction. And even PayPal itself, it’s in over 200 markets globally. So we have a huge global footprint and that really trust underlies all of that. And there’s a global trust in our brand because we are so well-known throughout the world. And so there are certainly, regionally, there are alternative payment methods that are known in certain locales or regions in the Netherlands, there’s a very popular online payment method called Ideal. But that’s very unique to that particular country, whereas PayPal is something very universal and global. So I think as to why as a consumer you want to be using PayPal, it’s really about, our foundation is really around trust and security. And so particularly when people are shopping small, rightly or wrongly, we assume that larger companies are more secure, right?

Rob Stott: Yeah, absolutely.

Tiffany Raymond: They’re bigger, they’re recognized names. I’m not saying that’s necessarily correct, but that’s a perception that we have. Whereas when you’re shopping small, you think, “Okay, this is a solopreneur, this is a small business maybe with a limited number of employees.” They don’t have the capacity to hire dedicated fraud teams and security teams and things that you find in larger enterprises. So that’s really where the value of PayPal becomes really paramount, because when the consumer is purchasing online using PayPal, then we’re providing the shipping information. We’re saying, “Okay, here’s Rob’s address. Here’s where you send the basketballs or whatever the item is. Here’s the money.” But we don’t actually give them any of the payment information. So whereas when you enter your credit card directly into a site, you don’t really know as a consumer what their security is.

And so we certainly see continued surges in data breaches, and these folks who are doing this are getting more and more sophisticated. And so don’t put your business at risk. Don’t put your customers at risk. Don’t be at risk as a consumer, right? There’s actually a really interesting website where you can see how many security breaches your email address is associated with, and it’s called haveibeenwned.com, P-W-N-E-D. And so it’s a really fascinating place to go, and I think one lens is where could I use PayPal to prevent some of this? And not to say, we’ll never ever be the subject of this, but this is our core competency is around payment security, not really selling basketballs or appliances or other things. So it’s something to really think about on both sides of the coin as a consumer and as a retailer or as a merchant.

Rob Stott: And then you mentioned the security aspect and the idea too, I think there’s sort of that reputation that comes along if a smaller vendor. And when we’re talking about our members independent retailers, the idea of a customer having PayPal’s logo as a payment provider kind of provides that validation to the customer. That, okay, this is a legitimate business that’s doing things that have the reputation of a PayPal and that they’re associated with and kind of provides that comfort, I think to them too as a customer that this is someone that I could trust to do business with as well if they’re shopping online.

Tiffany Raymond: Well, and I would say even more than that, it’s really a driver of customer behavior, right? There’s a halo effect that our SMBs and merchants in general benefit from PayPal is helping the customer feel at ease, is what’s going to help them drive that purchase behavior that you want them to take and make. So provide those rails for them. So I always kind of describe payments as sort of a slide, make a nice smooth slide for them. No one wants to go down the slide with spikes coming out of it.

Rob Stott: No, that’s awesome. There’s also the convenience factor too, right? I know well, there’s Venmo out there, a PayPal brand that-

Tiffany Raymond: Yes, a PayPal brand.

Rob Stott: I think about just being a kid in little league, going to the little league snack stand and seeing the convenience of being able like, “Oh, I forgot cash.” Well, guess what? There’s ways to do it… It’s proof to that obviously there’s the e-commerce aspect of it, but more so the digital wallet. And being able to provide those other ways of paying at the point of purchase, I’d need a couple bucks for some snack stand purchases that are always going to be asked for whether they eat them or not. And to be able to do that in a way that also for the convenience for the customer, but convenience for the merchant as well. To be able to accept those payments in a way that allows if I didn’t have cash or showing up without cash, you have customers that show up without cash, now they have another way to pay, and you’re not missing out on that sale as well. So there’s just that convenience side of things too to consider.

Tiffany Raymond: Yeah, I think it’s really about meeting people where they’re at, giving them that choice and flexibility, and that really enhances the customer experience, and it enhances your bottom line at the same time. So that’s truly a win-win scenario as a merchant.

Rob Stott: I feel like we’ve kind of addressed this in sort of talking about it, but the impact of… to your point, maybe not the right thing to call them, but alternative payment methods. What kind of impact have you seen and what’s the potential growth moving forward of these types of payments in this space?

Tiffany Raymond: Yeah. Well, and I think one alternative payment method that we did not touch on, but that makes me think about the future as well is buy now, pay later.

Rob Stott: Yeah, absolutely.

Tiffany Raymond: That’s another variation, another flavor of alternative payment methods. And PayPal has a pay in four solution that is certainly something we’ve seen rapid adoption on from consumers, and really it’s something that makes it easy for consumers. The reality is people want to be able to typically even purchase nicer versions of the things that they want. Do I want the better vacuum or the worst vacuum? Typically, if I’m buying something, I want the nicer version of the thing. And so being able to pay for something in four predictable installments is very nice for consumers. And helps spread some of that financial pain without needing to lean into things like credit cards and other things that can really create debt and high interest rates scenarios.

So I think it’s really appealing to today’s customer across demographics. So anyway, that’s just another version of alternate payment methods and one that we’ve seen grow and will continue to grow I think as we’re talking about this kind of growth. And I think back to the sort of misnomer of alternative payment methods. Even if you look at something like Cyber Monday, which is relatively recent pass, that day, just Cyber Monday, PayPal processed more than 87 million transactions. So that does not really suggest Fringe, we were processing 61,000 transactions a minute, and so that really speaks to scale.

Rob Stott: Yeah, I’m glad you brought it up because that’s where my head was going too, and you beat me to it by mentioning the holiday. As we’re sitting here, obviously in early ’24 podcast, but we’re not too far removed from that holiday shopping period. And numbers may not be right in front of you. If they are, that’s awesome. But just kind of speaking generally too, I’m sure as a provider of these types of payment methods, you guys have seen some tremendous growth just over the last couple of years on number of transactions and just different ways too. I can only imagine the types of insights that you guys have as far as how shopping online has evolved even just over the last couple of years as these more… Now I want to define the term with you, if we’re not calling it alternative payment, is it non-traditional payment methods, right? I don’t want to call it alternative.

Tiffany Raymond: It honestly gets to the reality of the numbers.

Rob Stott: So non-traditional payment methods, that’s what we’ll go with, right? You got some great insights into the rise of those and sort of how they’ve evolved over the last couple of years.

Tiffany Raymond: Yeah. Well, and I think we see this in retail and in e-commerce as well, just fraudsters getting more and more creative. And so that’s something that we have a massive InfoSec team. And just the things that they see and do are just absolutely astonishing as far as the ways that we are constantly battling fraud and anticipating sort of where that hockey puck is going and really getting in front of it. So it’s a nonstop activity. And so that’s something that isn’t something our retailers or our merchants or our consumers always see or think about. But it’s something that we are always laser focused on, and there’s some impressive numbers there.

Rob Stott: No, that’s awesome. Well, to round it up, the last kind of pitch to a customer or a retailer rather about the process… Well, let’s walk through the process of adding PayPal to their website and the hows and whys. So if they got to this point in the episode and they’re still considering like, “Well, what’s this really mean for me?” I think we’ve done a good job explaining, but sum it up for us as far as why an independent retailer should add something like PayPal to their website and what’s that process like to get set up?

Tiffany Raymond: Yeah, yeah. Well, good news when it comes to things like this, it’s not the ’90’s anymore, people don’t have to sit around trying to figure out how to code their own websites. So the reality is that the vast majority of our SMBs and even many up funnel from their up segment from there are really integrated with PayPal through partners, right? A lot of our SMBs use us and find us through our partners. So I think nationwide being a great example of that. So that’s nice because it’s usually available out of the box in some format as you’re onboarding with a partner. So that takes a lot of the trial and tribulation out of that because that’s not ultimately your core competency. You want to focus on selling your goods and services, not dealing with all the sort of behind the scenes things.

My team recently did a case study with BlendJet, which is a sort of SMB that’s grown into a larger merchant, these sort of handheld blenders. And so when we were talking to their CEO as part of this process, and he had this great quote that said, “There’s no good business reason not to go with PayPal.” And so I think using your customers to help tell your story, to bring it back to where we started, I think is really critical. And for them, they see a third of their transactions coming through PayPal, which I think goes back to what we were talking about earlier around, especially for SMBs, that halo effect of PayPal really giving consumers peace of mind and knowing that it’s a trusted brand that they can trust. And really when it comes to SMBs or really to any merchant, driving growth is key, and PayPal is really here to help with that.

Rob Stott: Awesome. Well, I think a great way to sum it up, and I don’t think I could say it better myself, so I don’t think I’m even going to try. So I think all I’m going to say to that is Dr. T, I appreciate the time and the opportunity to have both you and the PayPal brand on our Independent Thinking Podcast. So this was a lot of fun and something I hope we get to do again in the not too distant future.

Tiffany Raymond: Yeah, same. This is definitely the highlight of my week. So yes, thank you so much for allowing for the space for that.

Rob Stott: Anytime.

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