Selling any type of physical good, from clothing to jewelry to medical equipment, means companies must maintain a steady pool of inventory — a necessity that requires funds to ensure products are available for customers to purchase. Any hiccup in this most basic element of the supply chain could lead to frictions that are especially detrimental for merchants attempting to remain competitive within the increasingly saturated eCommerce world, said Jagath Narayan, CEO and co-founder of eCommerce shipping and fulfillment software provider Ordoro.
“The existing [eCommerce] merchants, people who were already established by 2020, saw a big spike in their [order] volume, so they started … shipping a lot more,” he said in a recent PYMNTS interview. “We also noticed that a lot more people have decided to get into the industry.”
Offering the smooth, seamless ordering and shipping experiences customers now expect requires both established and emerging merchants to have swift access to the capital needed to keep inventories stocked and products on the move. Embedded finance is one method of providing key benefits within this space as the need for businesses to have immediate access to financing grows imperative.
Creating Space for Embedded Finance
U.S. eCommerce sales ballooned to $870 billion by the end of 2021, representing a 14% increase from 2020 and a significant opportunity for businesses seeking to expand their revenue and brand cachet.
While this means increased potential for digital merchants to engage and retain new customers, competition to access available capital has grown increasingly fierce. This has sparked a rising interest not only among merchants but also among FinTechs and other financial players, in finding or offering access to these funds with more ease and convenience for today’s online businesses.
“So, let’s say you need $50,000 in capital to launch a business — where do you go?” Narayan said. “Traditionally, you would go to a bank with [your] business plan, but that has changed.”
Companies seeing rapid order volume increases also can face challenges that could leave them unable to meet the demands of their customers, further emphasizing the need for quick, effective funding. Smaller merchants that may have seen their order volumes jump five times from pre-pandemic levels are left scrambling to find the necessary labor to pack and ship those orders as well, Narayan explained.
Embedded finance options — which enable merchants to find and gain access to necessary funds directly on the platforms on which they are already managing their shipping and fulfillment needs — could therefore benefit businesses as they work to keep pace with growing demand.
“There may be a lag between you getting the cash, and then you being able to actually pay for all the services,” Narayan said. “So, that’s where there’s an opportunity for [providers offering] the embedded finance model … to get in and help you out from an operational point of view.”
Interest in embedded finance is spiking in the eCommerce industry as awareness of its benefits grows. The need to connect payments more closely to the rest of the supply chain process is becoming more urgent for merchants, creating an impetus for key payments providers to merge their services with shipping and fulfillment players such as Ordoro.
Keeping Payments Connected
Bringing embedded finance onto its own platform is of future interest for Ordoro, Narayan said, though the company has no set plans for the technology’s integration. Partnering with a third-party embedded finance player could enable intriguing advantages for both companies, he added.
Offering payments can help make the experience more connected for companies, while platforms such as Ordoro offer key insights into merchants’ cash flows and shipping habits, Narayan said. As such, the industry may see a future in which merchants’ purchasing orders, shipping and payment processes — as well as insights into the companies’ potential need for future capital — are all displayed on one platform.
“I think, eventually, we could see a place where all of this is merged together and a larger financing company could look at all of these parameters, because every single aspect, every single variable here is giving them more data on the credit worthiness of the merchant,” he said.
Keeping a close watch on how embedded finance could lead to key benefits for merchants and why it is important to offer such options is essential for both emerging and established eCommerce businesses, as well as today’s FinTech and payments players.