Last week, Sweden’s iZettle announced that it is expanding out of Europe and bringing its mobile payments system to Mexico. The news did not come as a total shock, given the announcement from earlier this month that announced the partnership between iZettle and the Spanish bank Banco Santander with Santander’s €5M ($6.6M USD) investment in this Swedish start up. Along with this partnership, iZettle had gained access to Santander’s customers in the United Kingdom. Even though the investment looked relatively small in comparison to the funding that Square has received – the most recent one being $200M in Q3 2012 – it is very significant since Mexico marks iZettle’s first non-European market and is also a market where Square is not participating in. With so many people knowing iZettle as Square’s “European cousin”, this bold move could very well be just a stepping stone to the Swedish company in their plan to further expand into Americas market.
Trying to conquer the Latin America market does come with a price though. iZettle had to develop a new device which is kind of like an all-in-one type of solution for all platforms to enable the company to process payment both through chip-based and mag-stripe based solutions. The cost of tweaking its solution was reflected through an increase in its transaction fees from its flat 2.75% fee in Europe to 3.75% for chip-based transactions and 4.75% for mag-stripe based transactions in Mexico. Likewise, the reader is also being sold for about $40 to the merchants except to the Banco Santander customers who will be getting a discount. The opportunity, on the other hand, is also massive given the majority of the business in Mexico being small and medium-sized enterprises that could likely prefer buying such readers over investing in more traditional payment solutions. According to iZettle’s CEO, 95% of the cards in Mexico are chip-enabled. Just like the fact that this is seen as a key reason for Square not yet moving to European market, this could very well be an important factor that is keeping the company away from expanding into Mexican market. iZettle already had presence in multiple country markets in Europe – including UK, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Germany – while Square’s operations are limited to US, Canada and Japan following a recent expansion.
While Square continues to take its time before moving into the Latin America market, the competitive landscape is definitely getting more crowded in this sub-region. Some strong players include Zoop in Brazil and Mobiliz in Mexico. Though it is not certain which country markets these companies will expand into next, there is also start ups like Clip, which raised $1.5M funding with its Square-like solution that will be primarily focused on the needs and requirements of the Spanish-speaking countries like Mexico. Albeit it is still too early to tell which companies will be “winning” at the end, forming strategic partnerships with “local” leaders does seem to make entering new country markets a little less challenging for these start ups.