Becoming Indispensable to Society through Merchants and PayPay

Since the app was rolled out three years ago, PayPay has become partners with the stores everyone goes to, making life more convenient not just through the payment service but also through features such as coupons and PayPay Pickup. Integral to this is the Merchant Strategy Division, which boasts a group of professionals who leverage the strengths of both the merchant (stores that have adopted PayPay’s payment service) and the PayPay app to create new value and services society needs. Read on to find out about the team’s day-to-day efforts to offer “indispensable” value through PayPay and its merchants.

  • Yoshiyuki Oishi / Division Head, Merchant Strategy Division (top, middle) After working for KDDI, eAccess (now Y!mobile), and SoftBank in sales planning, business planning, business management, as well as working on assignment overseas, he joined PayPay in 2019 and now heads PayPay’s merchant services. On days off, he likes to watch kabuki, visit museums, and stroll around Ginza.
  • Wataru Okuda / Business Promotion Leader, Business Promotion Department (top, right) After joining Yahoo! JAPAN as a new graduate, he worked as a consulting sales representative for Yahoo! JAPAN Shopping before joining PayPay in July 2018. Initially setting up sales offices across Japan, he worked in talent strategy and sales planning before moving to his current department to plan and launch O2O services, later becoming team leader. He likes to play basketball.
  • Kaori Namiki / Business Development, Business Planning Department (top, left) After working as a sales representative, sales planner, and product manager at an education startup company, she joined PayPay in August 2020. She is responsible for the planning, promotion, and strategy development of mini apps. She likes to go on picnics, listen to music (especially hunting around for good music), and go for a dip in the pool.
  • Taiki Danno / Service Planning Leader, Business Promotion Department (bottom, right) He joined SoftBank Corp. as a new graduate. After contributing to the launch of multiple services and facilitating system development, he joined PayPay in October 2018. He was involved in launching online payments and PayPay’s first mini app, before being promoted to his current role. His likes street dancing.
  • Satomi Ichikawa / Service Planning, Business Promotion Department (bottom, left) After joining SoftBank Corp. as a new graduate, her interests in cashless payments led her to join PayPay in January 2019. She drove the release of bill payments, PayPay for Developers, and other online services. In April 2021, she moved to Service Planning and became the business owner of online food services. She is into Korean dramas and idols, which she fell in love with during the prolonged stay at home caused by the pandemic. She also recently started learning Korean.

Get to Know the Team behind PayPay’s Business!

What does the Merchant Strategy Division do?

Oishi:In a nutshell, this division plans and facilitates services for merchants. Currently, we’re focusing on three lines of business: (1) promotion of large-scale payment-related projects, (2) mini apps, and (3) PayPay My Store.

In the “promotion of large-scale payment-related projects,” we are working to expand and monetize on the payment business by charging small- and medium-sized businesses a fee for using the payment system, as well as promoting the adoption of invoices. In the future, we aim to expand use cases, such as B2C transfers, where companies send money to individual customers, and B2B payments—which is still mostly done through banks—where PayPay enables the exchange of money between companies.

The “mini app business (super app promotion)” is an enterprise that makes the PayPay app even more convenient, allowing users to easily connect with all kinds of services and popular restaurants within the app through collaborating with partner companies. Existing mini apps include PayPay Mall and Uber Eats, and we are planning to join forces with more attractive restaurants and services in the future.

The “PayPay My Store business (merchant support business),” as was also announced in the press conference last month, is an O2O business that provides marketing support to merchants, including customer attraction and CRM. In the future, we plan to expand our services beyond marketing support to include operational support and digitalization support for over three million merchants.

That’s a lot on your plate. Could you tell us a little bit more about your specific work?

Okuda: I’m the leader of the Business Promotion Team in the Business Promotion Department, and the mission of our team is “growth.” We analyze and consider how we can grow the service, and what merchants can achieve by working with PayPay, then link that to the company’s business plan. A variety of issues pop up, so it’s crucial to have the people skills to negotiate with sales, product, legal, and corporate planning.

Danno:As the name suggests, the mission of the Service Planning Team, of which I am the leader, is to plan, develop, and promote services. When there’s a new business that we want to promote, our team is in charge of designing its future. Okuda-san’s team takes care of internal matters, like coordinating with marketing and sales. Okuda-san’s team also collects feedback from merchants and users, which allows us to develop service specifications and work with the product team without wasting any time.

Ichikawa:I work as the business owner for online payment services and food services (such as PayPay Pickup) in Danno-san’s team, acting as a bridge between product and sales. My task is to communicate with various departments and discuss the ideas that come from product with the sales team, and also to take the requests from merchants via sales to the product team and negotiate for it to get developed.

Namiki:I’m on the Business Development Team in the Business Planning Department, working exclusively on mini apps. Specifically, I’m responsible for the launch and growth of mini apps, as well as developing strategies to increase awareness. My goal is to create a win-win relationship between merchants and PayPay by introducing mini apps.

What does a typical day at work look like?
Namiki

Ichikawa: I try to exchange information and opinions with stakeholders, such as the sales team and product teams.  As I bring back their feedbacks, I often start an internal discussion or jump to create documents. 

Namiki: Same here! I start my day off organizing my tasks. I run through the task chart and check the progress of each item, solving any blockers that have occurred. I also spend time on studying mini app trends of overseas companies and checking market trends of the companies I’m in charge of, given my role in business development. Other than that, just like Ichikawa-san, I have face-to-face meetings on zoom or text-based Slack meetings throughout the day. In between meetings or at the end of the day, I create UI improvement documents to propose to the product team.

Danno: I spend most of my time conversing with team members and checking/confirming matters at hand. Since the start of WFA, it’s become difficult to casually ask the person sitting nearby or to solve issues by chatting with a colleague, so I focus a lot on team building and information exchange to make it easier for people to come to me for help, however, small the issue may be. I also try to join meetings my team members participate in as much as possible so that I can be there for support.  I spend the remaining time doing my own work.

Okuda: I set aside time for the team too, like having 1-on-1 meetings. We also have a morning sync at 10:00 a.m., where we go through each person’s tasks to make sure we’re on the same page. Then it’s just more meetings till the end of the day. I try to track progress of things on Slack when I can and actively ascertain problems my team members are experiencing.

What is the role of the Merchant Strategy Division at PayPay? What sort of challenges do you face, and what makes your work fun?

Oishi: PayPay is finally entering a new phase as we start charging small and medium-sized stores from October 1 to use the payment system. From the launch of the service in 2018 until now, we have acquired an overwhelming number of merchants, increased app recognition and user penetration, and have become the leading cashless payment company. The next phase is to make a leap forward and become a sustainable business. We need to grow together with our merchants while providing new value to our users. We in the Merchant Strategy Division are the flag bearers for the entire company. I’m up for this new challenge and we as a team will proceed with the recognition that we are the linchpin for PayPay’s future growth.

What’s interesting about this division is that we can swiftly provide services that are valuable to the world while having the opportunity to work with various departments within the company.

We have the industry’s strongest sales force, which expanded the merchant network nationwide in only a short period of time. We also have a marketing team that produced amazing promotions such as the “10 Billion Yen Giveaway Campaign,” as well as a product team that boasts one of the world’s fastest development speeds. And there’s still room left in the market for growth. For a department that creates new businesses and services, I don’t think we could have it any better.

Okuda: The fun part of our work is that we are creating an era. No one thought that QR code payments would catch on until a few years ago, but now it’s normal. I think this is a trend that PayPay created. As for new trends, I think coupons are a good example of another that we’re about to make. With PayPay Coupon, if you acquire a coupon in advance, it will be automatically applied when you pay with PayPay at the store. This model will become more commonplace as more merchants use PayPay My Store until one day, people might start saying, “There used to be a time when you had to show a coupon?” We’re a team that’s involved in merchant facing initiatives, but in this way, we also work on designing the normal of tomorrow.

Ichikawa: As I mentioned earlier, we are the middleman between various departments. But when coordinating with the Product Division, where more than 60% of its members are foreign nationals, we have to hold discussions in English and be more proactive in our communication to proceed.

In addition, even if we develop a good product, it’s pointless unless the merchants adopt it. That’s why we have to convince them by using stats and figures about how many transactions can be expected by using the system, other benefits they can expect, and potential areas for business growth. This process is a continuous challenge for us.

Ichikawa

Still, the best part of my job is being able to handle huge projects. Plus, the folks in our team are easy to talk to, which makes even the most challenging of projects enjoyable.

Recently, PayPay announced that it will charge a fee for using its payment system. How will you convince more merchants to want to use PayPay despite the fee?

Oishi: The promotion of PayPay My Store is now a top priority at PayPay. With PayPay My Store, merchants can create a store page on the PayPay map and attract customers with posts and coupons for a monthly fee of only 1,980 yen. In addition to the customer attraction feature, we are also considering a stamp card service with a CRM feature.

We believe that PayPay’s competitor is cash – not other cashless or O2O businesses. The edge is that no matter how much of it is used at the register, the cash won’t attract other customers to your store, right? So we want to create an ecosystem where, if merchants use PayPay My Store and increase the number of PayPay payments, they can attract even more new customers and have regulars come more frequently.

Danno: My team is currently working on the specifications of a stamp card service that will be added to the lineup of PayPay My Store offerings. Even if it’s just one specification, we don’t just discuss and decide on it among ourselves, but come up with 10 to 20 ideas and talk through them with the head of sales. We want to be aware of what’s happening “out there.” Above all, we want to put our users first.

Danno

We’re still working with various departments to improve the PayPay My Store feature so that merchants all over Japan can use it. Even changing just one button will have an impact on merchants nationwide, and we can improve the usability for our 41 million users. The ramifications are huge at the societal level.

Okuda: When talking business, I make sure I know the numbers. I have to since our job has such a huge impact on society. With all the large-scale campaigns and projects, PayPay’s business has wide-reaching effects, so I base all my decisions on numbers and data analysis. If need be, I am ready to fight it out with the higher-ups.

Namiki: PayPay is aiming to become a super app in the near future. Through collaboration with our partners, we’ll be able to do a lot more with the PayPay app than just make payments. Mini apps are the pillar of this initiative. Let’s say that once a month, you want to buy high-quality eggs that are only sold in certain shops. I’d love for you to use a mini app for that. You don’t need to install an extra app and the payment is sweet and simple. It would be even better if we could link different mini apps, so that you could buy eggs from one mini app and have them delivered to your home using a service offered by a different mini app.

What Kind of People Would Fit in the World-Changing Team?

I heard that you are hiring to further expand the business. What kind of colleagues are you looking for?

Oishi:(1) Positive attitude towards change, (2) Adventurous, (3) Persistent. If anyone has these three qualities, they’re welcome. In a rapidly changing world and industry, you must be able to enjoy change and take risks. And the absolute requirement for success is persistence.

Okuda: I want someone who can think things through. I guess it’s similar to persistence. As a market pioneer, we have a lot of things to consider. The right person for this job is someone who can delve into the details and for whom deep diving is second nature. They can examine every particular, but also are not afraid of change. It’s best if they can proactively communicate, like ask questions or seek advice, rather than just keep their thoughts to themselves!

Okuda

Danno: Same thing – someone who enjoys change. It’s quite common in PayPay for things you decide on today to flip around tomorrow. It’s important to not stress over this and be able to move forward with a positive attitude. Also, since we are handling a lot of data, you need to be able to think about how to use that data, not to mention analyzing it. Of course, it’s a plus if a candidate can speak English, knows SQL, and is familiar with systems, but these things aren’t a must to join the team. The most important thing is to be willing to learn. If you can’t do something, you learn it from someone who can. We are a diverse team, and we want to become a team of experts, leveraging and honing each person’s unique set of skills.

Ichikawa: I think it’s easy to fit in if you’re positive about work and can work cheerfully. And above all, you must be someone who doesn’t find it difficult to communicate! Speaking of communication, as Danno-san said, you don’t have to be perfect at English from the start. You can become pick it up through the English Boot Camp. Danno-san, Namiki-san, and I are all enrolled in the EBC. Also, the Language Team translates for us in meetings.

Namiki: I would say that someone who can take the lead, rather than remain buried in the crowd, would be a good fit. It’s common to stumble upon a roadblock, both internal and external. Someone who can wade through muddy waters with logic as their paddle, who can persuade others with their own words, and who can move forward believing that their actions will lead to good results, would be a good fit. We want you to apply your experience of overcoming difficulties, creating and driving forward a business plan, and achieving something, as a member of PayPay!

Members of the Merchant Strategy Division
What are things you can experience only in PayPay right now, and the most exciting thing about being in the Merchant Strategy Division?

Oishi: Since PayPay is a leading company in cashless payments, this is a place where you can launch large-scale projects. We have an immense business foundation (41 million users, 3.4 million merchants) that we built up over the last three years. You can experience being a pioneer in the payment business in Japan. I think this is the best experience you can have as a businessperson.

Okuda: I certainly think it’s a great thrill to be able to work at such a scale. I’ve never been involved in a “No.1 service” before, so it’s quite refreshing every day. When you’re in charge of a business in its growth phase, it’s unusual to be able to see the reaction of users in such high numbers, like the number of clicks increasing by units of 10,000 just by improving a single button. The magnitude of the business makes these processes a lot more enjoyable.

Danno: I can feel that I am making a difference in the world. I don’t think you can experience in other companies the fun of improving the functionality of something so intensely marketed like PayPay My Store, or create new services, and have them used by over 41 million users. What’s more, PayPay will continue to grow. We currently have 41 million users, so isn’t it exciting to imagine how far we can still go? I believe there’s no other place than PayPay where you’re given the opportunity to experience a situation where you can’t exactly foresee the limits of your company’s growth.

Ichikawa: PayPay is only a three-year-old company, so there are lots of things that aren’t sorted out and we have to figure out what to do by ourselves. But that’s something you can’t experience in a major, established company. While enjoying the environment of an early-stage startup, there are so many initiatives that we can carry out with the backing of group companies like SoftBank and Yahoo! JAPAN. The combination of these two things is what makes PayPay so fun. I love this setting, and it’s great for people who can enjoy paving a path for themselves.

Namiki: Same. Perfect for people who want to carve out their way. PayPay is still growing and the room for growth is endless. I’m sure if people join PayPay now, they will have a great experience. Also, being in a role to create things from scratch, even while drawing examples from existing global businesses, there will be the opportunity to apply scenarios unique to Japan and create a winning formula only possible by PayPay.

What does PayPay mean to you?

Namiki: Fintech companies can sometimes take on a stand-offish air, but PayPay has more of an amicable, lovable ambiance.

Ichikawa: I really enjoy working at PayPay! We get a lot of media attention and the sense of accomplishment for what we do is off the charts. It’s a unique environment where you get to work with energetic, multinational colleagues!

Namiki (left), Ichikawa (right)

Danno: For me, PayPay is… a lover (laughs).

Okuda: A lover? I do admit, PayPay is indispensable too, something I wouldn’t want to be without. Maybe… family?

Danno: When I think about PayPay in terms of my job, it’s like the highest mountain in sight. I’d like to climb to the top of this mountain. Once I reach the top, I may lay eyes on the next new mountain. But this is definitely the mountain I want to climb now.

Okuda: The summit, let alone the path is usually not visible when you’re working at PayPay. In a typical company, you have a certain amount of visibility, but with PayPay, you can’t see ahead and you can’t imagine what the view will be like at the top. It’s simply unpredictable. So I guess you could say that PayPay’s potential is still incalculable and its possibilities are endless!

Okuda (left), Danno (right)
Author: Keiko / Editorial Supervisor: Az / Design: Tak *Employee affiliations and other information are as of the time of reporting.
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