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5 Minutes With Rob Harper, Director of Mobile Commerce, PayPal UK

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We’ve all heard of PayPal. 

Since its inception in 1998, it has grown to become one of the world's largest online payment companies. The company helped revolutionise online retail and ecommerce and provided consumers with a safe and easy way to pay for products on retail websites.

And with the rise of millennial shoppers who spend more time online and on mobile devices than any other age group, PayPal is poised to connect them with retailers in a much easier, secure way via social media platforms.

We caught up with the Rob Harper, the Director of Mobile Commerce for PayPal UK, to find out more.

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Tell us about yourself and your background.

I started my retail journey at Marks & Spencer as part of their graduate training programme. During my time there, I made the move into retail technology. After a period specialising in ePoS systems, I joined PayPal in 2007 where I’ve been fortunate to work with many retailers to help grow their businesses.  A recent highlight was partnering with Shell to enable customers to pay for fuel without leaving their car for the first time, using the Shell Fill Up & Go app. 

What got you into the retail sector?

I was attracted by the retail sector’s fast pace. From early on, I learnt the importance of understanding customers and constantly innovating in order to meet their needs – something that remains crucial to my work today.  

What do you as PayPal UK’s Director of Mobile Commerce?

My retail experience has been instrumental in supporting PayPal UK’s move into the world of omnichannel. Smartphones have had a transformative impact on retail, catalysing the shift from linear shopping experiences to multi-channel. It’s my job to help retailers realise the full potential of this change in their business.  

How has your previous experience aided your current job? 

The retail industry has given me a skill set that has allowed me to move across many different roles and sectors. It’s given me grounding in sales, commercial acumen, relationship management, and problem solving. My understanding of the challenges that retailers face has helped me develop the mobile solutions they need.  

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How has PayPal helped retailers since its inception in 1998? 

The core benefit of PayPal remains the same today. We save our customers time and effort, and offer them a safe way to pay and get paid. We’ve built our payments platform so that our customers have a seamless experience no matter what device they access it from. We’re payment and technology agnostic. That means our platform accepts credit and debit cards, digital payment methods like Apple Pay and Android Pay, even digital currencies like bitcoin. We can enable your customers to pay on iOS, Android and Windows; on the web, mobile web, in-app and in-person. 

What’s next for PayPal when it comes to retail? 

We’re focussed on helping more retailers grow their businesses across all channels. Last year, we acquired Paydiant, which enables retailers to create their own secure mobile wallet solutions under their own brands, in their own apps. In the future, we expect to see more retailers pursuing contextual commerce – a new category of shopping that enables consumers to buy things where they find them, whether that’s in an email, on Pinterest or in a messenger app. 

What upcoming projects are you working on at the moment?

Earlier this year, PayPal announced a partnership with Vodafone. It will enable millions of consumers in Europe to make contactless payments with their Android smartphones, funded from their PayPal accounts. This service will roll out in the UK very soon.

What advice would you give someone who is considering embarking in retail?                   

Two things: firstly, there’s little time from decision to implementation to impact, so adaptability is key. 

Secondly, an appreciation for the importance of serving customers, whether they are shoppers or business partners, is fundamental. 

What would you say is the biggest risk for your sector, given the current climate?

With uncertainty, there are always risks, but I also see opportunities for retailers. If the pound drops in value, the buying power of international shoppers increases significantly. Recent PayPal research with Ipsos MORI estimated that 86 million overseas shoppers bought from British websites last year.

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Published on Thursday 15 September by Elias Jahshan

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