Property and the Pandemic: How Coupay is shaping the future of one-off property payments

2020 has turned out to be the year to rediscover a love for our own home.

And now, following the new national restrictions announced last week, it looks as if we will all be spending even more time within the confines of our own four walls.

In fact, the housing market seems to have been one of very few industries to thrive in the wake of the UK’s initial confinement period earlier this year, with reports stating that 10% of properties sold for more than the owners’ asking price.

Property renters and buyers are reviewing their criteria when it comes to their new home, with office space and outdoor space now, for obvious reasons, much higher on the agenda.

The exodus from ‘the big smoke’

In fact, the exponential enablement of home working, has had a seemingly huge impact on consumer behaviours when it comes to renting or buying a new home.

While urban property is still in high demand, when it comes to renters who have the propensity for remote working, experts such as Elisabeth Kohlbach, CEO of Skwire, have suggested London may become less attractive with many ‘flocking to towns and cities beyond the capital’

Back in May, The Guardian reported that many buyers were opting to relocate to the country or more rural market towns with good connections to the capital. With many people having started the year with a vague goal to leave the city, a wave of ‘panic movers’ reportedly swept through to some of the UK’s in-demand rural locations.

The challenges for estate agents and landlords in 2020

Despite a fairly positive outlook in contrast to many industries hit by the coronavirus, it’s fair to say it’s been a tumultuous year for Estate Agents and landlords as they try to stay ahead of the curve.

Commercial property downturn

For estate agents dealing in commercial property- this year will have been a particularly challenging one. According to a survey conducted by the RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors), 93% anticipated scaling back their office footprint in the next two years.  The inevitable decline of the high street has lead to investors turning their hand to residential market investments instead.

Home buyers postpone

According to Aldmore’s First Time Buyer Index just under half the number of first time buyers (46%) have delayed their plans to buy a home this year on account of the pandemic. That means would-be buyers have turned to renting again to tide them over until restrictions begin to ease and job security becomes more stable.

Mastering The virtual showcase

With house viewing out of the question during lockdown, estate agents and sellers had to hone their camera skills to help showcase properties on the market as government guidance said initial viewings were to be conducted online. Virtual viewings have now become a part of the new normal, with many tips and tricks on best practice for showcasing properties in the best light via online methods

Making way for Gen Z renters and buyers

2020 was set to be the year that many businesses made way for the Gen Z demographic entering the workplace and the consumer landscape on a much greater scale. While this year’s events have thwarted many small business’s strategies and plans, a move for estate agents to take a more online approach to marketing their property portfolio has become an inevitability. That being said, there is still a long way to go for high-street agents to ensure that the property market engages this tech-savvy generation to create a customer journey they would want to repeat. An article by Estate Agent Today argues that features such as VR tours and online customer portals will shape the future for high-street estate agents.

While many Gen Zers will be too young to buy a home just yet, they are already prevalent as renters and will most likely choose smart, modern homes over the traditional counterpart. It’s also said, that these savvy youngsters will be climbing the property ladder earlier than millennials, mostly due to a fierce sense of independence along with avoiding student debt.

Taking one-off customer payments

One bug bear for many consumers when it comes to renting or buying a new place, is the amount of admin. With paperwork upon paperwork, and often multiple one-off payments at various stages of the process, agents want to make sure their payment processes are friction-free. With late payments staling the property buying or rental agreement processes even further, agents are striving to streamline and fine tune the amount of admin for the customer, particularly (but not exclusively) for the increasingly attention-poor Millennial and Gen Z consumers.

How Coupay is shaping the future of one-off payments

Students in particular find the lettings process complicated. From challenges such as sourcing a guarantor as a first-time renter, to collating funds for the large deposit of an entire household, students have a rough deal when it comes to juggling rental agreement administration in addition to their studies. Speaking to the Coupay team, a number of students spoke out about the key challenges of renting as a student. Many of these young adults referred to the anxiety of paying such large deposit payments via bank transfer, a process prone to human error.

Where card payments are costly in terms of the commission charges, property agents have largely relied on traditional bank transfers to extract payment for large, one-off amounts such as deposits.  In addition to the fractious customer journey these bank transfer requests present for consumers, they also pose challenges for the agent. Late payment can cause frustrating and disruptive delays for estate agents, but this issue is rife if agents fail to present customers with a quick, easy, and stress-free payment process.

Significant developments in open banking mean that deposit payment angst could be eradicated. Businesses no longer need to request payments via a bank transfer process that many renters and buyers view as an archaic, labour intensive system.

Solutions such as Coupay allow estate agents to request one-off payments from their client buyers and potential tenants in a quick and friction-free way which connects automatically to their bank account. Coupay’s Smart Bank Transfer can be used by agents or landlords looking to take one-off payments for deposits and other one-off or administrative fees.

How it works:

1. Sign up your estate agent business with a free trial of our Smart Bank Transfer software courtesy of Coupay.

2. Once your customer agrees their purchase or the rental agreement, generate your unique Coupay payment request by entering the transaction amount via our easy-to-use dashboard.  

3. Send your payment request via your customers chosen channel (email, invoice or text message)

4. Your customers can choose to pay on mobile in an instant, or via their desktop using the payment request which takes them to their personal banking app, allowing them to make payment quickly and securely within just four clicks

For more details on how to adjust the way you take payments in a contact-free, secure way, get in touch to discover a payment journey you and your customers can truly trust.

The Taming of the Shrewd Student: The Savvy Student Startups of our time

Saskia Patel, India Taylor-Smith and Jessica Patel: the co-founders of DeMoo Jeans

Students have had it pretty rough over the last few months. With universities across the country closed due to the nationwide lockdown and freshers week as good as cancelled in anticipation of an imminent second wave, virtual learning has been the order of the day and zoom parties had to replace house parties, gigs and gatherings.  

Now the future of university life is under the magnifying glass as the pandemic’s second wave sweeps across the nation. With all this along with an economy at breaking point, it’s no wonder the UKs future students will be set to think twice about a future tarnished by hefty student debts.

Some savvy students, however, have been living in the now, embracing student life and even channelling a little entrepreneurial spirit during their down time. It’s fair to say, the students of our time have learned a lot more than what they enrolled for.

With an increase in innovative commercial outlook among our Gen Z demographic, as much as one quarter of the current student population have founded or are planning to establish their own business whilst at university.  

Jamie Macfarlane, founder and CEO of Creator Fund, Europe’s leading investor in university startups said, “Cov-19 has not slowed student founders down, they have invested their extra free time to work on their ideas. The entrepreneurial ecosystems in universities up and down the country show us the plethora of world-class, international, diverse talent working together to deliver innovation.”

Refund Giant: A start up founded by Imperial Students and backed by Creator Fund

And it seems that business founders are starting out at an increasingly young age, with an increasingly principled agenda. We spoke to Danielle Brown, Alumni officer at the national enterprise education charity Young Enterprise:  

“The entrepreneurial spirit we see in young people is incredible. Their ability to adapt to our rapidly changing world, or think up creative new ideas really sets them apart. A noticeable trend is the number of Gen Z entrepreneurs who are driving socially responsible objectives forward with their businesses; it’s not just about making a profit but making a difference to their communities and the wider world we live in.”

The rise of the sustainable startup

The Creator Fund report suggests many student founders are looking to alleviate some of the socioeconomic and ethical challenges todays enterprises face, with diversity and sustainability at the fore.

One such sustainable, student-lead startup is DeMoo Jeans. Founded after a lightbulb-moment charity shop haul close to their student home in Durham, twin sisters Saskia and Jessica Patel and their friend India Taylor-Smith, set about their project, recycling and upcycling denim to make custom fit jeans and headbands to take a stand against fast fashion.  

“Sustainability is at the core of DeMoo. It is estimated that over 300,000 tonnes of clothing ended up in landfill between 2017-2018 (The Times, 2018). Charity shops often cannot cope with the sheer amount of denim waste, resulting in shipping to landfill sites. We know what we do isn’t much, but at least by purchasing DeMoo’s up-cycled jeans, our customers are on the right path in moving away from throw-away fast fashion.”

Some of the DeMoo designs showcased on the runway at St. Chad’s College Fashion Show (Durham)

Paving the way for smoother payments

With student startups on the rise, and side hustles turning serious across the nation as a result of COVID-19, entrepreneurs of all vintages are looking to find new ways to take payments more easily online, at little or no cost to their business.

With card machines for small businesses offering a convenient yet costly way to take contactless payment, and bank transfers proving a time-consuming endeavour, small businesses have had to review their payment methods. Many product-based startups have turned to platforms such as Etsy or Depop to showcase their online store and streamline their transaction processes.

New payment technologies driven by Open Banking, like Coupay are offering innovative solutions to address the payment challenges faced by many business startups. With subscription fees starting at just £3 per month (and a free 1 month trial), business founders can accept payments online for free or at a fractional cost to their startup business.

If you’ve launched a new venture during lockdown, or you’re dabbling with a side hustle, check out how Coupay could help you take payments faster and more securely with our smart bank transfer link.

The businesses born from a pandemic

Has COVID-19 sparked a rise in the side hustle economy?

The global pandemic has put the economy into turmoil. With around 9.6million job roles furloughed and over 190,356 made redundant as a result of COVID-19 and the subsequent economic downturn, many are waiting to return to work or are still seeking alternative employment.

At a time of such unprecedented uncertainty, with higher powers dictating our options when it comes to employment, some of those left in a state of limbo shrewdly made use of the extra time to reflect and seized the opportunity to create their own slice of income.

The rise of the side hustle economy

Even before the lead-up to lockdown, the humble side hustle was in the limelight. Millennials particularly have sought extra-curricular income to keep on top of rising living costs by launching an additional business venture on the side of their day job.

Back in 2018 Henley Business School estimated that side hustles generated around £72 billion for the UK economy. That number is only set to rise in the wake of the pandemic as a recent study conducted by GoDaddy cited that one in five people considered setting up a new business venture during lockdown.

One such millennial was Hinterlands Beard Oil Founder Josh Overton. While working full time as a Product Designer, he experimented with making organic beard oils in his spare time.

“Before the lockdown I made the beard oils primarily for myself and sold offline to a few friends occasionally.

Then all of a sudden, we all found ourselves stuck at home pretty much 24/7. Once the lockdown hit I decided it was long overdue to try and launch this as a side hustle for real.”

Making waves while flattening the curve

Whether it was pivoting an existing business to fit around the changing consumer needs during lockdown, or simply channelling a deeper creativity, many Living Room entrepreneurs have emerged from these times of crisis with new and forward-thinking ideas. Forming business strategies which have found relevance as a result of the unprecedented circumstances we now inhabit, many entrepreneurs who have launched a new business during the pandemic have carefully considered the very new set of consumer needs. During this time we have seen some truly astute individuals who have completely pivoted their priorities to react to a totally new age of customer experience.  

At a time of turmoil for the Events and Hospitality industry, Founder of Cock and Tail drinks, Fred Campbell flexed his business to launch a new cocktail delivery brand at a time when events were strictly off-limits.

“Customers are reviewing their priorities now and are looking to support those who are being creative or are pivoting their strategy in times of crisis. If you’re present and active on all your channels rather than waiting to see how things pan out you stand yourself in good stead for the longer-term simply by being proactive as well as reactive.”

Founder of Bunhead Bakes, a baked goods delivery brand serving South London, also found this new calling during the pandemic:

“I was delivering bakes and stuff to friends and family at a distance and then someone suggested I start selling them so I put an ad out on Instagram, my sister designed the logo and it’s just shot off from there really. Now I’m delivering sourdough buns and more to your door all across South London.”  

These businesses born during an economic downturn are said to be more resilient. Designed to thrive in times of crisis, they pave the way for the future of small businesses and often flourish in the long term. Here’s hoping the new wave of gritty, future-proofed small businesses are set to emerge from the ashes unscathed.

If you launched a new venture during lockdown, or you’re planning ahead with a new side hustle, check out how Coupay could help you take payments faster and securely with our smart bank transfer link.

How to future-proof your customer payment processes for Gen Z users

The world is making way for the new age of Gen Z customer. Just as marketing teams, software designers and customer service departments had to make way for the new demands of millennials entering the consumer space, it’s time to welcome Gen Z on a huge scale.

Reportedly set to make up 40% of all consumers as of 2020, Gen Z already have a bad reputation as screen addicts with super short attention spans. While this may be true in relative terms, as a generation who have grown up knowing nothing of a world without the internet, can we really be surprised?

What does the Gen Z consumer really look like?

The generation born after 1995 are known for being social-media-savvy digital natives. While they are often dismissed by older generations as being ‘double screeners’ or ‘always on’, it’s not just all about TikTok and Snapchat for these young consumers. They do their research when it comes to brands, they are an ethical generation who care about making change in the world and they are particularly health oriented, and technologically advanced.  

Ask Gen Z what a fax machine is, they are unlikely to know the answer. Born after the painful days of dial-up tones, MSN Messenger or the Nokia 3310, they will struggle to fathom how the world was once not in an always ‘connected’ state. They will however, probably be able to tell you the exact rate of deforestation in the Amazon and they’re also much more likely to part with their money on brands and products that have trusted eco credentials, are the most authentic and ethical on the market.

How to attract, engage and retain a Gen Z customer base

Set to represent 82 million people, making up the largest group in the US consumer population by 2026, Gen Z will undeniably introduce new challenges to the table, but rather than fear the influx of the new modern consumer, it’s time to just get to know your Gen Z audience. As the newest, brightest-eyed and bushier tailed members of the consumer landscape, Gen Z’s for the most part, haven’t formed loyalties yet in terms of their chosen brands. That mean’s now is the time to look at your business continuity, strategize to future proof your processes and pivot to attract and captivate your Gen Z audiences.  

Gen Zs, having grown up as true digital natives, surrounded by constant messaging and information, have developed an internal filter to help them drown out some of that constant noise. While they reportedly have an attention span of only 8 seconds compared with the millennials 12 seconds, this means you and your marketing teams have to be prepared for the extremely discerning, fast paced consumer behaviour of this new Gen Z audience.

Make sure your brand can withstand the rigorous research, and sometimes short patience of a discerning Gen Z consumer. This generation are cynical, and they are more likely to respond to personal recommendations of friends and family than they are to be influenced by traditional advertising methods.

What does a good customer experience look like for Gen Z?

With a reported eight second attention span, user experience for Gen Z audiences needs to be seamless, streamlined and glitch-free at every touchpoint. These young adults are the Connoisseurs of User Experience, so now is the time to truly fine tune your consumer contact points by future proofing your payment methods and processes, as well as your customer service and marketing endeavours.

When it comes to customer payments for example, you can be sure that your Gen Z customers will balk at the idea of having to manually input data or spend time painstakingly entering bank details online.

According to Business Insider, 75% of Gen Z consumers use digital payment apps or P2P apps, with contact-free payments apps such as Zelle and payment sharing platforms such as Venmo proving increasingly popular with Gen Z users in the US.  

Businesses with a high concentration of Gen Z customers are looking for new ways to take payments or introduce payment methods that are more engaging and friction-free for this short-attention-spanned audience. For example, letting agents in university towns across the UK are seeking ways to ensure that they can easily take recurring payments and one-off payments from their student renters in the manner that suits this younger consumer; quickly, efficiently and without having to input extensive bank details manually.

By implementing a Smart Bank Transfer payment method such as Coupay’s streamlined payment requests, businesses can receive payments online for free (or approximately 20p per transaction) and generally make the payment process more friction free and agile for customers, empowering them to make payments via their chosen device whether that be on the move, or at their desk.

With Coupay’s Smart Bank Transfer, customers simply click on their digital payment request, when, transported through to their own banking app, they can make your payment within four easy clicks. No muss, no fuss, and no bank detail entry needed. Take a tour of our Coupay use cases to see how you might future-proof your payment processes for the impending influx of Gen Z.

Has the Covid-19 pandemic triggered a freelancer revolution?

March 2020 saw the start of a global pandemic which would shake the UK workforce to the core. While rainbows adorned windows and we clapped for carers, many of us not working in the care industry were either furloughed or out of a job. With the economy in tatters, UK firms have been forced to make over 100,000 job cuts either before lockdown or after the furlough scheme has ended. 

With many seeking alternative employment whilst industries hope to recover, the option of self-employment has been an appealing beacon of hope for many people who have been out of work during the UK’s nationwide lockdown.

While the outbreak of the COVID 19 pandemic saw many adopt a freelance side hustle, channel a creative outlet or launch a new business venture the UK online freelancer platform People per Hour reported an “unprecedented rise” in the number of freelance users. London saw a 500% increase in the number of people signing up for freelance gig work.

How to keep ahead of the curve amid rising freelancer competition

But with so many taking up the self-employment mantel (seemingly temporarily), freelancer fees are being driven down as competition is rife. So how can long-time freelancers and small business owners continue to stand out from an even vaster crowd? 

Invest in yourself

Upskilling and personal development became a key part of life during lockdown, whether it was learning how to bake banana bread (yes, let’s admit it we all jumped on that bandwagon!) or taking an online photography course, many people made the most of their free time by investing a little in themselves. Online learning platforms such as Coursera reported more than 25 million enrolments since mid-march (an increase of over 500% compared with the same period last year).

If you’re looking for a number of different strings to add to your bow, or specific skills to add to the portfolio, online learning app Skillshare is a good, budget friendly option. Check out courses from The Open University for more comprehensive, academic distance learning or to learn a little more specifically about learning how to market and grow your new venture, hubspot academy is a handy resource.

Break the mould

While venturing into a totally different industry might seem daunting, it can be easier than you think if you spend the time to think strategically. Designers of writers might want to set up a separate portfolio for a different business area they’d like to break into, or business owners might think about a b2b strand alongside their consumer customer base.

Embracing a new side hustle is also a great way to gain traction into a totally different realm to the nine-to-five, whether it’s writing a novel, taking up pottery or setting up as an online language teacher, taking a leap of faith in a new industry can give a little variety to your daily routine and can also prove profitable in the long run.

Take care of your tech

Getting organised and streamlining your day-to-day processes is timely and sometimes, lets face it, the last thing you fancy doing on any given day. But remember- you only have to get your ducks in a row once, then if you’ve chosen wisely your clever technology does the rest for you. For example, trim down your tech by investing in tools designed specifically for the self-employed.

Applications such as FreeAgent combine project management, invoicing, and time logging software so that you can amalgamate all your daily processes without the need for a patchwork of technological tools. Applications such as Coupay can help you to streamline the payment process too, allowing you to receive payments online free (or at approximately 20p per transaction). Simply generate your unique Coupay link and add it to your invoices to take payments online as an easy, secure, smart business transfer, saving you and your clients time on extra admin and reducing the risk of late payments.

For an introduction on how our smart bank transfer works for your business venture, take a tour of Coupay or get in touch with one of our helpful experts to learn about a new way to take payments.

4 ways to avoid late payments with Coupay

Freelance life undeniably has its perks. Working from wherever you want, around your own schedule, and truly doing something you love are just a few of the benefits of being freelance. But, as with every career path, it has its downsides too.

Lack of financial control is one of these downsides, more specifically, not getting paid on time is one of the biggest headaches for freelancers.

Chasing late payments is a freelancer challenge as old as time. If you’ve ever asked yourself the question- ‘what do I need to do to get clients to pay me promptly’? then you’re not alone. While clients may love the work you do, getting them to open the wallet often remains a bigger challenge.  

The problem of payments in a freelancer landscape

Global freelancing platform, Upwork recently published its US freelancer report which states that ‘living paycheck to paycheck’ and ‘not being paid fairly’, are two of the key challenges for freelancers.

In a world where almost everything is instant, we work with increasingly digital-savvy customers on a day-to-day basis, customers who like to keep things simple.

Did you know, the average millennial has an attention span of just 12 seconds?

That means, while your customers pinball their way through their working day time stops for you, as you draft yet another very carefully worded payment-chaser email.  

Working with an increasingly digital-savvy customer base also means, the best way to avoid late remuneration is to make that process and your payment methods as quick and friction-free as possible.

Coupay’s smart bank transfer provides you with a secure, encrypted link which enables you to take payment online for free (or at approx. 20p per transaction) and your clients to quickly and easily make an online bank transfer in just four clicks.

Here are our 4 ways you can use Coupay’s smart bank transfer software to help you regain control over your payment schedules.

Send a secure payment request by text message

Take payments over the phone, but in a totally new way. Clients and customers who know you well or have worked with for a long time will want to find the most efficient to pay you without spending their time on unnecessary admin. For clients who prefer using their phone to their laptop, sending your payment request via text might just be the most convenient and efficient option. For your tech-savvy, time-poor clients who like working on the move, a mobile bank transfer is a strong option and can truly trim down admin time for both you and your client. This is a particularly efficient option if you need to take recurring payments online without your client setting up a standing order or direct debit.

Embed your payment request link in an email

Of course, many of us still communicate via email when it comes to invoice payments. For a more desktop-friendly, slightly more formal approach, you could simply generate your Coupay payment request via the easy to use dashboard, copy it to your clipboard and hyperlink it within the text body of your email. This means that your customers can simply click the link from your invoice email or payment-chaser email which then guides them through to their business banking platform in just a couple of easy steps. This enables you to take payments in just a matter of four easy clicks for your customer.

Include it in your invoices

In addition to inclusion in your invoice email, it’s important to embed the Coupay payment request within the invoice as well. Our secure payment connector is designed for quick and easy inclusion in your regular or ad-hoc invoices. This one works in the same way as with an email, simply generate your unique payment link via the handy Coupay dashboard, copy the link and embed it in the ‘payment details’ section of your invoice to make the payment process more efficient for both you and your customers.  This way, your customers can check the invoice and then make payment instantly.

Align your Coupay account with QuickBooks

If you use QuickBooks accounting software to help manage your accounts and streamline your invoicing processes, you can now integrate Coupay’s secure link payment solution to work in tandem with your QuickBooks account. This means that the whole process can be fully automated for you, from our secure payment link generation to the sending and filing of your invoices and receiving payment in QuickBooks.

So while you can’t (unfortunately!) force clients to pay you on time, you can make it easier for your customers to significantly reduce time on the administrative process, giving them a more pleasing, more mobile payment journey than before.

Coupay’s mission is to make the payment process as friction-free and painless as possible, not just for you but also for your customers. Sign up now for a one-month free trial to see how our secure, friction-free Smart Bank Transfer system could work for you.

How to streamline your freelance business processes

As a freelancer or small business owner, one of the biggest challenges is how best to spend your time. While prioritisation is mostly prescriptive as an employee, when you own the business, knowing what should come first is a different matter.

While many freelancers fall into a creative black hole, coming up with heaps of ideas or simply over-servicing clients, this is probably the most efficient way to throw your hard-earned money down the drain. The way you charge your clients and how efficiently you make use your time can have a huge effect on your bottom line.

But being a freelancer means having several different jobs, with multiple plates to juggle and daily learning and development all in the mix. Learning to be your own accountant, business administrator, sales and marketing strategist as well as your actual freelancer title means that you need to be able to sometimes step back to see the wood for the trees and maximise your time effectively.

But how do you cut through all the daily noise, filter out the bad habits and separate the profitable ideas from the ‘nice to have’ brainwaves? Over servicing clients is a freelancer challenge as old as time- here are some of our simple tips on how to strip it all back and start with the basics.