Ecommerce competition is heating up globally, with giants Amazon, Apple, Alibaba, Tencent and eBay all vying for bigger stakes in the market. Retail sales\u00a0are expected to\u00a0surpass $27 trillion by 2020, and ecommerce is expected to account for more than $4 trillion of that figure.\nOne key area that is becoming the next battleground for these companies is payments. Payments may seem to be an inherent part of ecommerce platforms that facilitates the checkout process. However, the boom of financial technology (fintech) has made payments a major segment in financial services, creating major opportunities for these businesses to tap into wider markets.\nBuilding ecommerce ecosystems\nEcommerce isn\u2019t about who has the biggest inventory or who provides overnight shipping anymore. It also isn\u2019t simply about a single defining feature or functionality in a website or an app. It\u2019s about who can provide the best customer experience. In order to deliver this, retailers need to build up capabilities across all fronts: products, price, user experience, logistics, support and, of course, payments.\nForget platforms. Forget application suites. It\u2019s about building ecosystems.What\u2019s emerging as a critical component of today\u2019s ecommerce ecosystems is payments. Customers demand a quick, secure and convenient way to pay for purchases. According to marketing automation platform GetResponse, complicated checkout processes, card security and not having enough payment methods are all factors in shopping cart abandonment.\nInterestingly, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to payments, as each market would have its own take on payment methods. The U.S. relies on cards to fund digital wallets. In China, they transfer funds directly to phone accounts. In some parts of Europe, bank transfers are preferred. In parts of Asia with low banking penetration, cash is still king.\nThis can be quite the conundrum for cross-border and international ecommerce. While it is ideal to be able to support a wide array of payment methods, displaying all payment options can still affect the flow of the checkout process. Checkout pages need to be deliberately designed to be simple and easy to use. However, in the greater scheme of things, usability is just a minor issue that can be addressed through careful user experience design.\nBeefing up payment processing\nOf course, offering a variety of payment methods wouldn\u2019t be much of an issue if there were one dominant payments service across all markets. Hence, the mad rush to establish footholds for their brands\u2019 payment services.\neBay has had the greatest success integrating a payments service into its ecommerce business with its acquisition of PayPal in 2002. PayPal has gone on to become a payments processor giant, powering ecommerce platforms besides eBay. Eventually, PayPal spun off as an independent entity in 2015.\nWhile supporting their own ecommerce operations is important, the bigger picture for these ecommerce companies is to be able to offer their services as a platform for use by other businesses\u2014much like how PayPal is used by thousands of businesses outside of eBay.\nHowever, PayPal\u2019s years under eBay arguably stunted PayPal\u2019s growth, allowing other players such as Google and Apple to launch their own digital wallets and even traditional card companies like Visa and MasterCard to make their plays in the growing fintech scene. Alibaba and Tencent also have their own payment services.\nAll are pushing other ecommerce platforms to use their service, even resorting to buying into these companies. In India, online store Flipkart got a massive boost after\u00a0getting a new funding\u00a0round\u00a0from Tencent, Microsoft and eBay. Amazon, Flipkart\u2019s biggest rival in India, is trying to fight this. Amazon recently got approved by the Reserve Bank of India for its mobile wallet service, which means it can process payments beyond the Amazon store.\nIn Southeast Asia, popular ecommerce platform Lazada was acquired by Alibaba along with it Lazada\u2019s payment service HelloPay. And recently, HelloPay announced it will soon be operating as Alipay under Alibaba\u2019s Ant Financial arm.\nIt is quite fascinating, to say the least, how aggressive these companies are to shore up their payments services despite the low banking penetration and the preference for cash on delivery as fulfillment method in these markets. But a growing lesson in tech is that there\u2019s nothing as \u201ctoo early\u201d these days.\nTowards a cashless future\nPayments isn\u2019t simply about facilitating transfer of financial value between merchants and consumers anymore. Payment services have become non-banks, carrying billions of dollars in funds in their systems. Even banks have realized the threat of payment services to the banking industry. With the value of funds stored in their accounts, it\u2019s possible for payments services to spin off into other financial services, such as lending, foreign exchange and funds.\nWhile a major consideration for ecommerce giants to enhance their payment processing capability is inherent in their needs, their payments service could be spun off for opportunities in financial services. If an ecommerce service becomes the preferred retailer in the market, then there is a good chance for their payment service to be the preferred service, as well. It\u2019s a race to establish ecosystem dominance. Imagine the position these ecommerce giants would be in if they could control the goods and the money in the market.