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12 January 2023

Busbud partners with Stitch to expand reach in South African market

Travel booking website Busbud was looking to increase adoption and conversion in the South African market and needed a strong local payments partner that could offer market insights and help them reach more customers. Here's how Stitch Instant EFT became the most popular alternative payment method on the platform. 

Lucille Wilcox, Content Marketing Manager

|5 Minutes, 10 Seconds read
Stories

Problem: Travel booking website Busbud was looking to increase adoption and conversion in the South African market and needed a strong local payments partner.  

Stitch solution: Busbud partnered with Stitch and implemented InstantPay, enabling South African customers to purchase tickets via Instant EFT, directly from their bank accounts. The Busbud team leaned on Stitch’s local expertise for insights into the South African online payments space to help them iterate and improve their UX.

Result: Stitch Instant EFT quickly became the most popular alternative payment method on the platform, enabling Busbud to expand their reach and improve conversion in the market.  
 

All aboard for affordable, accessible, sustainable bus travel

Travel booking website Busbud is on a mission to make it easier and more affordable to enjoy sustainable travel through innovative technology. Recognising the pitfalls of intercity bus travel, characterised by a lack of accurate information and difficulty of use, more travellers were opting for expensive, less sustainable modes of transportation. Busbud set out to disrupt the space by creating a seamless travel booking solution, which is now available on almost every continent. 

Using Busbud, travellers are able to access clear and accurate bus travel information featuring schedules, prices, reviews, service classes and more, so they can save time and money by comparing prices from all the popular bus operators in their chosen region.

Busbud officially set up shop in South Africa three years ago, and like most in the tourism space, felt an impact on their business during the COVID pandemic. They decided to shift focus from their primary target - international travellers coming from abroad - and began to hone in on solutions for local travellers that frequently move between cities within their home countries. Today, Busbud is a market leader for bus transport in South Africa and has partnered with some of the biggest local bus operators including Greyhound and Intercity.

Busbud chooses Stitch as a partner that’ll go the distance

Meeting the demand of both local and international travellers requires a lot more than a one-size-fits-all approach – especially considering Busbud is operational in dozens of countries with vastly different consumer cohorts and unique logistical constraints. 

To ensure they’re able to offer the most comprehensive and robust solution, Engineering Leader Jacob Cook told us their operations team manages partnerships with bus companies all over the world, navigating complex market nuances and various payment solutions.

Like many other businesses expanding to new territories, Cook explained that having a local partner that can offer support and guidance is key to achieving growth.

“It’s great to work with companies like Stitch who deeply understand the local markets we’re working with, and are able to offer advice to help us have the biggest impact.”

He noted that up until now, much of the valuable information in the industry has been exclusively available to bus operators - including things like purchasing patterns and consumer personas. Stitch worked closely with the Busbud team to help them understand things like local payment preferences or what might be driving failed payments. The Busbud team used these insights to iterate and tailor their solutions, ultimately keeping customers coming back.

“Having a partner like Stitch is pretty essential for us because that’s our window into how the South African consumer interacts with e-commerce websites. Continuing to have that relationship where learnings are shared on both sides will help make it a better experience for everyone.”

Cook added that finding a partner with a similar vision - irrespective of individual goals or industry - goes a long way towards ensuring a symbiotic working relationship in which both parties are able to learn, grow and ultimately, see success. “That’s one of the things we’ve found most valuable with Stitch - the fact they’ve been flexible in creating a working relationship with us as an overseas company,” Cook said.

He ultimately views Stitch as a very similar company to Busbud, working in a different space. “We’re a similar size, we’re both startups and we’re both very product-oriented and mission-driven. It’s great to work with companies like that.” He continued, “It means the person you’re speaking to on the other side is going to understand where you’re coming from. We really see Stitch as our local partner in South Africa from that perspective.”

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Journey to the top alternative payment method

Prior to integrating Stitch, Busbud collected payments in South Africa via credit and debit cards. They had also initially defaulted to collecting payments in USD as they didn’t have a local payments processor. This lack of localisation made the company seem foreign, and had a significant impact on adoption. 

Over the past few months, Busbud had been running an A/B test presenting Stitch InstantPay to a cohort of its users. The results from the test were resoundingly positive, with Instant EFT rocketing to the top alternative payment method offered on the Busbud site – even beating other similar, popular methods offered in Europe.

What’s more, the test revealed what Busbud’s market research had initially shown: that anywhere between 20-40% of South Africans prefer to pay directly from their bank accounts. 

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“It’s been a big motivation for us to offer Instant EFT to customers and put time and effort into marketing campaigns to promote it. That’s a new group of users we’ve never been able to speak to before.” 

In addition to Stitch InstantPay, Busbud also uses Stitch Payouts to process refunds to customers. As an intermediary dealing with multiple different systems from different companies, there’s potential for various external points of failure when securing a user’s ticket. In that case, it’s important for customers to receive a refund as quickly as possible. Using Stitch Payouts, Busbud is able to initiate a payout in real-time over API directly into the user’s account - with the option of instant settlement. 

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Speaking to the technical integration, Cook told us: “Payments integrations are rarely completely smooth. With Stitch, it’s probably the easiest we’ve ever had. That’s due to the quality of the documentation which really helped a lot.” He continued, “Our  engineers pore over documentation, create lists of questions if they have any, and because we were able to do all of that upfront, as soon as we were in a position to sign the agreement, it only took us a couple of weeks to actually complete the integration.” 

“All of these things together - the speed and fluidity of communication, plus the great documentation - made the integration with Stitch a really painless experience.”  

What’s next for Busbud

The collaboration between Busbud and Stitch has enabled the business to look ahead and focus on becoming more competitive in the market. By expanding its payment methods, understanding which methods customers prefer in certain markets, and honing in on localisation, Busbud is set to expand its alternative methods in every one of its top ten markets. 

Cook explains, “speaking to the user in terms they understand and showing their familiar bank logos goes a long way in making them feel more comfortable with new methods.”

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