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Alma: Making installment payments work for customers and retailers with Google Cloud

About Alma

Founded in 2017, Alma provides an easy-to-use payment service that guarantees instant payment to retailers while allowing customers to pay in installments. Alma helps businesses to increase sales and boost customer satisfaction without worrying about debt.

Industries: Financial Services & Insurance, Technology
Location: France

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Alma is a technology company that makes financial solutions for commerce by developing an installment payment platform, built on Google Cloud, accessible to the greatest number of retailers and customers.

Google Cloud results

  • Enables more effective collaboration with live editing in Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides
  • Scales operations at speed with managed services in Google Cloud
  • Simplifies compliance with financial regulation, with enhanced security and support from Google Cloud
  • Processes more than €300m in payments every year

“Buy now, pay later” is a risky proposition for retailers, with the burden of chasing debts and the possibility of late or cancelled payments. But the rewards can be significant. “If you offer this kind of payment plan at the point of sale, you’re going to see three main effects as a retailer,” says Louis Chatriot, co-founder and CEO of France’s Alma, a fintech startup focused on installment payments. “Firstly, you’ll see an increase in conversion rates as more people will be able to afford to buy your products. Secondly, you’ll see an increase in basket sizes. Finally, you’ll see a boost in customer satisfaction.”

In Alma’s native France, buy-now pay-later schemes were only viable for larger enterprises, which could take advantage of extensive stockpiles of working capital and large credit lines to cover the costs of waiting for payments. But smaller businesses were frozen out of such schemes because they could not afford the financial risks or command the same level of support from their banks. That’s where Alma comes in, with an easy-to-install platform for payment in installments, benefiting both retailers and their customers.

If a retailer uses Alma, either online or in its bricks and mortar stores, then Alma pays off the retailer instantly, eliminating the financial risk. At the same time customers get the full benefits of paying in several installments.

“For us, the most attractive things about Google Cloud are the ease of use and the speed at which you can move. In just a few days we were up and running, which is vital for a small startup.”

Louis Chatriot, co-founder and CEO, Alma

Choosing Google Cloud for its speed and simplicity

When Alma was founded in late 2017, the company consisted of Louis, his co-founder, and two developers. As with most startups, resources were scarce. The team knew from the outset that they would choose a cloud-based infrastructure to run on, and after a short period of testing, they chose Google Cloud.

“For us, the most attractive things about Google Cloud are the ease of use and the speed at which you can move,” says Louis. “In just a few days we were up and running, which is vital for a small startup.”

When a retailer chooses to work with Alma, it doesn’t have to reorganize its whole payment system. It simply adds the Alma plugin to its webpage or, in the case of brick and mortar stores, integrates a payment module into the existing system within minutes. The retailer connects to the Alma platform via a number of APIs for instant repayment, while Alma guides customers seamlessly through its installment process.

“Logging can be a huge pain for a small company, but Google Cloud Logging is fully integrated with all the other services, and we don’t have to worry about managing it. It’s absolutely key for us in terms of debugging and optimization.”

Louis Chatriot, Cofounder and CEO, Alma

The Alma infrastructure is based on a complex architecture of microservices managed with Cloud Run. The company uses Cloud SQL for its database management while safely storing its data in Cloud Storage buckets.

Alma is constantly looking for ways to improve its service and minimize friction, so accurate logging is vital. Cloud Logging (formerly Stackdriver) provides the company with a fully comprehensive logging solution.

“Logging can be a huge pain for a small company, but Cloud Logging is fully integrated with all the other services, and we don’t have to worry about managing it,” says Louis. “It’s absolutely key for us in terms of debugging and optimization.”

While Alma’s technology infrastructure is built with Google Cloud, the company’s workflows are shaped by Google Workspace. From the outset, Alma opted for Google Workspace because it fit perfectly with the work habits of people who are digital natives, it’s easy to use, and the interactive exchanges create a lot of value. “Everyone we’ve hired has used Gmail before. I don’t need to convince anyone of its merits,” says Louis.

Along with Gmail, Alma makes extensive use of Google Calendar and Google Meet to facilitate communications when in-person meetings can’t happen. Meanwhile, collaboration is made simple with Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides which allow for live editing with multiple users. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced much of the world into quarantine in early 2020, moving to remote working was easy for Alma. “Everything just worked very smoothly,” explains Louis. “It wasn’t a big deal for us to work from home.”

“We’re not going to build a better infrastructure than Google, so we don’t have to spend resources on maintaining it. The platform just works. Our job is to make financial solutions for commerce. Google Cloud lets us focus on that core mission.”

Louis Chatriot, co-founder and CEO, Alma

Building a bigger team faster

With Google Cloud and Google Workspace at its core, Alma has built up remarkable momentum. By November 2018, the company had perfected its minimum viable product. Early in 2019, it launched commercially for the first time. In the two years since, Alma has acquired several thousand retail clients, raised €49 million in equity and processes more than €300 million worth in payments every year. Thanks to the stability and ease of use of Google Cloud, Alma has been able to shrug off the burden of infrastructure management and concentrate on what it does best.

“We’re not going to build a better infrastructure than Google, so we don’t have to spend resources on maintaining it. The platform just works,” says Louis. “Our job is to make financial solutions for commerce. Google Cloud lets us focus on that core mission.”

Alma has heavily invested in its technology platform (over €60 million has been raised since 2018) to continue supporting merchants in offering a fluid and intuitive shopping experience to their customers.

As well as growing its customer base, Alma has also significantly expanded its workforce, despite the effects of a pandemic. The company has grown to a team of more than 50 employees. That’s in part due to the simplicity of getting new team members to work quickly and easily with a familiar, intuitive interface like Google Workspace. Alma is still expanding its team and looking to triple its number of employees over the next year. “I have absolutely no worries about onboarding new employees with Google Workspace,” says Louis.

Leveling the playing field

Alma is on a trajectory of rapid growth with operations planned in Canada and multiple European countries beyond its native France. But it’s more than a matter of simply expanding operations. As it takes on more payments and deals with more customers, the company is becoming a more powerful financial institution, a “quasi bank” as Louis puts it, which requires more stringent compliance procedures. Regulators at the French central bank have extremely strict protocols with regard to external technology providers, but Google Cloud’s enhanced security measures have simplified the process dramatically for Alma. The company has also worked extensively with Google Cloud representatives to make the terms of service more amenable to financial regulation.

For Louis, the continuing partnership between Google Cloud and Alma is strengthened not just by commercial interests but also a shared philosophy. “What’s great about Google Cloud is that all these cutting-edge tools are there for startups to work with from the outset,” he explains. “That aligns perfectly with what we’re doing at Alma. We want to give more power to the smaller businesses and level the playing field.”

Tell us your challenge. We're here to help.

Contact us

About Alma

Founded in 2017, Alma provides an easy-to-use payment service that guarantees instant payment to retailers while allowing customers to pay in installments. Alma helps businesses to increase sales and boost customer satisfaction without worrying about debt.

Industries: Financial Services & Insurance, Technology
Location: France