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Are South Africans ready to ditch their wallets? 

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After years of hype, the mobile commerce bandwagon may have just rolled into town. And if projections are anything to go by, the days of the traditional wallet might be numbered, writes MUSTAPHA ZAOUINI, CEO of PayU.

The global mobile wallet market is projected to grow at an annual compounded growth rate of 36.8% over the next four years, according to research by RNR Market Research.

Additionally, Statista predicts that the global mobile payment transaction volume is expected to reach US$721 billion in 2017, up from US$235 billion in 2013.

Paypal, the leading provider of wallet services, now has circa 162 million active wallets.

A further look at mobile money growth from around the world reveals the fruits of unprecedented user engagement and device proliferation.

A 2014 report by Hamburg based yStats.com revealed that in China, where more than 200 million people already use mobile payments, third-party mobile payments grew by 800% last year and are forecasted to more than double this year. Meanwhile, USA mobile payments are growing at three-digit percentage rates.

Banking apps in the U.K. were used 10.5 million times a day across the country in March, surpassing the 9.6 million daily log-ins to internet banking services, according to data from the British Bankers’ Association.

Impressive numbers, but will South Africans be as keen to replace their physical wallets?

In my view, current local market factors support mobile wallet adoption. The mobile phone user adoption curve is at a point where we have a sufficiently large group of consumers in SA who are comfortable with making payments online, as well as enough mobile devices to make the mobile wallet service viable. However, the value proposition must be relevant to both the consumer and merchant, both online and offline.

The high rate of mobile phone users in South Africa – approximately 59 million according to Wikipedia – suggests that user education is not a barrier. This is further supported by a 2015 World Wide Worx survey that found internet browsing via phones to be at 40% in South Africa.

Moreover, we have seen that payment infrastructure is improving and a sufficient density of wallet pay points has been reached thanks to incumbent Wallet initiatives acting as enablers of point of sale devices.

Homegrown wallet offerings like Snapscan, Zapper, Flickpay and eWallet are gaining momentum despite the backdrop of modest e-commerce growth.

FNB’s mobile wallet is an example of banks looking to ensure that they scale through low cost access channels to serve the under and un-banked customers with higher profitability. A key focus for wallet providers will be on the seven million people in South Africa who earn salaries but do not have their own bank accounts, according to Vodacom’s estimates.

I agree with FNB’s eWallet’s CEO Yolande Steyn’s sentiments that the success of eWallet has shown that there is still massive scope for mobile money remittances as an entry point for mobile money in a country. The challenge lies in creating further financial services adoption off the back of it.

Last month’s go-ahead for remittance exchanges between SA and Zimbabwe’s Econet by the SA Reserve Bank may be an omen for mobile money.

Yolande Steyn also maintains that using supplementary technologies such as self-service terminals, ATMs and other mobile applications can further augment the value proposition.

A 2015 Forrester report suggests that the future of mobile wallets may lie beyond payments. The research points to the fact that in the next five years mobile wallets will resemble marketing platforms.

A diversified offering will unlock value in a South African Market that is socially savvy and has an appetite for integrated services. It is an inevitable progression for large third-party players like Apple or PayPal to offer a suite of services through their wallets. In China, for example, the Alipay Wallet already lets brands reach consumers via mobile banner ads.

Thomas Husson, Principal Analyst at Forrester perhaps summed it up best in a recent mobile wallet report: “Offering faster or more-secure payments is not enough; wallet providers will have to solve real pain points, such as giving consumers the ability to see how much is on stored value cards at any moment in time, access loyalty points, or automatically receive digital copies of payment receipts.”

The Forrester Report highlights the top functionality that people interviewed want in a mobile wallet. Loyalty points and rewards ranked highest among US respondents (57%) and second for EU respondents (34%). Coupons discounts and special offers came in a close second for both groups (56% and 36% respectively).

Other items making the list were price comparisons, relevant product info, the ability to make reservations, split-billing, as well as digital tickets.

If the mobile wallet, in conjunction with cash and credit cards, can provide the means for all South Africans to access the digital world then the traditional alternative’s time may be up.

For me, it’s a question of when the wallet will cross the chasm, rather than if.

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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VoD cuts the cord in SA

Some 20% of South Africans who sign up for a subscription video on demand (SVOD) service such as Netflix or Showmax do so with the intention of cancelling their pay television subscription.

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That’s according to GfK’s international ViewScape survey*, which this year covers Africa (South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria) for the first time.

The study—which surveyed 1,250 people representative of urban South African adults with Internet access—shows that 90% of the country’s online adults today use at least one online video service and that just over half are paying to view digital online content. The average user spends around 7 hours and two minutes a day consuming video content, with broadcast television accounting for just 42% of the time South Africans spend in front of a screen.

Consumers in South Africa spend nearly as much of their daily viewing time – 39% of the total – watching free digital video sources such as YouTube and Facebook as they do on linear television. People aged 18 to 24 years spend more than eight hours a day watching video content as they tend to spend more time with free digital video than people above their age.

Says Benjamin Ballensiefen, managing director for Sub Sahara Africa at GfK: “The media industry is experiencing a revolution as digital platforms transform viewers’ video consumption behaviour. The GfK ViewScape study is one of the first to not only examine broadcast television consumption in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, but also to quantify how linear and online forms of content distribution fit together in the dynamic world of video consumption.”

The study finds that just over a third of South African adults are using streaming video on demand (SVOD) services, with only 16% of SVOD users subscribing to multiple services. Around 23% use per-pay-view platforms such as DSTV Box Office, while about 10% download pirated content from the Internet. Around 82% still sometimes watch content on disc-based media.

“Linear and non-linear television both play significant roles in South Africa’s video landscape, though disruption from digital players poses a growing threat to the incumbents,” says Molemo Moahloli, general manager for media research & regional business development at GfK Sub Sahara Africa. “Among most demographics, usage of paid online content is incremental to consumption of linear television, but there are signs that younger consumers are beginning to substitute SVOD for pay-television subscriptions.”

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New data rules raise business trust challenges

When the General Data Protection Regulation comes into effect on May 25th, financial services firms will face a new potential threat to their on-going challenges with building strong customer relationships, writes DARREL ORSMOND, Financial Services Industry Head at SAP Africa.

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The regulation – dubbed GDPR for short – is aimed at giving European citizens control back over their personal data. Any firm that creates, stores, manages or transfers personal information of an EU citizen can be held liable under the new regulation. Non-compliance is not an option: the fines are steep, with a maximum penalty of €20-million – or nearly R300-million – for transgressors.

GDPR marks a step toward improved individual rights over large corporates and states that prevents the latter from using and abusing personal information at their discretion. Considering the prevailing trust deficit – one global EY survey found that 60% of global consumers worry about hacking of bank accounts or bank cards, and 58% worry about the amount of personal and private data organisations have about them – the new regulation comes at an opportune time. But it is almost certain to cause disruption to normal business practices when implemented, and therein lies both a threat and an opportunity.

The fundamentals of trust

GDPR is set to tamper with two fundamental factors that can have a detrimental effect on the implicit trust between financial services providers and their customers: firstly, customers will suddenly be challenged to validate that what they thought companies were already doing – storing and managing their personal data in a manner that is respectful of their privacy – is actually happening. Secondly, the outbreak of stories relating to companies mistreating customer data or exposing customers due to security breaches will increase the chances that customers now seek tangible reassurance from their providers that their data is stored correctly.

The recent news of Facebook’s indiscriminate sharing of 50 million of its members’ personal data to an outside firm has not only led to public outcry but could cost the company $2-trillion in fines should the Federal Trade Commission choose to pursue the matter to its fullest extent. The matter of trust also extends beyond personal data: in EY’s 2016 Global Consumer Banking Survey, less than a third of respondents had complete trust that their banks were being transparent about fees and charges.

This is forcing companies to reconsider their role in building and maintaining trust with its customers. In any customer relationship, much is done based on implicit trust. A personal banking customer will enjoy a measure of familiarity that often provides them with some latitude – for example when applying for access to a new service or an overdraft facility – that can save them a lot of time and energy. Under GDPR and South Africa’s POPI act, this process is drastically complicated: banks may now be obliged to obtain permission to share customer data between different business units (for example because they are part of different legal entities and have not expressly received permission). A customer may now allow banks to use their personal data in risk scoring models, but prevent them from determining whether they qualify for private banking services.

What used to happen naturally within standard banking processes may be suddenly constrained by regulation, directly affecting the bank’s relationship with its customers, as well as its ability to upsell to existing customers.

The risk of compliance

Are we moving to an overly bureaucratic world where even the simplest action is subject to a string of onerous processes? Compliance officers are already embedded within every function in a typical financial services institution, as well as at management level. Often the reporting of risk processes sits outside formal line functions and end up going straight to the board. This can have a stifling effect on innovation, with potentially negative consequences for customer service.

A typical banking environment is already creaking under the weight of close to 100 acts, which makes it difficult to take the calculated risks needed to develop and launch innovative new banking products. Entire new industries could now emerge, focusing purely on the matter of compliance and associated litigation. GDPR already requires the services of Data Protection Officers, but the growing complexity of regulatory compliance could add a swathe of new job functions and disciplines. None of this points to the type of innovation that the modern titans of business are renowned for.

A three-step plan of action

So how must banks and other financial services firms respond? I would argue there are three main elements to successfully navigating the immediate impact of the new regulations:

Firstly, ensuring that the technologies you use to secure, manage and store personal data is sufficiently robust. Modern financial services providers have a wealth of customer data at their disposal, including unstructured data from non-traditional sources such as social media. The tools they use to process and safeguard this data needs to be able to withstand the threats posed by potential data breaches and malicious attacks.

Secondly, rethinking the core organisational processes governing their interactions with customers. This includes the internal measures for setting terms and conditions, how customers are informed of their intention to use their data, and how risk is assessed. A customer applying for medical insurance will disclose deeply personal information about themselves to the insurance provider: it is imperative the insurer provides reassurance that the customer’s data will be treated respectfully and with discretion and with their express permission.

Thirdly, financial services firms need to define a core set of principles for how they treat customers and what constitutes fair treatment. This should be an extension of a broader organisational focus on treating customers fairly, and can go some way to repairing the trust deficit between the financial services industry and the customers they serve.

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