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Seamless payments the key to unlock omnichannel strategy

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Seamless digital payments are the key to unlocking omni-channel retail and retailers need to keep making it easy for consumers to transact with them in any channel, writes VICTOR DE KOCK, of MasterCard South Africa.

Technology today touches nearly every aspect of consumers’ buying decisions, from researching which product to buy to paying for it. While this has transformed the retail sales experience compared to just a few years ago, merchants’ priorities remain much the same: driving sales, enhancing efficiency and delivering a top-notch customer experience.

What has changed is that they must meet these goals in a manner that serves the needs of a connected consumer who shops in a variety of ways across a range of different channels and touchpoints. Today’s customers hop from researching products on their smartphones to viewing them in-store to ordering online without missing a beat.

These global trends hold true in South Africa. According to the Mastercard Impact of Innovation Study, South African consumers are keen to use the latest technologies to shop and pay. Among respondents, nearly half use their mobiles as their primary device to access digital services and 73% are ready to pay with their mobile phones.

Moving to an omni-channel world

Retailers need to keep up by making it easy for consumers to transact with them in any channel.  South African retailers understand the importance of moving towards omni-channel sales, but many find it challenging to deliver the checkout and payment experience that their customers expect across digital and traditional brick-and-mortar channels.

One important element of getting this right is making the transaction experience as simple as possible, but that alone is not enough. Consumers must also find their experiences with retailers to be personal, relevant, and cost-effective. This starts with thinking about how merchants can meet the needs of today’s complex, multifaceted and connected customer.

It involves shifting our focus from “channel only”—whether mobile, online or in-store – to “channel + customer + experience”. Important in this shift are payments technologies that make it safer and easier for consumers to pay and merchants to be paid – technologies that help merchants and consumers alike to escape the risks and inconveniences of managing cash.

This is the challenge we have been working to solve at Mastercard by introducing innovations such as EMV cards and contactless to South African consumers and merchants in the past few years. We have also focused heavily on digital commerce, launching our Masterpass digital wallet as an e-commerce play in 2014.

Since then, Masterpass has evolved into an interoperable solution that cuts across multiple channels – online, instore and in-app – and payment categories, making everyday payments available for everyone. It is accepted globally by more than 270 000 merchants and 5,200 South African merchants and now includes payments for mobile airtime and city municipal bills straight from the mobile wallet.

Digital payments platforms such as Masterpass offer a better checkout experience. Customers can check out faster, reducing shopping cart abandonment, and increasing conversion — all of which increase online sales. Customers can securely store their payment card and shipping address in one place for easy access during checkout.  The platforms also make it easy for customers to pay securely from their mobile devices when they shop in-store.

The easy mobile POS device

Understanding that not all merchants are large chains with the latest point of sale systems, we have worked with partners such as iKhokha and Virtual Card Services to bring simple Masterpass acceptance into the face-to-face, bricks and mortar environment in addition to their mPOS and online offerings .

Digital payments shouldn’t only be about large transactions and large merchants – they should be as accessible to a consumer buying prepaid airtime from their phone or a loaf of bread and some vegetables from a spaza shop as to a customer buying a computer online.  By providing easy and inexpensive point-of-sale devices that can be used anywhere, mobile technology has the potential to open up new channels of economic growth for merchants and enable them to meet the demands of consumers.

Fraud remains a major concern for consumers and merchants alike. It’s our mission to stay ahead by investing heavily in security innovations which use a host of new technologies. The trade-off between security and convenience is resolved by providing merchants with a hassle-free way to adopt and implement token services.

As a result, consumers get the best of all worlds: a frictionless checkout and peace of mind knowing that their card data is not at risk. Our aim is to ensure that all merchants can be paid quickly and securely, on every device so that they can meet the needs of their customers and grow their businesses.

* Victor de Kock, Head of Strategic Merchants and Acceptance, Mastercard, South Africa

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Revealing the real cost of ‘free’ online services

A free service by Finnish cybersecurity provider F-Secure reveals the real cost of using “free” services by Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon, among others.

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What do Google, Facebook, and Amazon have in common? Privacy and identity scandals. From Cambridge Analytica to Google’s vulnerability in Google+, the amount of personal data sitting on these platforms is enormous.

Cybersecurity provider F-Secure has released a free online tool that helps expose the true cost of using some of the web’s most popular free services. And that cost is the abundance of data that has been collected about users by Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon Alexa, Twitter, and Snapchat. The good news is that you can take back your data “gold”.

F-Secure Data Discovery Portal sends users directly to the often hard-to-locate resources provided by each of these tech giants that allow users to review their data, securely and privately.

“What you do with the data collection is entirely between you and the service,” says Erka Koivunen, F-Secure Chief Information Security Officer. “We don’t see – and don’t want to see – your settings or your data. Our only goal is to help you find out how much of your information is out there.”

More than half of adult Facebook users, 54%, adjusted how they use the site in the wake of the scandal that revealed Cambridge Analytica had collected data without users’ permission.* But the biggest social network in the world continues to grow, reporting 2.3 billion monthly users at the end of 2018.**

“You often hear, ‘if you’re not paying, you’re the product.’ But your data is an asset to any company, whether you’re paying for a product or not,” says Koivunen. “Data enables tech companies to sell billions in ads and products, building some of the biggest businesses in the history of money.”

F-Secure is offering the tool as part of the company’s growing focus on identity protection that secures consumers before, during, and after data breaches. By spreading awareness of the potential costs of these “free” services, the Data Discovery Portal aims to make users aware that securing their data and identity is more important than ever.

A recent F-Secure survey found that 54% of internet users over 25 worry about someone hacking into their social media accounts.*** Data is only as secure as the networks of the companies that collect it, and the passwords and tactics used to protect our accounts. While the settings these sites offer are useful, they cannot eliminate the collection of data.

Koivunen says: “While consumers effectively volunteer this information, they should know the privacy and security implications of building accounts that hold more potential insight about our identities than we could possibly share with our family. All of that information could be available to a hacker through a breach or an account takeover.”

However, there is no silver bullet for users when it comes to permanently locking down security or hiding it from the services they choose to use.

“Default privacy settings are typically quite loose, whether you’re using a social network, apps, browsers or any service,” says Koivunen. “Review your settings now, if you haven’t already, and periodically afterwards. And no matter what you can do, nothing stops these companies from knowing what you’re doing when you’re logged into their services.”

*Source: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/09/05/americans-are-changing-their-relationship-with-facebook/
**Source: https://www.theverge.com/2019/1/30/18204186/facebook-q4-2018-earnings-user-growth-revenue-increase-privacy-scandals
***Source: F-Secure Identity Protection Consumer (B2C) Survey, May 2019, conducted in cooperation with survey partner Toluna, 9 countries (USA, UK, Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Brazil, Finland, Sweden, and Japan), 400 respondents per country = 3600 respondents (+25years)

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WhatsApp comes to KaiOS

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By the end of September, WhatsApp will be pre-installed on all phones running the KaiOS operating system, which turns feature phones into smart phones. The announcement was made yesterday by KaiOS Technologies, maker of the KaiOS mobile operating system for smart feature phones, and Facebook. WhatsApp is also available for download in the KaiStore, on both 512MB and 256MB RAM devices.

“KaiOS has been a critical partner in helping us bring private messaging to smart feature phones around the world,” said Matt Idema, COO of WhatsApp. “Providing WhatsApp on KaiOS helps bridge the digital gap to connect friends and family in a simple, reliable and secure way.”

WhatsApp is a messaging tool used by more than 1.5 billion people worldwide who need a simple, reliable and secure way to communicate with friends and family. Users can use calling and messaging capabilities with end-to-end encryption that keeps correspondence private and secure. 

WhatsApp was first launched on the KaiOS-powered JioPhone in India in September of 2018. Now, with the broad release, the app is expected to reach millions of new users across Africa, Europe, North America, Southeast Asia, and Latin America.

“We’re thrilled to bring WhatsApp to the KaiOS platform and extend such an important means of communication to a brand new demographic,” said Sebastien Codeville, CEO of KaiOS Technologies. “We strive to make the internet and digital services accessible for everyone and offering WhatsApp on affordable smart feature phones is a giant leap towards this goal. We can’t wait to see the next billion users connect in meaningful ways with their loved ones, communities, and others across the globe.”

KaiOS-powered smart feature phones are a new category of mobile devices that combine the affordability of a feature phone with the essential features of a smartphone. They meet a growing demand for affordable devices from people living across Africa – and other emerging markets – who are not currently online. 

WhatsApp is now available for download from KaiStore, an app store specifically designed for KaiOS-powered devices and home to the world’s most popular apps, including the Google Assistant, YouTube, Facebook, Google Maps and Twitter. Apps in the KaiStore are customised to minimise data usage and maximise user experience for smart feature phone users.

In Africa, the KaiOS-powered MTN Smart and Orange Sanza are currently available in 22 countries, offering 256MB RAM and 3G connectivity.

KaiOS currently powers more than 100 million devices shipped worldwide, in over 100 countries. The platform enables a new category of devices that require limited memory, while still offering a rich user experience.

* For more details, visit: Meet The Devices That Are Powered by KaiOS

* Also read Arthur Goldstuck’s story, Smart feature phones spell KaiOS

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