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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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SA consumers buy 3.2m smartphones in Q1

Smartphone sales in South Africa grew by 12.4% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2018, reaching around 3.2 million units for the period.

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However, the value of the smartphone segment increased by 22.8% as sales of entry-level devices to low- and mid-income consumers continued to drive the market, according to point of sale data from market research firm, GfK South Africa.

GfK South Africa’s data reveals that telecommunications retail enjoyed a strong start to the year, with revenue growing 22.4% year-on-year. The growing popularity of phablets and higher unit prices (as a result of a weaker rand) helped to drive this increase in revenue, against a backdrop of low or negative growth in many segments of the consumer technology market.

“The mobile device market showed good growth in the quarter, despite rising prices during the period under review,” says Norman Muzhona, Solutions Specialist for Telecommunications at GfK South Africa. “In addition to the exchange rate, the introduction of popular, new mid-tier devices by several leading vendors helped to drive higher retail revenues in the telecoms market.”

Information technology retail revenues for the quarter contracted 4.8% compared to 2017, largely because of decreasing monitor prices and a 38.9% decline in tablet revenues. However, desktop computer revenues grew 39% and mobile computing revenues grew 6.5% year-on-year, thanks to higher prices and increased sales of higher-end products.

Says Berno Mare, Solutions Specialist for IT, Office Equipment and Value Added Services: “Retailers introduced new computing devices priced in the R3000 band during the quarter and enjoyed surprisingly strong demand for these entry-level units.

“Telcos enjoyed robust growth in mobile computing retail sales, thanks to credit deals, subsidised contracts and attractive data offers. However, South African consumers are heavily indebted, which may dampen growth for the rest of the year.”

With consumers rapidly migrating to smartphones, sales of traditional mobile phones continued to decline, down 1.6% year-on-year to around 2 million for the quarter. However, the exchange rate and the introduction of higher-priced brands helped to drive a 8.9% year-on-year revenue increase in mobile phone revenues during the period under review.

This follows the 21% drop in mobile phone unit sales in the first quarter of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015. “Operators continue to lead the transition from feature phones to smartphones as they pursue higher data revenues,” says Muzhona. “The entry-level market for smartphones is fiercely competitive, and the minimum specs of lower cost smartphones is improving all the time.”

GfK South Africa expects the migration from mobile phones to smartphones to accelerate in 2018. However, it remains to be seen if the introduction of 4G-enabled, Voice-over-LTE-ready feature phones will have any impact on the South African mobile phone market.

Sectors of the consumer electronic market that showed strong growth for the first quarter of 2018 include loudspeakers—revenues up 21.6% year-on-year, thanks to demand of Bluetooth-enabled product—and ultrahigh definition (UHD) panel TVs—where revenues grew 33%, thanks to the growing affordability of the technology. UHD unit shipments were up 76%, while the average selling price of the products fell 24%.

Other market highlights for the first quarter of 2018 include:

  • Photo category revenues were up 8.1% year-on-year.
  • Small domestic appliance revenues grew 8%, following a 10.3% decline in Q1 2016 over Q1 2015. Hot air fryers sold well, as did kettles and toasters.
  • Major domestic appliances showed small year-on-year growth over Q1 2016, despite a decline in average selling price in many sub-categories of this market. Cooling products continued to make the highest contribution to growth in this segment.
  • Office Equipment revenues declined 18% year-on-year, led downwards by lower printer and cartridge sales volumes.
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What kids want online

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Kaspersky Lab’s latest report on the online activities of children – based on statistics received from its solutions and modules with child protection features – highlights children’s online activities and the importance of protecting them when online. For example, video content globally, comprised 17% of searches over the last months. Although many videos watched as a result of these searches may be harmless, it is still possible for children to accidentally end up watching videos that contain inappropriate content.

The report shows anonymised statistics from Kaspersky Lab’s flagship consumer solutions for Windows PCs and Macs that have the Parental Control module switched on and from Kaspersky Safe Kids, a standalone service for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices.

In South Africa, communication sites (such as social media, messengers, or emails) were the most popular pages visited by computers with parental controls switched on – with users in South Africa visiting these sites in 69% of cases over the previous 12 months. Software, audio, and video accounted for 17% of searches. Websites with this content have become significantly more popular since last year, when it was only the fifth most popular category globally at 6%. The top four is rounded off with electronic commerce (4.2%) and alcohol, tobacco, and websites about narcotics (3.9%), which is a new addition compared to this time last year.

The report presents search results on the ten most-popular languages* for the last 6 months. The data shows that the video & audio category – including requests related to any video content, streaming services, video bloggers, series and movies – are the most regularly ‘googled’ by children (17% of the total requests). The second and third places go to translation (14%) and communication (10%) websites respectively. Interestingly, games websites sit in fourth place, generating only 9% of the total search requests.

We can also see a clear language difference for search requests: for example, video and music websites are typically searched for in English, which can be explained by the fact that the majority of movies, TV series and musical groups have English names. Spanish-speaking kids carry out more requests for translation sites, while communication services are mostly searched for in Russian.

More than any other nationality, Chinese-speaking children look for education services, while French-speaking kids are more interested in sport and games websites. In turn, German-speaking requests dominate in the “shopping” category. The leading number of search requests for porn are in Arabic, and for anime are in Japanese.

“Kids in different countries have different interests and online behaviors, but what links them all is their need to be protected online from potentially harmful content. Children looking for animated content could accidentally open a porn video. Or they could start searching for innocent videos and unintentionally end up on websites containing violent content, both of which could have a long-term impact on their impressionable and vulnerable minds,” says Anna Larkina, Web-content Analysis Expert at Kaspersky Lab.

As well as analysing searches, the report also looks into which websites children visit or attempt to visit that contain potentially harmful content which falls under one of the 14 preset categories** for the last 12 months.

The mobile trend is again highlighted in the figures for computer games, which are now in fifth place locally on the list at 3%. As kids continue to show a preference for mobile games rather than computer games, this category will only continue to decrease in popularity on computers over the coming months and years.cleardot.gif

“No matter what they are doing online, it is important for parents not to leave their children’s digital activities unattended, because there’s a big difference between care and obtrusiveness. While it is important to trust your children and educate them about how to behave safely online, even your good advice cannot protect them from something unexpectedly showing up on the screen. That’s why advanced security solutions are key to ensuring children have positive online experiences, rather than harmful ones,” adds Anna Larkina.

The Kaspersky Total Security and Kaspersky Internet Security consumer solutions include a Parental Control module to help adults protect their children against online threats and block sites or apps containing inappropriate content. In turn, the Kaspersky Safe Kids solution allows parents to monitor what their children do, see or search for online across all devices, including mobile devices, and offers useful advice on how to help children behave safely online.

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