Many businesses owners moving into e-commerce focus on choosing the best platform, design and even delivery method, but leave payment options to the last, which is where the real challenges can creep in, says KYLE ROZENDO, CTO at SID.
While online retail still only accounts for 1% of retail revenue in South Africa, the growth rates of more than 20% year-on-year since 2000 speak volumes about the need for every business to seriously plan for an online presence.
The 2016 numbers from World Wide Worx released in April this year, not only show good growth for the year, but forecasts for 2020 show the figures doubling from their current baseline.
While this is great news for the economy, there remain many obstacles for the general business community when it comes to taking the leap in creating a virtual channel to market.
First of all, setting up an e-commerce offering is more complex than one thinks. Most businesses focus on choosing the preferred platform, design and even delivery method. Payment options are often the last thing business owners consider and, unfortunately, this is where the real challenges can creep in.
Most website platforms have e-commerce plugins which will accommodate global payment options such as PayPal. Card payment facilities are also offered by many payments service providers and this increases the merchant’s ability to take payments.
However, South Africa’s broader payment landscape is not nearly as sophisticated as we assume.
As we know only 1% of retail spend is channeled online and while some seasoned online shoppers may be perfectly happy with online security, there is still many a wary first-time shopper who may feel daunted by having to set up a Paypal account or nervous about sharing credit card details.
To add to the card challenge, only one fifth of South Africa’s banked population has a credit card, which further narrows a merchant’s pool of potential customers.
Fees, fraud and fuss
There are two main questions facing merchants when it comes to payment options: what are the benefits to my business, and how easy will it be for my customers to use?
The costs to merchants when the customer uses a credit card for a transaction can be unattractive. Merchants have to pay transaction fees to their payment service provider, as well as additional fees to the (acquiring) bank which holds their internet merchant account.
Trust can also be an issue. While we may feel a level of comfort when transacting with an e-Bay or an Amazon, when using a small, local e-tailer for the first time, many shoppers will feel uneasy about parting with their personal and financial details.
Chargebacks add to the merchant risk. Should credit card fraud take place, the onus is on the merchant to prove that the purchase was in fact made by the cardholder. Should they fail to do so, they could bear the costs of the reimbursements.
Merchants accepting credit cards will also need to comply with The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). This is a proprietary information security standard for anyone who handles branded credit cards from the major card schemes, including Visa and MasterCard.
Setting up an internet merchant account can also result in delays and administrative hassle for a business eager to get their offering online.
Not only will the acquiring bank’s consultant do a full audit of the website’s compliance (terms and conditions, privacy, delivery and refund policies etc.), but the company will have to undergo additional compliance checks on their financial history.
Working through a payment aggregator can cut out the frustrating process of applying for an internet merchant account. However, the trade off will be paying higher transaction fees in order to make use of their platform.
Offering choices which work for customers and your business
Merchants need to find the best method to reach their customers in a way which makes the best business sense.
Adding an instant EFT solution to the e-commerce payment offering can make a significant difference to both the merchants’ business as well as the user experience.
Merchants stand to save significantly on transaction fees when receiving instant EFTs. Credit card payments can often be charged at a rate of 2 to 4% per transaction, whereas instant EFT fees are generally significantly lower.
It should be noted however, that merchants must also take into account how long it will take to receive their funds from their payment service provider. This can vary from anything from one to two days (as in the case of SID) or up to five days in the case of some of the aggregators. While this is important for any business, it is critical to smaller businesses, which are reliant on cash flow.
Instant EFT payment facilities are easy to set up and website developers can quickly get the merchant trading online.
From the buyer’s point of view, EFT is something they know and trust. Online customers will interface with their banks via a secure payment page which adds to their comfort and sense of security.
Moreover, because there is instant feedback, should there be insufficient funds in the account, both the customer and the merchant will know immediately, cutting down on fees resulting from returned transactions.
Most importantly, instant EFT allows far more people to actually trade and shop online. All a merchant needs is a valid bank account and the customer simply needs their regular online banking username and password.
EFT has reached its maturity in South Africa. Customers know and trust it as a means of transaction. Businesses who are looking to go digital should ensure that they have included instant EFT into their payment bouquet. To ignore instant EFT would not only cut them off from the lion’s share of local shoppers, but would cut themselves off from a payment method which offers the lowest cost to company available.
Prepare your cam to capture the Blood Moon
On 27 July 2018, South Africans can witness a total lunar eclipse, as the earth’s shadow completely covers the moon.
Also known as a blood or red moon, a total lunar eclipse is the most dramatic of all lunar eclipses and presents an exciting photographic opportunity for any aspiring photographer or would-be astronomers.
“A lunar eclipse is a rare cosmic sight. For centuries these events have inspired wonder, interest and sometimes fear amongst observers. Of course, if you are lucky to be around when one occurs, you would want to capture it all on camera,” says Dana Eitzen, Corporate and Marketing Communications Executive at Canon South Africa.
Canon ambassador and acclaimed landscape photographer David Noton has provided his top tips to keep in mind when photographing this occasion. In South Africa, the eclipse will be visible from about 19h14 on Friday, 27 July until 01h28 on the Saturday morning. The lunar eclipse will see the light from the sun blocked by the earth as it passes in front of the moon. The moon will turn red because of an effect known as Rayleigh Scattering, where bands of green and violet light become filtered through the atmosphere.
A partial eclipse will begin at 20h24 when the moon will start to turn red. The total eclipse begins at about 21h30 when the moon is completely red. The eclipse reaches its maximum at 22h21 when the moon is closest to the centre of the shadow.
David Noton advises:
- Download the right apps to be in-the-know
The sun’s position in the sky at any given time of day varies massively with latitude and season. That is not the case with the moon as its passage through the heavens is governed by its complex elliptical orbit of the earth. That orbit results in monthly, rather than seasonal variations, as the moon moves through its lunar cycle. The result is big differences in the timing of its appearance and its trajectory through the sky. Luckily, we no longer need to rely on weight tables to consult the behaviour of the moon, we can simply download an app on to our phone. The Photographer’s Ephemeris is useful for giving moonrise and moonset times, bearings and phases; while the Photopills app gives comprehensive information on the position of the moon in our sky. Armed with these two apps, I’m planning to shoot the Blood Moon rising in Dorset, England. I’m aiming to capture the moon within the first fifteen minutes of moonrise so I can catch it low in the sky and juxtapose it against an object on the horizon line for scale – this could be as simple as a tree on a hill.
- Invest in a lens with optimal zoom
On the 27th July, one of the key challenges we’ll face is shooting the moon large in the frame so we can see every crater on the asteroid pockmarked surface. It’s a task normally reserved for astronomers with super powerful telescopes, but if you’ve got a long telephoto lens on a full frame DSLR with around 600 mm of focal length, it can be done, depending on the composition. I will be using the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with an EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Ext. 1.4 x lens.
- Use a tripod to capture the intimate details
As you frame up your shot, one thing will become immediately apparent; lunar tracking is incredibly challenging as the moon moves through the sky surprisingly quickly. As you’ll be using a long lens for this shoot, it’s important to invest in a sturdy tripod to help capture the best possible image. Although it will be tempting to take the shot by hand, it’s important to remember that your subject is over 384,000km away from you and even with a high shutter speed, the slightest of movements will become exaggerated.
- Integrate the moon into your landscape
Whilst images of the moon large in the frame can be beautifully detailed, they are essentially astronomical in their appeal. Personally, I’m far more drawn to using the lunar allure as an element in my landscapes, or using the moonlight as a light source. The latter is difficult, as the amount of light the moon reflects is tiny, whilst the lunar surface is so bright by comparison. Up to now, night photography meant long, long exposures but with cameras such as the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV now capable of astonishing low light performance, a whole new nocturnal world of opportunities has been opened to photographers.
- Master the shutter speed for your subject
The most evocative and genuine use of the moon in landscape portraits results from situations when the light on the moon balances with the twilight in the surrounding sky. Such images have a subtle appeal, mood and believability. By definition, any scene incorporating a medium or wide-angle view is going to render the moon as a tiny pin prick of light, but its presence will still be felt. Our eyes naturally gravitate to it, however insignificant it may seem. Of course, the issue of shutter speed is always there; too slow an exposure and all we’ll see is an unsightly lunar streak, even with a wide-angle lens.
On a clear night, mastering the shutter speed of your camera is integral to capturing the moon – exposing at 1/250 sec @ f8 ISO 100 (depending on focal length) is what you’ll need to stop the motion from blurring and if you are to get the technique right, with the high quality of cameras such as the Canon EOS 5DS R, you might even be able to see the twelve cameras that were left up there by NASA in the 60’s!
How Africa can embrace AI
Currently, no African country is among the top 10 countries expected to benefit most from AI and automation. But, the continent has the potential to catch up with the rest of world if we act fast, says ZOAIB HOOSEN, Microsoft Managing Director.
To play catch up, we must take advantage of our best and most powerful resource – our human capital. According to a report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), more than 60 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa is under the age of 25.
These are the people who are poised to create a future where humans and AI can work together for the good of society. In fact, the most recent WEF Global Shapers survey found that almost 80 percent of youth believe technology like AI is creating jobs rather than destroying them.
Staying ahead of the trends to stay employed
AI developments are expected to impact existing jobs, as AI can replicate certain activities at greater speed and scale. In some areas, AI could learn faster than humans, if not yet as deeply.
According to Gartner, while AI will improve the productivity of many jobs and create millions more new positions, it could impact many others. The simpler and less creative the job, the earlier, a bot for example, could replace it.
It’s important to stay ahead of the trends and find opportunities to expand our knowledge and skills while learning how to work more closely and symbiotically with technology.
Another global study by Accenture, found that the adoption of AI will create several new job categories requiring important and yet surprising skills. These include trainers, who are tasked with teaching AI systems how to perform; explainers, who bridge the gap between technologist and business leader; and sustainers, who ensure that AI systems are operating as designed.
It’s clear that successfully integrating human intelligence with AI, so they co-exist in a two-way learning relationship, will become more critical than ever.
Combining STEM with the arts
Young people have a leg up on those already in the working world because they can easily develop the necessary skills for these new roles. It’s therefore essential that our education system constantly evolves to equip youth with the right skills and way of thinking to be successful in jobs that may not even exist yet.
As the division of tasks between man and machine changes, we must re-evaluate the type of knowledge and skills imparted to future generations.
For example, technical skills will be required to design and implement AI systems, but interpersonal skills, creativity and emotional intelligence will also become crucial in giving humans an advantage over machines.
“At one level, AI will require that even more people specialise in digital skills and data science. But skilling-up for an AI-powered world involves more than science, technology, engineering and math. As computers behave more like humans, the social sciences and humanities will become even more important. Languages, art, history, economics, ethics, philosophy, psychology and human development courses can teach critical, philosophical and ethics-based skills that will be instrumental in the development and management of AI solutions.” This is according to Microsoft president, Brad Smith, and EVP of AI and research, Harry Shum, who recently authored the book “The Future Computed”, which primarily deals with AI and its role in society.
Interestingly, institutions like Stanford University are already implementing this forward-thinking approach. The university offers a programme called CS+X, which integrates its computer science degree with humanities degrees, resulting in a Bachelor of Arts and Science qualification.
Revisiting laws and regulation
For this type of evolution to happen, the onus is on policy makers to revisit current laws and even bring in new regulations. Policy makers need to identify the groups most at risk of losing their jobs and create strategies to reintegrate them into the economy.
Simultaneously, though AI could be hugely beneficial in areas such as curbing poor access to healthcare and improving diagnoses for example, physicians may avoid using this technology for fear of malpractice. To avoid this, we need regulation that closes the gap between the pace of technological change and that of regulatory response. It will also become essential to develop a code of ethics for this new ecosystem.
Preparing for the future
With the recent convergence of a transformative set of technologies, economies are entering a period in which AI has the potential overcome physical limitations and open up new sources of value and growth.
To avoid missing out on this opportunity, policy makers and business leaders must prepare for, and work toward, a future with AI. We must do so not with the idea that AI is simply another productivity enhancer. Rather, we must see AI as the tool that can transform our thinking about how growth is created.
It comes down to a choice of our people and economies being part of the technological disruption, or being left behind.