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.
Time is running out for Microsoft SQL Server 2008
Companies are urged to update from the dated database management software as it reaches the end of its support, writes BRYAN TURNER.
The 11-year-old Microsoft SQL Server 2008 database management software is reaching the end of its support on 9 July. The applications that use databases running on this software will be at risk of security and stability issues.
On self-managed databases, upgrading to the latest database version comes with a lot of risks. Many IT departments within companies go by the motto: “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it”.
Microsoft made it very clear that it would not be updating SQL Server 2005 after its extended support date and even left it vulnerable to Spectre and Meltdown by not releasing patches for the dated version.
Updating SQL Server versions may seem daunting, but the benefits far outweigh the effort it takes for a migration. In the last major version update, SQL Server 2016 introduced simpler backup functionality, database stretching, and always-encrypted communications with the database, to name just three features.
While backing up the database may be the last thing on the typical database administrator’s mind, it’s become increasingly important to do so. In SQL Server 2008, it’s clunky and causes headaches for many admins. However, in SQL Server 2016, one can easily set up an automated backup to Azure storage and let it run on smart backup intervals. Backing up offsite also reduces the need for disaster recovery for onsite damage.
Database stretching allows admins to push less frequently accessed data to an Azure database, automatically decided by SQL Server 2016. This reduces the admin of manually looking through what must be kept and what must be shipped off or deleted. It also reduces the size of the database, which also increases the performance of the applications that access it. The best part of this functionality is it automatically retrieves the less accessed records from Azure when users request it, without the need for manual intervention.
Always-encrypted communications are becoming more and more relevant to many companies, especially those operating in European regions after the introduction of GDPR. Encryption keys were previously managed by the admin, but now encryption is always handled by the client. Furthermore, the keys to encrypt and decrypt data are stored outside of SQL Server altogether. This means data stored in the database is always encrypted, and no longer for the eyes of a curious database manager.
The built-in reporting tools have also vastly improved with the addition of new reporting metrics and a modern look. It includes support for Excel reports for keeping documentation and Power BI for automated, drag-and-drop personalised reporting. Best of all, it removes the dreaded Active X controls, which made the reporting in a webpage feel very clumsy and bloated in previous versions.
A lot has changed in the past ten years in the world of SQL Server database management, and it’s not worth running into problems before Microsoft ends support for SQL Server 2005.
Local apps to feature in Huawei’s App Gallery
Huawei’s mobile app store, the HUAWEI AppGallery, will soon feature a multitude of apps and designs by local developers. The company says this is part of its drive to promote South African digital talent and include more useful apps for Huawei smartphone users. HUAWEI AppGallery and HUAWEI Themes are pre-installed on all the latest Huawei and Honor devices.
“South African consumers are increasingly wanting more apps that are relevant to their unique circumstances, addressing issues they experience regularly – such as load shedding or safety concerns – but also apps that celebrate South Africa’s multitude of cultures and this vibrant country,” says Lu Geng, director of Huawei Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa Region.
Akhram Mohamed, chief technology officer of Huawei Consumer Business Group South Africa, says: “Huawei is committed to catering to the needs of South African consumers, but we also know that we do not have all the answers. For this reason, we aim to work closely with South African developers so that we can give our users everything that they need and want from their devices. At the same time, we also hope to create an open ecosystem for local developers by offering a simple and secure environment for them to upload content.”
Huawei Mobile Services was launched in South Africa in June last year. Since then, both the HUAWEI AppGallery and HUAWEI Themes – which features tens of thousands of themes, fonts and wallpapers that personalise user’s handset – have become increasingly popular with the local market. Even though it is a relatively new division of Huawei, there has been a great increase in growth; at the end of 2018 Huawei Mobile Services had 500 million users globally, representing a 117% increase on the previous year.
Explaining what differentiates the HUAWEI AppGallery from other app stores, Mosa Matshediso Hlobelo, business developer for Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa says: “We use the name ‘HUAWEI AppGallery’ because we have a dedicated team that curates all the apps in terms of relevance and ease of use and to ensure that there are no technical issues. Importantly, all apps are also security-checked for malware and privacy leaks before being uploaded on to the HUAWEI AppGallery.”
Huawei recently held a Developers’ Day where Huawei executives met with South African developers to discuss Huawei’s offering. 48 developers registered their apps on the day, and Huawei is currently in discussions with them with the eventual aim of featuring the best apps and designs on HUAWEI AppGallery or HUAWEI Themes. The Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa Team at Huawei plans on making Developers’ Day a quarterly event and establishing a local providers’ hub, where developers can regularly meet with Huawei for training on updates to programmes and offerings.
“We have a very hands-on approach with our developers, and hope to expand that community so we can become an additional distribution channel for more developers and expose them to both a local and a global audience,” says Geng. “For example, we regularly feature apps and designs from local developers on our Huawei social media pages, and do competitions and promotions. We want to do everything we can to make our Huawei users aware of these local apps and upload them. This will encourage the growth of the developer community in South Africa by giving developers more opportunities to generate revenue from in-app purchases.”
* Developers who would like their apps featured on the HUAWEI App Gallery, or designs featured on HUAWEI Themes, should visit https://developer.huawei.com or email Huawei Mobile Services on email@example.com.