People 'n' Issues

Are South Africans ready to ditch their wallets? 

July 22nd, 2015
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 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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