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SA consumers want more digital services

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A massive 95% of South Africans use their smartphone more than any other device, with nearly half of them using their mobiles as their primary device to access digital services.

This is according to the findings from the Mastercard Impact of Innovation study, released on the sidelines of the Mastercard Innovation Forum 2016. 

The Mastercard Impact of Innovation study surveyed 23 000 consumers in 23 different countries across Europe, Africa and the Middle East about their attitudes to digital technology. In South Africa, the study gathered data from over 1 000 Internet users with bank accounts between the ages of 20 and 50.

It found that while in South Africa, 73% of respondents said they were ready to pay with their mobile phones, Western Europeans have some way to go – only two-fifths (40%) said so. However, when asked about new ways to pay, consumers across all regions chose their smartphone as an alternative to the plastic card.

“Our study confirms that not only is there a huge appetite for new safe and smart ways to pay, but connected South African consumers overwhelmingly want to use their smartphones. In fact, many are ready to do so right now. For decades, plastic cards have been the only reasonable alternative to cash – but consumers are saying loud and clear that they want use digital innovations to meet their everyday needs – be it for transport, healthcare or payments,” says Mark Elliott, division president of Mastercard, South Africa.

Nearly 80% of respondents think digital innovations have a positive impact on society – while only 5% think digital innovations are having a negative impact.

Four out of five South African consumers also believe that digital services will be used by more people across more areas of life, with only 14% saying that digital services will remain the privilege of a minority in the future. They report that public education, public transport and public healthcare are the areas that should be prioritised for further digital innovation.

On the other hand, digital solutions for networking or meeting people are considered to be overemphasised by more than a third.

The survey results also indicate that consumers who live in technologically less developed countries tend to be more enthusiastic about digital innovation than in markets where it is readily available.

Western Europe has the largest ratio of those resistant to digital change (17%), while Central and Eastern European countries and those in the Middle East and Africa have the highest number who actively embrace new technology. More than a quarter in South Africa, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine call themselves ‘eager promoters’ of new technology.

While enthusiastic about innovation, South African consumers want security, especially when it comes to making payments. They unanimously agreed that bank account security is their absolute priority when it comes to digital payments, followed by the security of their personal data.

More than half of South African respondents (51%) said they would prefer to authenticate themselves with a fingerprint rather than a PIN when paying with a bank card. Although a low ratio claimed to use biometric authentication, more than two-thirds consider these methods to be a safe way to make purchases.

“Consumers across South Africa seek faster, more secure and smarter methods of payment for an increasing array of transactions. As mobile technology and payments evolve, people expect technology to simplify the way they pay for goods and services. Putting identity verification at their fingertips makes it easier for consumers to complete secure transactions,” says Elliott.

South African highlights from the study include:

* Banking: Mobile payment is used by almost a third (31%) of respondents. Nearly three quarters use online banking via web browser, and two-thirds via mobile app.

* Online shopping: Some 75% of South Africans surveyed frequently shop online, with respondents highlighting convenience and time-saving as the biggest drawcards to this form of shopping.   Lower costs, increased security and data protection as well as more affordable internet access are key to boost online shopping in South Africa.

* Payment applications: Nearly 70% use payment applications, which are perceived as convenient by the vast majority of users. Less than a third had any kind of unpleasant experience. Non-users say their concerns around the safety of their bank accounts, and security of their personal data in payments applications are the biggest barriers to adoption.