As the one-year mark of the Covid-19 pandemic approaches and digital payments play a larger role in daily life worldwide, there will be no reverse gear on consumer behaviour in 2021. Small businesses have dealt with a lot over the past year, and although there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel, the tough economic conditions are not over yet. Meanwhile, shopper habits have changed considerably, and this means small businesses must continue to adapt and grow with the direction of the wind.
In the third edition of its global research study, the “Visa Back to Business Study – 2021 Outlook,” Visa found that the continued small and micro business (“SMB”) shift towards digital commerce will evolve in 2021 and bring an increased focus on areas such as security and fraud prevention, and more emerging payment tools such as ‘buy now, pay later’ and mobile payment acceptance. The pandemic has brought many challenges, and if as a small business owner, you are struggling to keep up, rest assured you are not alone. Remember that, no matter at what development stage your small business is, it’s never too late to revive what you have and still be competitive.
The global rise of contactless payments in 2020, spurred by challenges including consumers looking for safer ways to pay in the midst of the pandemic, shows no signs of slowing down in 2021. In fact, while in June 2020, only 20% of SMBs surveyed had offered contactless payments for the first time — there are now 39% that have started to accept new digital forms of payments. The ability to pay in-stores digitally is no longer merely a convenience, but a necessity as shoppers look for touch-free experiences, such as contactless payments. This trend also presents unique opportunities for businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa as the region is still mostly a cash-based society.
Still, the need for safe, reliable, and convenient financial services has become more pressing – particularly since the advent of Covid-19. Today, consumers expect services that are seamless, frictionless, on-demand, mobile-enabled and personalised. As a result, the advantages of cashless societies are gaining widespread recognition.
According to GSMA, Sub-Saharan Africa is home to nearly half of all mobile money users worldwide. The penetration of mobile phones is growing at such a rate that consumers in Africa are likely to own a cell phone or smartphone, even if they don’t have a bank account. In these economies, mobile money systems bring digital payments to millions of people who have previously been excluded from the financial mainstream.
Although there does seem to be hope that things are improving, it’s still crucial for businesses to keep up with emerging trends, stay agile and embrace change. Customer safety remains paramount and small companies need to continue to make sure they are taking the necessary steps to make customers feel safe, comfortable and valued. While some customers may be ready to get back to life as we knew it, many others are still more wary of their safety. The more shoppers feel at ease while in your store, the longer they’ll tend to stay, and the more likely they are to make a purchase.
Sub-Saharan business success in the Covid-19 era is possible despite the tough trading conditions created by the pandemic. Still, it calls for lateral thinking, leveraging existing opportunities, using relevant and accessible technologies, and women’s empowerment. With these ingredients, the continent is set to mould a financial future that is safe, effective, reliable, and resilient.
Visa is committed to helping the world adapt to the current shifts by applying our network, products, services, and expertise to get everyone back to business. Visa was founded on the idea that safe, fast, and reliable digital payments should be available to everyone, everywhere. This idea underpins our mission to connect the world of business, but also enable women, female-run businesses to thrive.
Last year, we launched the Where You Shop Matters campaign in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it has had on small businesses. It is an initiative that aims to champion and enable entrepreneurs across Africa while encouraging consumers to support small businesses. The campaign also helps to showcase the importance of shopping local and supports SMBs to build the skills and capabilities they need to be successful in the new normal. SMBs will help drive the economic recovery of the continent if they take advantage of the
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Aida Diarra is Senior Vice President and Head of Sub-Saharan Africa at Visa, a global payments technology company that works with consumers, businesses, banks, and governments in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide.