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Thomas Pays, CEO of i-Pay

Despite there being more than 19 million online shoppers in South Africa, the recent Black Friday and Cyber Monday stampedes at retail outlets have once again shown the importance of providing people with alternative digital payment options.

The chaos at brick-and-mortar stores seem to escalate with every passing year as Black Friday becomes increasingly popular in the country. Not only does this raise safety concerns, but it also points to a much broader problem – a lack of economic inclusion that limits broader citizen participation in online shopping.

Traditionally, online shopping has been restricted to those who have internet connectivity and a credit card for payment processing. Given how pervasive mobile devices have become, the former can largely be eliminated as a challenge. It is in the latter that there is still a need for consumer and merchant education as the technology that facilitates this is already available.

Better access

I-Pay data compiled from this past weekend’s online shopping activities show that even though there has been an increase in sales, the average transaction value decreased from last year. Some might argue that people were only paid after Black Friday this year, but the difficult economic conditions have also significantly contributed to this.

It has now become essential for merchants not to lose out on any sales – whether that happens through sites going down or payment processing systems becoming unavailable. Every transaction, irrespective its value, can make a difference between profit and loss. This year was frustrating for many merchants as they invested heavily to ensure their sites remain online but had to suffer delays because credit card payment systems went down. This meant that even though shoppers could add items to their virtual shopping carts, they could not checkout.

In this environment, alternative payment options like Instant EFT through i-Pay make the difference. A platform like i-Pay does not require customers to have credit cards, to register on a system, or download any software. It is about empowering the customer with a different choice to the traditional and becoming part of the online shopping experience.

For merchants, Instant EFT ensures transaction notifications happen in real-time, it cuts out the payment processing middleman (and quite often bottle-neck), and empowers merchants to deliver products as quickly as possible to customers.

Financial inclusion

South African consumers also benefit significantly from this. Those who were previously unable to use online stores due to not having a debit or credit card can now easily do so with Instant EFT. Furthermore, because it is a mobile-friendly solution, they can shop from the comfort of their home.

Merchants have the peace-of-mind that Instant EFT provides them with a reliable, secure, and real-time environment to boost sales growth. One only needs to look back at what happened on Black Friday weekend when Instant EFT was the only reliable payment system available and could help merchants fulfil all their online orders.