The Rugby World Cup has revealed that the landscape is always shifting. Australia out in the first round, Ireland the team to beat, but now also out, and Argentina, Fiji and Japan growing in stature. South Africa’s fight back and winning mindset, however, is nothing new. The post-match referee complaints from French and English fans? Well, you can make up your own mind on that one.
What has any of this got to do with South Africa’s technology, ecommerce and payments landscape? Perpetual innovation, competition and hard work have shaped our payments landscape, delivering a surprisingly well-structured financial architecture for an emerging market, especially because we remain daunted by a considerably underbanked populace. However, it’s hotly contested, and always re-inventing itself.
Let’s go back. The mid-2000s heralded a monumental shift with the adoption of QR code technology, simplifying transactions while offering a financially inclusive platform for small-scale businesses and consumers alike. Snapscan and Zapper were the Australia and New Zealand of the click-and-pay revolution that rose at high speed, as we became glued to our phones and devices transformed into digital wallets.
Over the last decade banking apps trained hard, EFT enjoyed a rise in the rankings, Yoco made a huge play, and tap-to-pay methods recently have become a new fan favourite. Cryptocurrency promised a lot but has simply failed to show real flair. Like Scotland.
All of these top payment teams have trained and battled for dominance. They play a similar game in that they process transactions, but the squads with real flair spread their wings in tough conditions, as the Boks revealed on Saturday night.
With over 15 million users and 15 years of experience, a godfather of QR payments in South Africa, Zapper has spotted a weakness in its competitors. They’re all fighting for territory and possession but it’s getting harder as more competitors join the fray. Hello, Japan.
Mike Bryer, CEO of Zapper, saw a new approach in his first year with the payments company, having exited as Head of Digital Platforms at Standard Bank Group to continue driving innovation at the smaller Fintech business.
“You have to read the evolving landscape and see what will set you apart. Observation and listening are key. Acquiring customers in this marketplace demands a concoction of technological adeptness, user-friendly interfaces, and a pinch of local flavour, ensuring the solutions are rooted in the native socio-economic context. Retention, conversely, mandates adding layers of value, ensuring that every transaction is not merely an exchange but an experience, but with added value. That’s where the lights switch on.”
Technology, Marketing, and Social Awareness
Under Bryer’s leadership, Zapper re-sculpted its narrative around being a marketer and a growth partner, particularly for merchants and retailers navigating through the ebbs and flows of South Africa’s economic currents. Zapper used to be QR codes only, and then built out e-commerce and tap-to-pay options but that’s what many payments processors do, following suit.
As Bryer explains, “Our philosophy transcends transacting. We go beyond and see ourselves as catalysts, fostering an environment wherein every payment data point metamorphoses into a strategic tool, enabling our merchant partners to weave a web of loyalty, rewards, and nuanced customer engagement. In other words, when it comes to processing we are equal in terms of our ecosystem of QR codes, payment links, Tap on Phone and ecommerce functionality for online merchants, but we are also different and intelligently aligned with them as we are their revenue growth partner too. We use the payments data as a master stroke to bring customers back to stores or find new and lapsed customers by offering geo-located vouchers and discounts. Merchants need a hook, and customers need a good reason to part with their money. As the only true growth partner to our merchants, we provide them access to capital and customers – no-one in the SA market does this for SME’s.”
Inflation, Economic Pressure, and Consumer Psychology
South Africa, with its multifaceted economic challenges intensified by inflation and increased retail competition, necessitates an empathetic understanding of consumer psychology. Moreover, the rising tide of international brands like Shein and Amazon further tightens the proverbial noose, demanding innovative solutions deeply rooted in local consumer expectations and economic realities. In this daunting scenario, Zapper emerges not merely as a payment platform but as an ally for retailers and merchants, providing them with the weaponry of data-driven strategies, ensuring sustenance and potential growth amidst the undulating economic terrains. To return to the rugby metaphor, Ireland’s running back’s fast hands (and Johnny Sexton’s boot, of course) were something refreshing and surprising over the last few years, elevating them to the rank of tournament favourites.
Bryer encapsulates this sentiment, asserting, “The present economic climate demands more than mere competition; it necessitates anticipation of needs and revolution in thinking. Zapper’s data-driven promotional technology aspires to be that silent partner for South African merchants, enabling them to tackle tumultuous times and break through the line to see more open space in growth and customer engagement.”
SA For The Win Zapper has a single-minded focus on local businesses and believes that South Africans should get behind the home teams where possible, instead of giving their business to offshore imports. Ingesting New Zealand-born players does not make you the All Blacks! As with the Bokke, who are one of only three teams with only home-grown talent, they are proving that we can “box with the best”, showcasing our world-class talent and the innovative strategies of our genius coaches. Local merchants and payment companies deeply appreciate the ‘local is lekker’ mindset that is tailored to compete with the best the world has to offer. As our rugby players are seeing, knowing the roots of who you are working with makes a monumental difference.
“We have just launched a campaign called Zappers in ZA where we promote and share local SA success stories, not just in terms of retail, ecommerce, fintech or travel businesses, but also local charities who need support. We have always been a brand that is deeply intertwined with the societal and economic fibres of the nation. There is an incredible unity in our country at the moment as every game unfolds. It’s wonderful to see. We look forward to getting behind team South Africa, on the field and in business,” he concludes.