By Buhle Langa, Certified Financial Planner at Alexander Forbes
Saving is often seen as one of those daunting tasks that most of us would rather delay, for varying reasons.
Stretching our rands
People often feel they have an insufficient cash supply to live on, and therefore have no money left to allocate to savings. Many people are out of work, others have reduced salaries, and those who are fortunate enough to still have a job are likely not receiving a salary increase. The economic climate means most of us are in a tight spot where we have to stretch our rands much further.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us that nothing in life is certain and that providing for rainy days should be high on our priority list.
Smarter money choices
As the economy starts to recover we should turn our attention to making smarter money choices for ourselves and our loved ones. One of the best places to start is knowing what exactly your current financial state is, assessing where it needs to be improved, and putting a plan in place to get you to there. Drawing up a budget is a very good place to start. Simply taking on someone else’s budget is never a good idea, as you need to have a budget that is suitable for your individual circumstances and lifestyle.
Once your budget has helped you establish what your income and expenses are, you will have a clearer picture whether you are keeping a healthy balance between your income, living expenses, debt and other costs. To keep abreast of your financial health, you will need to consistently check in with your budget and make sure that it remains relevant to your circumstances.
Tips to help you save
- Have a savings plan and set a target.
It is recommended that one has an emergency fund that comprises three to six months of their salary. This will come in handy if you run into a financial crisis. People often fall into heavy debt obligations because they had no emergency savings and therefore feel they have no other choice but to get into debt when an unexpected event occurs. Planning for a nice holiday at the end of the year? Start making enquiries early about the costs involved such as the cost of accommodation and spending money to put a savings plan in place where you can put away money monthly so that you are not pressurised closer to the time of your holiday. If you can afford it, consider paying for your accommodation in advance as this can secure a discounted rate.
- Pay yourself an annual bonus
With most companies having done away with year-end bonuses and 13th cheques, it is advisable to look into personally saving an amount monthly that will serve as a year-end bonus, to help pay for holiday expenses and additional expenses in January. Arranging with your payroll department to directly deduct this amount from your salary before it is paid into your bank account will help you beat the temptation to skip saving on some months.
- Use a tax-free savings account to save
Supplement your retirement savings or put money away for a long-term goal like your children’s education. You can save up R36 000 a year and R500 000 during your life time. With a tax-free savings account you pay no tax on the interest or growth on your investment. That means no income tax, no capital gains tax and no dividends tax.
- Take care with online purchases
Be sure that you are actually getting a good deal on your purchase, as online prices may be inflated compared to prices in the physical store. Try to stay away from making impulse purchases of items you don’t need. Getting tempted to buy things because they are branded as being on sale can be highly misleading and can lead to overspending and not sticking to your budget.
- Count the cost of convenience
As convenient as ordering your favourite take-away meal and having it delivered to your door is, this usually comes with extra costs such as a delivery fee. These might seem like small amounts, but they add up when you are trying to get a handle on your finances.
Saving can prevent you from making big financial mistakes when you need cash to hand quickly. Examples are having to cash in your retirement savings and taking a high interest loan that will leave you in an even worse off position. Having sufficient savings set aside will help in alleviating financial pressure.
THE ACCELERATION TOWARDS A MOBILE FIRST ECONOMY
By Brad Hyett, CEO at phos
Over the last year, we have seen a big shift towards contactless payments. Fuelling this has of course been the coronavirus pandemic, which has made the public hesitant to handle cash due to the health concerns.
As multiple national lockdowns forced physical stores to close, and customers demanded easy, cash-free payment options, merchants had to quickly adapt. The result? An increased provision of pay and collect services.
In the UK alone, 83% of people use contactless payments according to data from the Office of National Statistics.
So it’s vital that merchants are equipped with the most efficient payment solutions, as the UK heads towards a mobile-first economy.
Proliferation of contactless payments
In 2020, 90% of UK card payments were contactless. This equates to an increase of 12% on the year prior, despite the total number of payments made falling by 11% from 2019 to 2020. Moreover, the affordability of smartphones has increased significantly over the last decade. And it’s estimated that 84% of UK adults now own one.
We’re Seeing merchants embrace more efficient and cost effective payment methods in response. While physical payment terminals are often too expensive for many small businesses, software point of sale, or SoftPoS, enables merchants to turn hardware that they already own – i.e. their mobile device – into a point of sale terminal.
With merchants increasingly adopting these innovative technologies, contactless payments will continue to gain popularity among the general public. In 2020, 13.7 million people in the UK either didn’t use cash at all or only used it to make a single purchase. That’s double the same figure from the previous year.
Changing consumer demand
Now more than ever, consumers are aware of how innovative payment solutions can add efficiency to their daily lives. As such, consumers now demand better payment services, including reduced queuing times, checkoutless stores, and bespoke loyalty schemes.
Businesses such as Mercedes offer an end-to-end digital car purchasing service, so customers can go through the whole car purchasing journey from the comfort of their own home. This includes car deliveries, financing, insurance and more.
Meanwhile, eCommerce giant Amazon has started trialling checkoutless ‘Go’ stores, speeding up the shopping experience by eliminating the queuing process altogether. The days of waiting for a table at a restaurant are also over, as more people have grown used to booking in advance.
Hence, it’s important that we empower small businesses to remain competitive and provide them with the payment solutions to meet customer demand.
The digital payments revolution isn’t slowing down anytime soon. By 2026, only 21 percent of transactions will be made using cash.
The US might have been slow out of the gate, but it’s starting to see increased adoption of mobile payments. In-store mobile payments grew by 29% in the States last year alone.
This growth was primarily fuelled by Gen Z-ers and millennials. Latest projections show that there will be 6 million new mobile wallet users by 2025, with millennials accounting for 4 million of this figure. These two generations, the former in particular, have grown up with mobile banking.
For most Gen Z-ers, their first foray into financial services was with a challenger bank like Starling or Monzo. These banks are able to offer online features such as ‘split the bill’, fee-free withdrawals abroad and much more to cater to the modern financial needs of the younger generation.
The Middle East experienced similarly sharp increases in contactless payments. From 2019 to 2020, there was a 200% growth in contactless transactions. This shift towards a mobile-first economy in the region was inevitable; the pandemic merely accelerated this shift. A recent study showed that 80% of people living in the Middle East planned to continue using contactless payments post-pandemic, with speed and security being the main draw.
The future is mobile
As parts of the world now start to come out of lockdown, there’s an openness to new solutions and a widespread acceptance of new technologies.
It is now a case of when, rather than if, we’ll see a permanent shift to cashless in the future. For businesses, embracing digital innovation will be key to remaining competitive and keeping pace with consumer demand in this fast-changing payments landscape.
HOW MERCHANTS CAN IMPROVE THE ONLINE PAYMENTS EXPERIENCE
By Alan Irwin, Senior Director of Product at Global Payments UK
The dramatic increase in online shopping over the past 18 months has encouraged many businesses to invest in developing their omnichannel shopping experiences. The reasons vary – some are keen to capitalise on the trend of older shoppers migrating towards ecommerce and some are trying to make up for loss of sales in brick-and-mortar stores during the pandemic. It is also true that many businesses are shifting their models to sell direct to consumers to avoid high marketplace fees and are therefore building their ecommerce channels for the first time.
The checkout experience is arguably the most important and delicate part of the ecommerce transaction, as it can make the difference between a happy customer likely to return, and a shopping cart abandoned out of frustration and confusion. A survey from March 2020 suggested that 88% of online shopping orders were abandoned, i.e. not converted into a purchase. A seamless, customer-centric online payment experience is therefore critically important in ensuring completed transactions. But with so many payment providers available, what should businesses be looking for when trying to keep friction to a minimum?
Keep clicks to a minimum
Less touchscreen interaction equals less abandonment. Adapting the payment page to fit any device and supporting popular mobile digital wallets like Google Pay ensures a seamless, stress- and hassle-free checkout experience for the customer and keeps clicks to a minimum. Friction can present itself in the most minor features – for example, when the customer is navigating the payment form, the appropriate keypad should be shown to the customer when required. It’s much easier to enter a card number using the dial pad instead of switching between QWERTY keypad layouts.
Simplifying online forms with autofill and tokenisation also significantly reduces friction at checkout and shortens necessary time taken. Ensuring checkout forms are tagged correctly for “autofill” is a great way to offer customers a single-click to input the payment, shipping, and billing data that they have stored in their browser profile. Similarly offering a guest checkout option will help convert customers who are in a hurry or looking for a one-off purchase. This can also be achieved by offering to store the payment details (called ‘tokenisation’) for express repeat and one-click purchases.
Make it easy to understand
A tailored payments approach can increase both domestic and international global sales. By offering a checkout experience in the customer’s language, the option to pay in their currency of choice, and use their preferred method of payment (whether it’s PayPal, Alipay or card), businesses can build loyalty quickly and put customers at ease. It is equally important for merchants to ensure they always display simple direction and information about next steps to instil confidence and prevent customer drop-off. The customer should be informed of what is happening at every stage in the process, for example, whether they will proceed to SCA (Secure Customer Authentication) next or go straight through to completion.
In addition, validating forms in real-time means merchants can highlight potential errors to the customer early on, and payment providers should provide this functionality. This could be an invalid expiry date, an incorrect digit in the card number or incorrect CVV number based on card type. When issues are only flagged at the end of the process, this forces the customer to go back through the steps to figure out the error. Real-time signposting of problems removes this potential friction and reduces the potential for a declined transaction.
Ensure seamless security
Merchants should work with a payment partner who offers the right blend of security and compliance management without it coming at a cost to the end-to-end checkout experience for the user. Instilling trust and security in your checkout flow while utilising the right solutions to drive seamless authentication flows will increase customer confidence and help prevent drop-off.
The greatest level of security and control comes from either utilising hosted payment fields that the
merchant can natively integrate into their checkout flow, or a hosted payment page where they can
manage the look and feel. Showcasing your brand on the checkout page with trust signals and logos also adds to building trust with the customer.
Staying ahead of regulations is also important. Secure Customer Authentication (SCA) will soon be mandatory in the UK for all eligible digital transactions, and this doesn’t have to be a friction-full process. Tools like Transaction Risk Analysis (TRA) and Exemption Optimisation Service (EOS) can quickly score transactions and drive exemptions where there is the right blend of transaction risk.
The devil is in the details
These three rules for successful ecommerce checkout experiences may seem straightforward, but it is important to apply them at a micro level. It can take only one minor point of friction to cause a customer to abandon their cart, and this will inevitably be replicated across other similar customers. It is critical to identify friction points early on and anticipate customer needs throughout the process. Discussing these points and any opportunities to improve customer checkout experience with your ecommerce team and payment provider is an important first step towards ensuring your entire shopping experience remains competitively seamless and loyalty is won. It may be that your payment provider cannot address them, in which case it could be time to move on in order to stay competitive.
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