Gone are the days when payments were limited to either cash or card payments via the POS machines. Over the years, retail stores are known to have unending queue with people waiting to make payments for goods bought. On getting to the cashier, customers are asked to make payments with either their card or their cash. The options were very limiting and if one hasn’t brought along cash, or the POS network is down, they would either need to bring out their cards or they would be asked to go make a withdrawal at the nearest ATM for cash. As much as card payments were a convenient means to pay, customers would rather make a stop at an ATM before heading to a retail store to avoid the inconvenience of looking for cash when the need arises.
With the advent of the COVID pandemic, digital innovations have been on the increase. There is a rise in the number of digitally savvy customers since the pandemic forced people to seek alternative means of making payments without having to make any physical contacts either at banking halls or via the digital channels and had to resort to going online for their banking needs. Technology companies swung into action too, they needed to redesign channels that could accept contactless payments, while the banks needed to either upgrade their solutions to go contactless, or
collaborate with technology companies who would bring forth alternative payments’ solutions.
Having a good number of customers digitally ready to take on any technology brought to them, the advent of contactless solution was re-introduced to Africa. The card giants had to re-introduce their solution MasterCard QR solution called “MasterPass” and Visa QR solution “Visa QR” and our Nigerian switching company NIBSS, also joined the league of QR solutions providers, they named theirs “NQR”. These three companies went ahead to integrate their solution to the banks thereby making customers able to make payments from their respective bank app. The solution enables customers to simply, via their mobile app, scan the merchants QR code, and transactions are instantly settled into the merchants’ accounts. These transactions are very convenient, fast, and effective. QR transactions can be made to install retail merchants or even for web merchants. One would think that this solution would scale very quickly due to its very efficient and fast mode of payment.
However, it was taking time for customers to adopt this as the preferred means of payments, then came other alternative solutions on and off the traditional POS machines. The likes of technology companies like CORAL pay and payattitude solutions started to gain more grounds. For the coralpay multibank solution, merchants were assigned a unique code, which customers could dial, using any device or even the unstructured data device (a non-internet enabled device) as they approach the cashier’s point. Where a customer chooses to make payments on the POS using a non-internet enabled device, the cashier would generate a code that customer can simply dial from their mobile device and transaction receipt will be printed on the POS terminal.
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The payattitude solution was also an interesting addition, customers phone number with their bank were designed as their wallet, hence they could easily withdraw funds from an ATM using their phone number or even request for money from a third party, except the payer decides to decline or amend the request. These solutions garnered a lot of traction as people who couldn’t afford POS machines either because of lack of funds or network in their area of operation, they resorted to latching on to these solutions so that it doesn’t limit the options their customers have with making payments and vice-versa.
One would think we have seen it all in the digital payment industry, there was the invent of virtual accounts. Technology companies approached banks to circumvent their NUBAN account numbers to act as an alternative account number for merchants either directly, to be used as a static account or indirectly, to be used as a dynamic account, i.e., a temporary account number will be assigned to each transaction. These payments are introduced via the web on most payments gateways now, in store, and most recently, on the POS terminal, this initiative has indeed changed the payments system.
Due to the minimal failure rate of transactions done via transfers, and the convenience in making transfers to accounts at merchants’ location, the introduction of virtual account numbers available on the POS and the POS being able to print such transactions, has indeed sped the acceptability of this enhanced POS solution. There are a few banks offering this payment option with receipt printing today, one of the few banks is the VFD Microfinance bank, with just owning a device, you will be able to receive instant settlement to your account and transactions will be printed online real-time.
The future of payments still sees room for more innovations. There are inroads of tap-on-pay technology coming up. This is a technology that will enable customers use their NFC enabled mobile devices to make payments on a POS terminal by simply tapping on the POS device. We would soon start to see other means of payments in the near future. An innovation that may be easily adopted and speedily too will be one that is of convenience for both the merchants and the customers, faster settlement, and cheaper to adopt. One thing is sure; Nigeria customers are growing more digitally savvy and are more inclined to try out new solutions that aid their convenient lifestyle.
.Allison, executive director, Product & Marketing Communications, Vbank