Evolution of mobile payments in SA

2014-07-14 14:24 - Matthew le Cordeur
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Cape Town – Flick, snap, scan, zap! The words seem to come off the pages of a sci-fi comic book. Soon, all consumers will adapt this lingo as they use their phones to buy their favourite cup of coffee or purchase their dream car.

With mobile apps FlickPay, SnapScan, Zapper, VCPay and Geopayments making their presence felt more than ever, the time of cash and cards could be coming to an end.

These payment systems are a few of the dominant players in the mobile payments market, but there are a host of products and systems that are making life simpler for consumers and retailers.

Most consumers are happy if their wallet stays at home. According to a banking executive, research shows people would think twice about returning home if they left their wallet behind, but would most definitely turn around if they left their phone behind.

Phones become the perfect wallet then, because you won’t be without it. Ever.


SnapScan (owned by Standard Bank), Zapper and FlickPay are leading the retail and restaurant mobile payment sector. They all require merchandisers and customers to sign up to their app, but the rewards are great for both parties. They all use QR codes and require smartphone scan technology to link customer to retailer and purchase.

With Standard Bank’s SnapScan, under-resourced startups can go without a card payment facility (which costs money) and they don’t even need a bank account. They can redeem their money from an ATM.

It’s even easier to use as a customer, and standing in queues could be a thing of the past. When I get my coffee in the morning, the payment is done before they’ve even greeted me. Time is money.

“SnapScan works amazingly well for formal and informal enterprises alike,” said Vuyo Mpako, Standard Bank’s head of innovation and channel design. “We have created a solution that is as easy to install as it is to collect payments. Our business strategy at Standard Bank is to create accessible, convenient and secure solutions for businesses. SnapScan is a pioneering first.

“For small businesses, this is so much more than an app; it’s a real-time retail payment solution that allows business owners safe, secure and convenient payment methods for their customers,” he said. “Having SnapScan also minimises potential loss due to the lack of a POS system, essentially creating another sales stream.”

Watch Standard Bank's video about SnapScan:


Zapper is better for restaurants seeking to understand their client base and to communicate with them. It’s also linked to the point of sale system, so the QR code appears on the bill with the order, waiter and amount linked.

As a customer, it makes paying the bill among friends a breeze. The client can send vouchers through the app to loyal customers, who can redeem it when scanning their next bill. Customers can split the bill and add on tips in an app-friendly manner, making it less stressful when the bill comes.

“We’re developing the upgrade so that you can see your menu items and select them, with the tip adding on at the end,” says head of Zapper, Harrison Bean.

Bean demonstrates how to use Zapper:


FlickPay turns the QR code on its head with its app. Whereas you scan the code with SnapScan and Zapper, FlickPay generates a unique code that is then scanned by the merchant at its POS. FlickPay MD Trent McLelland said this creates a more secure environment and speeds up the payment process.

Obviously, this puts the onus on the retailer to invest in this technology and the camera software for it to work. The benefits are similar to Zapper, as you can send customers coupons and vouchers.

Payment notifications for the retailer come via SMS on SnapScan and Zapper, while FlickPay uses WiGroup technology to build notifications into the POS system, meaning notifications can be seen on the till.

McLelland talks about vouchers and security on FlickPay:


FNB’s GeoPayment and eWallet app is a sophisticated banking app that allows FNB members as well as non-members to use the app and make payments to anyone in a close geographic space. This is great for retail as well as personal transfers when people are close by.

With two parties on the app, there’s no need to set up account names and numbers – the app does all the work.  I enjoyed the YouTube clip of a mother frantically sending her son some pocket money through the app while running out to a coffee date. Talk about cyber love.


There’s also the security risk. All that data linked to bank details, which can be used to buy anything!

The PRs and CEOs of these companies pride themselves on security and safety, and rightly so. Some apps are built entirely on the model of security. Take VCPay for example. They create a virtual card offline on the app each time you make a purchase through their app.

Jose Soares, the chief marketing officer of Net1Mobile Solutions – owner of VCPay – explained the need for online payment systems that are fraud-resistant. “Our program uses an algorithm to create a cryptographic credit card,” he said in a telephonic interview.

'“Its aim is to address fraud. Our app upgrade this year will be able to generate 3D secure codes as well as a physical code,” he said. “Its main use if for online payments, but you can use it at a retail if you input the card details manually.

“It can be tricky when paying for an online airline ticket or a Computicket event as some companies don’t yet understand the system and want to see a real credit card,” he said. “We are ahead of our time with the technology.”

It scores the highest on the security scale for online purchases, but for physical retail usage, it’s not yet ideal. But definitely watch this space.

Mobile payment evolution

McLelland explained that he is passionate about being a part of the mobile payment evolution. And an evolution it is. Each one of the above systems is continuously adapting and looking at ways of improving. Innovations are being introduced all the time and so the evolution grows.

Then there are major players like banks, who are watching from the sidelines and waiting to see what works. They too will join the fray quite soon and will bring more exciting innovations.

WiGroup’s Peter Miller explained that certain technologies are yet to be implemented properly in major retail stores. NFC or near field communication allows people to tap their phone against a pad, which works like scanning a QR code. It’s faster and easier to use. And then there’s feature phone payment technology, which is a completely different story and taps into the developing markets.

The evolution of how you pay is certainly speeding up. Fin24 will be on top of these developments. If you have anything to share with Fin24 users, drop us an email about mobile payment systems.

* Now read: Philip Pieterse, senior security consultant at Trustwave, answers questions related to mobile banking security.

* Watch News24 Live: Fin24's Matthew le Cordeur, Zapper's Harrison Bean and Trustwave's Philip Pieterse chat to News24 Live's Jerusha Sukhdeo.

Read more about: cyber security  |  app

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