Online sales continue to rise in Mena region

Almost a third of businesses expecting to grow more than 20% in 2024


Somshankar Bandyopadhyay

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Published: Mon 13 May 2024, 8:41 PM

In the Middle East and North Africa (Mena), as elsewhere, customers are making more digital payments, with less cash being used in-store, and online retail sales rising, a new study shows.

A report by Amazon Payment Services, titled “Leading Trends in Digital Payments: Driving the Real-Time Economy in Mena,” identifies key trends and shows why they matter to businesses looking to serve customers better and boost revenues. Based on a study designed and conducted by Davies Hickman Partners and sponsored by Amazon Payment Services, this report comes as part of the re:Imagine Payments thought leadership forum, designed to help inform merchants and those interested in digital payments.

“The region’s own digital trajectory is rapidly moving forward,” said Peter George, Managing Director of Amazon Payment Services in Mena. “This report outlines leading trends and valuable industry findings shared directly from inspiring leaders across today’s regional landscape, setting merchants up for success to enhance their customer experience and achieve sustainable business growth.”

Digital payment enhancements are taking on critical importance for businesses in the region: 81 per cent of businesses surveyed in the report said if payment transactions were faster, revenues would increase. One reason for this is that customers are often busy and time-poor. If a transaction takes too long, they may stop short of completing it. Similarly, 83 per cent of executives said that fast checkout and payment completion are important factors in building customer loyalty. With almost a third of businesses expecting to grow more than 20 per cent in 2024, digital payment innovations take on significance for sustainable success.

The top five predicted drivers of change, as ranked by the executives, are the introduction of bank accounts linked to national identity, the growing use of digital wallets, better payment experiences, payment fraud reduction, and improved biometric authentication.

The report also highlights four leading trends expected to play a major role in business and customer payment decisions over the next five years.

Omni-pay advances: The first is the rise of omni-pay advances, driven by governments and fintech companies and offering diverse payment options, such as open banking, stable coins, and central bank digital currency, aligning with the real-time economy’s demand for immediate services. Fintech innovation and payment fragmentation — where a business is able to offer multiple payment choices across different points of sale and media — were rated among the top 10 payment drivers of change for the next five years by the executives surveyed. Overall, 89 per cent of the executives said they engage with fintechs to improve payments for their business.

Experience uplift: Consumers want immediate access to goods and services, often facilitated by digital technology. This real-time economy was rated the top consumer driver of change by the executives in the report, 64 per cent of whom said it would be very important over the next two years.

One key building block is the growing use of digital wallets, which 87 per cent of the executives surveyed said were becoming the preferred way for customers to pay. Improving payment experiences through social commerce is another growing priority: 59 per cent of executives would like to advance social commerce, while 54 per cent say that their customers would likely use livestreaming to buy products and services promoted by social media influencers.

Security centricity: The executives in the report were clear that new ways of paying will not be adopted unless payment security is in place. Businesses need robust security measures to earn customer trust, with biometric authentication and data privacy playing pivotal roles. For 68 per cent of businesses surveyed, earning customer trust was the most important reason to deploy new payment methods. Regulators and payment providers need to help businesses feel confident about the security guardrails when introducing new payment methods.

Adapting to artificial : The fourth trend identified in the report concerns innovation driven by AI adoption in payments, as new technologies transform payment efficiency and personalisation. Recent developments, including the emergence of generative AI, are amplifying the impact of this trend: 52 per cent of the executives surveyed expected significant changes in payment methods within as little as two years and 53 per cent said that immersive shopping experiences with augmented reality technology would be very important.

Along with these leading trends, the report presents five building blocks for payments strategies — trust, choice, experience, behavioral change, and sustainability. Together, these topics illuminate the complex and evolving landscape of digital payments in Mena and the imperative for businesses to continue learning to adapt, innovate, and grow.

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