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By Gilbert Lungu

As established brands in the retail sector aggressively compete to acquire, cultivate, and defend their share of the Zambian consumer’s spend, those that connect, engage, and transact in the most unified and frictionless ways will be best positioned to grow wallet and market share.

The grocery store of today, be it a multinational retailer or your neighbourhood corner shop, has morphed into a shopping destination where consumers can buy everything from a fresh cup of coffee to sip on as they walk through the aisles, to flowers and prescription medicine. But far from being places for discretionary spending, COVID-19 made it abundantly clear that these stores, and more broadly this sector, is vital to households across Zambia – a trend that was even more evident in markets that enforced complete and mandatory lockdowns. 

The pandemic introduced new challenges for the numerous players in Zambia’s retail sector, with everything from day-to-day store operations to supply chain management requiring meticulous planning and implementation to protect suppliers, employees and customers. As this was happening, awareness and adoption of digital-first grocery shopping experiences, particularly from a payment perspective, were steadily growing. 

Consumer payments and the COVID-19 pandemic

According to Business Insider, The Payments Forecast Book 2019: Global Payments, by 2024, global consumers are expected to make 1.1 trillion non-cash payments as they purchase goods and services using a mix of mobile, online, and connected devices.

Over the past two years, COVID-19 has not only supercharged payment trends that were already in motion, but also changed major facets of the consumer experience. How customers shop and pay has rapidly changed from pre-2018. Further, their expectations regarding how they should pay has changed. For merchants in the retail space that embrace this change, this shift in consumer expectations is an opportunity to create more valuable and sustainable consumer relationships.

Compared to cash, a digital payment handled and managed only by a customer is significantly a more hygienic face-to-face payment method.

It goes without saying, the need for hygiene transcends the front-end checkout lanes to floral, pharmacy and customer experience departments. Enabling contactless and digital first payment options throughout these high-touch zones helps to protect employees and customers – over and above giving them a superior checkout experience. Looking across merchants, in 2020 our data reveals an increase in digital payment use as consumers seek to limit cash usage. For example, according to data released by the Bank of Zambia (BoZ) in June 2020, the number of mobile money subscribers grew by 38% from March 2020, and active mobile accounts increased by 30%. The value of mobile money transactions also increased by 16%. This data is indicative of the increase in diversified use of mobile money as a means of payment for goods.

As an example, Tingg was created by Cellulant for this very purpose: to provide a single digital payments platform aimed at addressing the complex payment needs of businesses. The solution has already made it easy for businesses such as Ross Breeders, Real Meat, Chicken Inn/Pizza Inn/ Creamy Inn, Lake Harvest, and many other high-volume businesses to accept mobile money payments and create a safe, secure, and seamless experience for their customers.

At Cellulant, we strongly believe that retail merchants who adopt digital payment solutions that enable simple and rewarding customer experiences – from shopping to payment – will realise and sustain a digital competitive advantage.

Digital payments provide a convenient and secure way to pay for customers. For small and large businesses alike, they reduce the risk associated with cash handling, manage customer queues, provide an opportunity to grow their customer base and eventually improve revenue and profitability. The provision of digital payment options will serve as a competitive edge for businesses that want to win in this new reality.

The author is the Country Manager for Zambia at Cellulant


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