Financial technology, also known as FinTech, is quickly becoming a dominate industry in the startup space. Around the world more and more innovative companies are finding new solutions to old problems and the Middle East is no exception. In the Arab world alone the number of startups that operate in the financial services industry has more than doubled, growing from 46 in 2013 to 105 by the end of 2015.
With this rapid growth and the massive disruption potential of FinTech, we knew we had to shine a spot light on the industry. That’s why PAYFORT has partnered with Wamda Research Labs to present the 2017 State of Fintech report.
This detailed look at the current state of financial technology in the MENA region provides you with everything you need to know about this emerging sector. Whether you’re an established player in the FinTech space or someone who’s just hearing about it for the first time, we promise this report will set you up to be a leader when it comes to the sector.
Fintech startups are currently present in 12 Arab countries across the region with the UAE, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt proving to be the most popular locations to set up shop. Out of these four however, the UAE is by far the most dynamic allowing for a wide range of FinTech technologies to evolve.
The sharp rise of FinTech across the Arab world likely stems from 4 unique factors that make the MENA region perfect for innovative new approaches to finance.
1. Currently, 86% of adults in the region still do not have bank accounts, relying almost exclusively on cash for their purchases. Companies that can break down this barrier will have a huge potential clientele to sustain their growth.
2. Lending is still almost exclusively handled by enterprise level banks. In fact, SME lending in the MENA region is half of the global average, leaving plenty of room for innovative new companies.
3. Ecommerce is growing quickly in the region and is set to quadruple over the next five years. Businesses that can carve out a piece of the action now can expect continual growth over the coming years.
4. Finally, 1 in 2 banking customers have said that they are interested in experimenting with new digital services meaning adoption of quality services shouldn’t be a problem.
Fintech is poised for greater visibility by 2020. With the payment sector showing early signs of consolidation especially in the GCC region, it can be expected that a second wave of startups will enter the game once FinTech gains a foothold as a standalone industry.
State of PAYFORT 2016 : The Most Trusted Online Payment Gateway
The year 2016 is nothing but eventful both on a global scale and here at PAYFORT.
This year in April, we successfully opened up the world of e-commerce to the Saudi consumers by integrating SADAD Account via PAYFORT. A month later, we released our State of Payments 2016 report revealing the latest insights into the buying habits of the Arab world.
The month of July was marked by two interesting events: first, PAYFORT and Shopify started working together to help start-ups in the Middle East to simplify their processes in terms of online store development and management; and second we achieved the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Certification for the third consecutive year – a testament to our commitment to e-payment security and consumer data protection.
The high ride continued the following month as we started offering the Egyptian market the liberty of making monthly installment payments through the country’s largest private sector bank, CIB. August also bore witness to our new partnership with MasterCard thus allowing PAYFORT merchants to seamlessly integrate security solutions into their own payment processes. This collaboration provides businesses the opportunity to increase both online and offline credit card transactions while offering consumers the convenience of secured, one-click payments.
We are humbled by the goals we have achieved and the partnerships we have built this year. And we are honoured on how our dedication to being the leading online payment service provider in the Middle East has been recognized by various partners and awarding bodies.
Just very recently, industry-renowned PayExpo MENA awards granted us the Digital Commerce Innovation Award for establishing a successful online payment solution across the region.
We also received Fintech of the Year award last month at The Entrepreneur MENA magazine’s annual Enterprise Agility Awards, acknowledging our efforts in breaking down barriers to introduce the convenience in adopting secure online payment methods.
In addition to that Doha Bank, one of the largest commercial banks in Qatar, gave us this year’s Partners Award, as our partnership agreement helped the Qatari market to open its arms to e-commerce. To cap off 2016 for our company, crowd-sourcing company Owler presented us this year’s Hot in Dubai award for being a top trending company in the city.
So as a thanks to the many recognition we earned 2016, we think it’s only fitting that we close its curtains by sharing PAYFORT’s ten blog posts that generated the most buzz this year:
12 – 5 ways to make money out of your ebook
There’s no denying that everyone and everything is pushing online. If you’re a writer, you have a bigger chance of earning money by publishing eBooks online than publishing actual books in the offline world. Find out how in our blog post here.
11 – No money, no problem- Starting a business on a budget
Starting a business is, first and foremost, a financial risk. However, the advent of technology has provided us many reasons to believe that the best time to launch your start up is now. Here is why.
10 – Seven tips to improve your workplace productivity
An article that will continue to be relevant year after year, here are seven simple strategies to help increase productivity inside the office. check out the blog post here.
9 – The future of marketplace services in UAE
Back in August, we had a conversation with MrUsta’s Dunia Othman about emerging trends and the future of the service industry in UAE. Check out our infographic here.
8 – Digital Vs Traditional Media
This year, a lot of companies have started embracing digital media as a marketing channel, so we decided to cover the consumer shift from traditional to digital media. Learn more about this here.
6 – Four secrets to creating the perfect two minute pitch
You don’t have to write a novel to get to your market, in fact, if you know how to do it the right way, the time it takes to pitch your idea is just two minutes. For pitching basics, check out this article we published last March.
5 – The evolution of food services
With innovation comes evolution and that’s something we continue to see even in the food service industry here in Middle East. In this article, we rounded up a number of food-based start-ups that transformed great ideas into big opportunities.
4 – The shift in online grocery shopping in KSA
The onset of digital media has opened many doors for entrepreneurs. To highlight this reality, we came up with a concise infographic showcasing data on the shift in e-commerce – particularly in the grocery shopping industry in KSA. You can check it out here.
3 – Understanding the Egyptian shopper
Egypt is a significant market for online shopping and Egyptian shoppers are a consumer base you don’t want to miss out on. To help you become their provider of choice, take a look at the infographic we created examining Egyptian market behaviour and demographics.
2 – Identity theft: Keep your personal information personal
The online world can be a double-edged sword – yes, you can do transactions the digital way but that also means having to input sensitive personal data through a website. To educate you on what identity theft is and how you can protect yourself from it, read this.
1 – How to give better presentations
Topping our top ten list is a post written to educate each and every company’s sales team on how to give better presentations. Here’s a very digestible infographic to help you becoming a master presenter.
There you go – this year’s top 10 posts for your enjoyment! Which one of these tickled your fancy? Share it with us in the comment section below or by tweeting us @PAYFORT.
Here’s to thriving through this year together and another for 2017, a new year to bring you more relevant content you can bookmark! Happy New Year everyone!
Eid Al Adha: UAE Travel Trends During the Greater Eid
With Eid Al Adha less than a week away, people across the region are scrambling to book their trips. The UAE in particular has become recognized as a travel juggernaut during Eid celebrations by both taking in, and seeing off thousands of travelers.
This week we wanted to look at some of the travel trends emerging in the United Arab Emirates so you can better position yourself for the holiday. We’ll be sharing some of the latest data to help quantify Eid’s impact this year.
Inbound Travel to the UAE
In 2016, the Eid holiday in the UAE is anticipated to begin on the 11th of September and continue for anywhere between three to five days. For some travellers this means a nine-day holiday, and for most a five-day holiday is ahead. This lengthy break has many hoteliers expecting extended stays and high occupancy rates well over 80% throughout the holiday.
As the holiday edges closer, travel agents across the country have seen increased holiday package booking across the UAE. The bookings are largely being driven by outside travellers but there is also strong local interest from residents looking to enjoy an Eid staycation.
The largest portion of the UAE’s external bookings during the Eid holiday are from other Gulf countries, with Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Qatar leading the pack.
Outbound Travel from the UAE
Not everyone is planning to remain within the UAE however. The large expat community means that as a huge number of tourists are flooding into the UAE, many residents will be on their way out.
According to YouGov, four and five-star hotels are the most requested properties amongst travellers from the United Arab Emirates with popular destinations including India, Sri Lanka, and Georgia; all of which are seeing increased UAE traffic compared to 2015.
Georgia in particular has been growing in popularity. According to the Georgian National Tourism Administration, the country is expecting to attract over 17,000 UAE visitors in 2016, representing a 687% year-on-year jump. Egypt is another favourite and is expected to see a large influx of traffic from the UAE.
Minimizing travel and maximizing vacation is the goal for most tourists from the UAE, with a large majority of travellers opting for destinations less than a four-hour flight from Dubai.
Do you have any Eid Al Adha travel plans? If yes, are you going international or planning a little staycation? Be sure to share in the comments and below and if you haven’t already head over to our social media channels for even more PAYFORT news.
A Marketers Guide to Chatbots
Chatbots are quickly gaining popularity in the world digital marketing and if you’ve used instant messaging over the last 6 months you might have already interacted with a one.
Chatbots offer a range of features that provide the user with a ‘near human’ experience without the need to wait on hold or reach out publically via social media. Though this technology is still in its infancy, chatbots have been shown to increase consumer interaction, improve overall consumer experiences, and most importantly generate sales.
One of the biggest annoyances for consumers is when your businesses can only be reached during normal working hours. As you might imagine, most of your consumers are working throughout the day and need to be able to contact your company during off hours.
A chatbot, while not a perfect substitute for a person, can provide an excellent first point of contact to assist with general questions. Anytime availability means your company can market themselves as easily accessible and consumer friendly.
Simple and Autonomous Interactions
At first, may seem strange to develop your chatbots for marketing purposes, but when you look at the impact they can have, you start to see that they are valuable tool.
Even if they are used as a simple preliminary point of contact, they help make you brand more available and create a better experience. A better consumer experience means more word-of-mouth recommendations and can have a considerable impact on sales and conversions.
Monitor Consumer Behaviour
Chatbots can also be programmed to monitor the inquiry and purchasing habits of your customers. With this information your company can better understand how you should be marketing your products and where you need to make changes.
By tracking responses and aggregating the data a chatbot can learn to adapt responses based upon consumer language and identify upsell opportunities. This type of activity fits neatly into any marketing framework as a tool to increase purchase size and encourage consumers to try different products.
Convert Data to Personalized Advertisements
Another useful feature of chatbots is the ability to identify customer details (such as first name) early the introduction phase.
This opens up interesting advertising opportunities throughout the conversation. For example, once a consumer’s issue has been identified, you can have the bot to ask the consumer to hold a moment to research an appropriate solution. During this time, you can share a personalized advertisement tailored specifically for that customer with their name included in the ad.
This tool can become even more powerful when data from previous interactions is used. You can, for example gather data on what time of day a particular customer is most receptive to upsells and only run ads during those times. They can also scan past purchase history and offer discounts on relevant accessories.
It’s important to be aware that chatbots aren’t right for every situation and their use should be considered carefully. But when implemented correctly, a chatbot can benefit both the customer and the business all while creating better consumer relations.
What are your thoughts on chatbots? Have you used one for marketing, or maybe interacted with one as a consumer? Let us know in the comments below or reach out on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn
FinTech is Coming to Egypt
Over the past decade FinTech (or Financial Technology) has become a prominent sector within the global startup scene. As the world’s financial systems continue to become more complicated and interconnected, the demand for better technology to access these systems has grown exponentially.
Now that demand is making its way to Cairo and Flat6Labs in partnership with Barclays Bank of Egypt are ready to support some of the region’s leading FinTech startups.
Sound interesting? Then keep reading, we’ve compiled everything you need to know to get started in this ‘first of its kind’ program.
Introducing the 1864 Accelerator
The 1864 Accelerator constitutes the first Egyptian startup accelerator program of its kind. With an aggressive focus on FinTech, the program hopes to empower some of the region’s top talent with the tools they need to innovation in the financial world.
Leveraging the accelerator experience of Flat6Labs and the financial experience of Barclays Bank Egypt, 1864 provides one of the best platforms for launching a financial focused startup. At its core, 1864 is hoping to shake up the middle east’s financial sector by enabling entrepreneurs to transform their disruptive ideas from concepts into commercially viable solutions.
The name “1864 Accelerator” was chosen to highlight the long standing history of Barclays in Egypt, with “1864” representing the bank’s inception. The bank’s longstanding history in the region combined with Flat6Labs accelerator experience makes this program one of the most exciting FinTech opportunities currently available to entrepreneurs.
FinTech: A Highly Competitive Industry
As you might imagine FinTech has earned a reputation as one of the most competitive and demanding startup sectors and 1864 isn’t an exception. The program requires disruptive ideas and a teams that can deliver.
But if you have what it takes, you’ll join a select group of innovative startup companies, enjoying full access to both Barclays and Flat6Labs’ expansive partnership networks. The accelerator is poised to create a new wave of Fintech entrepreneurs focused on developing solutions and applications tailored to the unique challenges of the MENA region.
If selected, participants will receive seed funding, customized mentorship, a working space, and a multitude of perks and services from partners. The entire program is tailored to give every idea the best chance to succeed and reach an ‘investment ready state within 14 weeks.
How to Get Involved
To encourage the community to come up truly innovative ideas, Flat6Labs will be hosting a series of events in the lead up the program. The events will focus on themed ideation sessions, a FinTech focused Hackathon, business growth boot camp and more traditional workshops.
Startups who believe their product is right for the program can apply for the accelerator through the 1864 website and complete the required forms via the Flat6Labs portal. The portal will remain open for 2 months while the accelerator team screen submissions and prepares for the next stage of selection.
Applications for 1864 will be closing August 7th so make sure you check out the link and get your application in on time. If you’re looking to get more involved, Flat6Labs will also be organizing a local Fintech Hackathon supported by Barclays August 4th to the 6th at The Greek Campus. The Hackathon will be a key platform for introducing and promoting 1864’s first cycle so if you’re interested be sure participate.
Want to stay up to date on the latest entrepreneurial trends and events? Be sure to follow PAYFORT on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter to make sure you never miss an update.
Gamification in Different Contexts
In our previous pieces about gamification we covered the basic strategies for eCommerce businesses and provided a few key examples of well executed campaigns. This week, we’re going to be broadening our scope and looking at gamification in multiple contexts.
Gamification is a powerful tool that can motivate employees, create some healthy competition, generate social buzz, and most importantly encourage customer loyalty. There are numerous techniques that can be used to get great results and no matter what your goals are, there’s a gamification technique to support them.
We’ve highlighted several areas where gamification has proven to be successful so you can better take advantage of these techniques in your day to day life as well as your business.
Personal Improvement and Motivation
Nearly everyone on this planet has something that they would like to improve. Whether it’s living healthier of cutting out a bad habit, gamification has proven to be one of the most powerful pathways to personal improvement.
An excellent example of gamification in this context is fitness blogger Jillian Michael’s challenges. The programs encourage users to follow her fitness programs using gamification techniques to promote several fitness challenges.
The site offers a wide range of challenges and allows users to select an option that closely aligns with their personal goals and lifestyle. Each challenge incorporates unique gamification techniques, including contests and prizes, achievement badges, and group challenges.
Employee efficiency has become an increasingly important aspect of the business world. With growing workloads and employees being stretch across multiple roles, finding techniques to help them stay motivated and productive are critical.
The Email Game by Baydin is just such a tool. The Email Game uses gamification to boost productivity, by giving users a tight 3-minute time limit to respond to emails. The game then rewards you with points and accomplishments when you’ve responded quickly or better managed your workflow.
Behind the scenes, Baydin’s Email Game benefits Baydin by fostering customer loyalty, and keeping its customers engaged with the project. At the same time, there’s no denying that this type of gamification also leads to more productive teams and some friendly competition in the office.
Gamification continues to be an excellent tool for encouraging customer loyalty and keeping customers engaged with your product. By creating a useful and competitive platform for customers to compare their habits, you can be sure your product will always be on your customer’s mind.
The Nissan Carwings program for example aims to gamify daily driving and has proven to be incredibly successful. Offering regional rankings, owners can compare their performance to other local drivers and earn medals based on how they behaviour compares to the regional average.
Nissan also made sure to include some added value features such as connecting your car to your smartphone to get reminders, start charging the battery, set timers, and even turn on the A/C. These features combined with leader boards help create a strong connection between brand and consumer
When tackling large projects using online services and freelancers, there is always a concern that the work might not get completed. Fortunately, gamification has been shown to have a surprising impact in this space as well.
DevHub was one such company that used gamification to leverage the competitive nature of their network. In their case, simply adding a series of badges (called devatars) which are awarded for completing certain tasks, the company saw the number of users who completed projects jump from 10 percent to an astonishing 80 percent.
The technique looks to incentivize and motivate users during some of the most tedious and challenging obstacles, giving them that extra push right when they’re ready to give up.
Interested in learning more about the world of ecommerce strategy? Stay connected by following PAYFORT on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for the latest news! And if you want to share your favourite examples of gamification reach out in the comments below.
Eid Marketing: What You Need to Know
Over the past decades Eid Al-Fitr, like so many holidays, has become a season of increased consumerism. With this this time of year bringing a renewed interest in shopping, marketers are under more pressure than ever to understand what it takes to reach consumers.
In this brief guide we’ll cover the basics of Eid marketing, so you can take advantage of the opportunities, avoid marketing mistakes, and be as successful as possible with your seasonal marketing efforts.
Message to use
Eid Mubarak translates “blessed festival” and is used not only used during Eid Al-Fitr, but also during a number of other Islamic holidays. While the saying is occasionally used during the lead up to Eid al-Fitr, it is far more common to see and hear it once Ramadan is over and the celebrations have begun.
It should be noted that this seasonal saying is taken directly from Arabic and therefore may have varying spellings in English.
Imagery plays an important role in nearly all aspects of modern marketing, and Eid Al-Fitr is no exception. Understanding the symbols and their meanings allow you to better align your campaigns with the spirit of the holiday.
The Crescent Moon
One of the most common symbols for Eid, Ramadan and Islam is the crescent moon. The first sighting of the crescent moon marks the beginning of each month, and this includes the months of Ramadan and Shawwal which marks the start of Eid al-Fitr.
With a clear connection the Eid celebrations, the crescent is one of the the most common symbols used in Eid advertising. If you are planning on doing any type of visual marketing during Eid holiday be sure to incorporate the crescent moon.
During the month of Ramadan, many Muslims shift to later hours and spend much of their nights awake. As a result, lanterns have become synonymous with the Ramadan season, especially in countries like Egypt where the tradition began.
Though the lantern isn’t as common as the crescent moon during the Eid season, many marketing campaigns utilize lanterns in various ad formats to convey the spirit of Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr.
Respecting Culture in Your Marketing Messages
As with any cultural or religious holiday, you need to be cautious when creating ads and selecting messaging. Your ads not only need to be relevant to the holiday season but it needs to be respectful of Muslim culture and tradition.
In any campaign you have to remember that Eid Al-Fitr is a religious tradition with strong emotional ties for all Muslims. If you have any doubt about your marketing messages, reach out to locals who can confirm the content will not be read in the wrong way.
Eid Al-Fitr can be a very lucrative season when marketing campaigns are executed properly, but If you want to be successful you need to understand as much as possible about the holiday. Hopefully this guide has given you a foundation to understand your target audience, respect their beliefs, and develop creative campaigns that align with the theme of Eid Al-Fitr.
Have you seen any Eid campaigns that captured the spirit of the holiday season? Let us know in the comments below. Eid Mubarak and thanks for reading the PAYFORT blog!
Are Payroll Cards the Key to Financial Inclusion in Egypt?
In places like the United States, there is considerable debate over the use of payroll cards; but in Egypt, they are being viewed as an effective tool to give a nation access to the world of electronic payments.
Advocates of the cards say that this technology will provide a large portion of the Egyptian population who are currently underbanked, with access to the country’s banking system as well as the growing Egyptian ecommerce marketplace.
In this post we’ll provide a quick introduction to how these cards work and how companies like Visa are hoping to roll out the technology across the country.
What are Payroll Cards?
A payroll card is a special prepaid card which an employee can use to collect their salary and serve as an alternative to other payment options such as cash, direct deposit or paper checks.
Payroll cards are often offered by banks and credit card companies as a service for underbanked employees who do not have access to bank accounts and bring a range of benefits. Employers are able to save money by not issuing paper checks, while employees can get their money instantly, just like employees who use direct deposit, and they don’t have to pay check-cashing fees or worry about losing large sums of cash.
Why the Underbanked Use Payroll Cards
For the underbanked, a payroll card is often the best way to take advantage of several electronic payment services. They offer the ability to use resources traditionally associated with bank accounts such as access to cash through ATMs, purchasing products via online merchants, bill payments, mobile banking applications and online tools to better manage funds.
In many parts of the world, gaining access to mobile banking applications is especially important. As the mobile internet has become increasingly popular, more people are relying on their smartphone for day to day internet access. Having the ability to monitor and manage their money in real time paves the way for a more financial active population.
How Egypt Hopes to Use Them
Visa Egypt is working closely with the government to educate employees about the benefits of Payroll Cards. The General Manager of Visa Egypt, Tarek Mahfouz, said that they are currently focused on government employees and ensuring they understand how to best use the technology.
Both Visa and the Egyptian government feel programs like this play a crucial role in increasing financial inclusion, particularly as it will show employees— now payroll cards holders—the multiple advantages these cards can have.
In addition to education, payment companies are preparing to broaden the acceptance of electronic payments, encouraging brick and mortar as well as online merchants to support a wider range of electronic payment options.
What are thoughts on Payroll Cards? Do you think they can help to bring more Egyptians into the world of electronic payments? Let us know in the comment below and if you haven’t already be sure to check out our 2016 State of Payments report for the latest on the region’s payment landscape.
State of Payment 2016 Teaser: Consumer Survey
For the third year in row, PAYFORT has created a Consumer Survey to summarizee everything you need to know about payments and ecommerce in the Middle East. Providing a comprehensive look at consumers across the Arab World our 2016 State of Payments Report includes the latest survey data from seven countries.
Online shopping in the region has been growing steadily each year with 2015 proving to be the best year yet. We observed 53% of the Arab population shopping online at least once per month, bringing the region even closer to the purchase frequency seen in more developed marketplaces.
Understanding what brings consumers online is crucial to providing the best experience possible. In the 2016 Report we reached out to thousands of shoppers to see why they were moving online, with better prices proving to be the biggest factor.
Interested in learning more about what makes Arab consumers tick? Make sure you check back here on May 29th to get immediate access to our 2016 State of Payments Report.
State of Payment 2016 Teaser: Trends
PAYFORT began in 2013 with the goal of connecting businesses and their customers through better payment options. Since we began, our company has processed billions of dollars in transactions and made connections with hundreds of businesses.
We’ve learned a lot in that time and as always we want to share that knowledge with you as soon as possible. Our third State of Payments Report is just around the corner but we wanted to share an early sneak peek with our readers. This year we’ve leveraged our business connections to gather up to date trends for the region. Covering market size, seasonality, and much more our State of Payments provides a resource for businesses big and small.
Check out a sneak peek of the upcoming State of Payments Report trends section below:
Throughout 2015 there has been positive growth at both country and industry levels. Across the region we saw very strong growth with market size increasing by an impressive 23.3% overall.
Want to see our forecast for future growth? Be sure to check back here at the end of May to get immediate access to the full PAYFORT State of Payments Report.
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4 Genius Example of Gamification in Business
In a recent post, you learned what gamification in an ecommerce context means, but reading about it and understanding it are two different things. Below we show you how gamification was used by big-name companies to increase their competitive advantage.
As mentioned in the previous article, there are three key elements to gamification: a defined challenge, clear instructions and a tangible reward. Although Nike has always been good at engaging its customers, their Nike+ initiative is a cut above the rest. Their customers use the Nike+ software systems to track metrics like distance, pace, calories burned, etc. as well as a running history so they can adjust running goals. Not only does it encourage users to brag about their accomplishments on social media (enhancing the Nike brand), it also compiles valuable information for the Nike marketing team which makes Nike+ an ideal example of gamification.
Steam Trading Card Initiative
Part of Steam’s genius is their understanding of their audience. Steam is a multi-player platform for distributing games online. So, how do you use gamification on seasoned gamers? By introducing the Trading Card Initiative, which plays on gamers enhanced desire to “collect” and “complete”. Users of Steam get cards by purchasing games, then their goal is to trade with other gamers until they have a full set. Once that happens, they are able to unlock rewards and discounts. In this instance, gamification works to increase sales (gamers will buy more games in the hopes of getting the cards they need) as well as an improved sense of community as customers search for new people to trade with.
M&M Pretzel Game
M&Ms posted an image of a pretzel hidden in a sea of M&Ms in 2013. The game portion of this marketing ploy was simply to identify where the pretzel was within the image, but it garnered the company 25,000 new likes and had people talking and sharing the image for weeks afterwards. This type of game is creative, easy to understand and cheap to construct, but it plays on people’s desire to compete. This is a genius approach to achieving the first rule of good gamification – an interesting challenge!
One of the earliest and most successful gamification stories comes from the Duolingo app which launched in 2011. They were able to transform the sometimes frustrating process of learning a new language into an interactive game. You can lose lives, gain points and hit new levels of achievement as you improve skills and vocabulary. The Duolingo app is truly innovative in how it incentivizes users to continue learning, as well as rewards them for successes along the way. Almost the entire app uses some form of gamification and its popularity is evident, especially after being named the 2013 iPhone App of the Year.
Want to learn more about the latest in ecommerce success stories or gain new strategies for improving your company’s online presence? Stay connected by following PAYFORT on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for the latest news!
The Future of Loyalty Programs – 2016 Outlook
Currently there are countless loyalty programs implemented throughout the world. These programs are a proven customer retention tool and they can help to insure your customers keep coming back.
By offering access to rewards—often in the form of redeemable points or percentage discounts—an effective loyalty program provides your customers with a sense ‘elite status’ in the eyes of your organization. In exchange for this status, consumers tend forge a strong relationship with your brand or store; driven by the idea that the more they shop with you the more they will benefit.
This model of loyalty program has worked exceptionally well over the past half century but today its effectiveness is starting to waiver. Modern shoppers are savvier than ever, and with technology giving them access to virtually limitless options, you’re not going to be able to lock in their business with a system of plastic and points.
This new style of consumer has led to the next generation of customized incentives, designed to not only appeal to shoppers’ price sensitivity, but also their social and emotional motivators.
Using Big Data to Reward Loyalty
According to modern retail survey data, for many organizations although only a small number (12 to 15 percent) of customers are considered ‘loyal’, that group provides 55 to 70 percent of the organization’s business. Retaining this highly profitable demographic in the coming years will become more difficult and require adjustments to your loyalty program to meet the demands of a new generation.
Loyal consumers now have an expectation of personalized rewards, tailored to their unique shopping preferences and habits. Examples of this strategy are abundant in the Food and Beverage (F&B) industry where razor thin-margins make mass discounts difficult to sustain. Instead businesses rely on data analysis to provide personalized discounts that increase as consumer loyalty strengthens.
Going Mobile: Capturing a New Generation
In an age where one is afforded limitless retail opportunities through ecommerce, mobile notifications, and social media, it’s no surprise that shoppers are expecting greater rewards for their loyalty.
To keep up, your program needs to become as dynamic as today’s shoppers and should be flexible across a variety of platforms and devices. Millennials, who represent the largest group of smartphone users, are consistently on the go and very comfortable using technologies such as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Near Field Communications (NFC) to connect with brands.
Within this critical demographic, businesses are seeing opportunities to abandon traditional loyalty cards for virtual apps. This transitions looks to merge digital payment with mobile coupons, product information scans, and reward redemption opportunities available at a tap on any enabled device.
In addition to offering more value to shoppers, as a retailer this increased access to consumer information can prove invaluable in learning what motivates, discourages, or drives your customers toward a purchase. It is important to recognize that this knowledge needs to be used responsibly; it is important that you use this information to make consumers feel valuable and connected rather than violated.
A Look Forward: The New Face of Loyalty in the Middle East
As businesses begin to understand new shopper expectations and user technologies, loyalty programs will see a major upheaval. The tactics that once proved successful, need to be redesigned align with today’s consumers.
Air Miles ME has taken a big step forward by introducing ‘Air Miles Everywhere’. This program aims to enable virtually any business to reward customers with Air Miles through a smartphone or tablet. On the consumer side this new program is paving the way to ditching their card and moving the whole program into the digital realm.
Shukran Rewards has integrated their loyalty program within a sleek smartphone application allowing users to view and use their rewards right from within the app. Though still in its early stages the app demonstrates the simplicity we can expect in future loyalty programs; allowing us to claim our rewards with a simple tap of the screen and enhancing the overall shopping experience.
To get the most out of your loyalty program you need to consider personalization, community, and connectivity. Companies that are able to innovate and provide modern consumers with truly rewarding experiences will be the future for many shoppers.
Does your business offer loyalty rewards? Let us know in the comments below and if you’re not already follow us on Twitter for the latest PAYFORT news.
Mobile Payments Awareness Soars, but Usage Remains Low
2015 has seen the arrival of several major players to the mobile payment arena. This flood of new options has certainly had an impact on consumer awareness but has done little to increase adoption rates.
Who’s Using Them
A new report by Accenture indicates that in North America (the current mobile payments battleground) less than 20% of people are using mobile payments one time per week. The report, which is based on responses from 4,000 smartphone users across the United States and Canada, shows that while awareness of cell phone based payments rose by about 52% year on year, the growth of actual payments increased by just 1%.
The adoption driving the growth of mobile payments occurs mainly within high-income consumers with a household income of more than $150,000, followed by the millennial consumer base. Nearly 40% of high-income consumers said they make mobile payments weekly, while 23% of millennials reported the same.
How to Capture Consumer Interest
This latest data leaves companies like Apple, Google and Samsung asking a simple question; what will it take to finally lift mobile payments usage off the ground? A recent survey provides some clues with consumers expressing a demand for discount pricing and behaviour specific incentives when mobile payments are used.
Roughly 80% of consumers that have used mobile payments said they would increase usage if they were offered deals based on their shopping behaviour. At the same time 54% of consumers not currently using mobile payments said they would start if they were offered discount pricing or coupons.
The survey results also revealed the details of the evolving landscape and what platforms are pulling ahead. Just over one year after its initial release, Apple Pay has emerged as a clear front-runner accounting for over two-thirds (68%) of mobile transactions across the US.
What Does This Mean for the Middle East
Though the above data comes from a different region, it does give some indication of how mobile payments might progress here in the Middle East. With an expected 195 million smartphone users by 2018, high smartphone penetration across the region will bring mobile payments to a large audience quickly.
Smartphone users in the Middle East already use their devices for a range of shopping related tasks such as price comparison, product research, and retailer location, but it will be up to businesses to incentivise consumers and capitalize on the mobile payment trend. Entrepreneurs that listen to consumer pain points in the West and create successful solutions stand to gain the most from this innovative technology.
Ultimately, it will be the customers that determine the fate of this new payment method, but one thing’s for sure, 2016 will be a critical year in the Middle East for this developing technology.
Have you tried any mobile payment platforms? What would it take to get you to pay with your phone? Let us know in the comments below or reach out to us on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.
YouTube Shopping Ads – Turning Videos into Virtual Storefronts
Published – 2015-11-02
In today’s advertising climate, brands are placing more pressure than ever on marketers to reach new audiences and more importantly drive conversions. As a result, marketers are constantly looking for new ways to sell quickly, without the need to push consumers through a traditional sales funnel.
Internet giants are listening closely to these demands and Google recently announced their latest tool to make selling on YouTube a whole lot easier.
YouTube’s latest addition
Over the past 5 years YouTube has evolved from a simple video hosting platform to an advertising superpower, and their latest announcement indicates they won’t be slowing down anytime soon.
Introducing YouTube Shopping Ads, a new style of ad that looks to transform the YouTube videos we know and love into virtual storefronts. The move hopes to capitalize on the growing market of product related videos and is the latest in a series to find a way to better monetize the platform.
In the past year there has been a 40 percent increase in product related video viewership and in a recent poll 20 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds say they go to YouTube to find out what to buy.
How they work
Unsurprisingly Google has kept the exact process under wraps, but we know they will be pairing shopping ads with videos based on its search algorithms. The ads are designed to be a small, unobtrusive box that appears in the upper right-hand corner of your video. A click reveals a drop down menu with product image and prices, another sends users directly to the retailers site.
As with many other Google advertising products advertisers only pay when a user clicks on the ad to go to that site. The ads will soft launch this fall and are expect to roll out aggressively in 2016.
This move from YouTube makes it the latest ad-driven platform to really embrace e-commerce. This renewed interest isn’t just about the potential revenue from taking a cut of sales though, instead social networks are looking at the potential growth in overall marketing dollars from ads that quickly, easily drive actual sales.
For the last year Twitter has been working on the ability to buy within tweets and Facebook has been working on a “buy” button for online purchases. Recently rolled out Instagram advertising were sure to include a “Shop Now” button.
With digital commerce estimated to be worth over $300 billion for the first time it’s no wonder companies are looking for innovative ways to get their piece of the pie.
What do you think of YouTube’s latest ad offering? Do you think it will help businesses sell more products? Share your thoughts in the comments below and if you’re not already be sure to follow us on Twitter @PAYFORT.
The New Age of Snapchat Monetization – Sponsored Lenses
Everyone agrees it isn’t easy to get hundreds of thousands, or in some cases hundreds of millions of users to flock to a social media platform. With that said, as the years go by we are increasingly seeing entrepreneurs successfully pull this off. Even for those few that are able to reach such a milestone, the biggest challenge is still awaits them.
A monetization strategy is becoming increasingly important to investors looking at up-and-coming businesses, and while mega-players like Facebook have shown that it can be done, many other popular digital networks are struggling to leverage their massive user base.
One such example is Snapchat. Traditional ads don’t really fit the app’s unique environment, and as a result they have spectacularly underperformed thus far. In-app purchases are another avenue that is currently under development, but it’s unclear whether users interested in paying to upgrade their experience.
Snapchat’s latest announcement however, may mean that users won’t be the ones paying.
Snapchat is introducing Sponsored Lenses — a custom filter for selfies that allows brands to become part of a user’s self-snapshot. The idea is that these lenses will make snaps look cooler, making them more likely to be shared and (most importantly for the advertiser that supports the filter) more likely to get seen by a viral audience.
Built using the selfie animation technology Snapchat picked up from acquiring Looksery, Sponsored Lenses are an expansion on the Sponsored Geofilters that are used to modify the background of Snaps with a few distinct differences. Particularly, the new selfie animations are completely user-voluntary and offer a potentially fun and unique experience for users.
For example if you are a company releasing a horror movie this Halloween, why not help Snapchat users animate themselves into a brain eating zombies that they can then send to their friends.
So how much is the tech worth? At this time the market is still sorting that out, and it will likely take some time to settle once and for all. In the meantime however, according to reports by Financial Times a brand like Marvel would have to pay anywhere from $400,000 to $750,000 to distribute a selfie Lens branded with Iron Man 4 across the Snapchat network.
At that price the technology is far from accessible for the majority of SMEs in the world, but if the Selfie Lens proves popular among the big brands, you can expect Snapchat to find a way to bring it to the masses.
Be sure to follow @Payfort on Twitter for the latest updates and insights on the Middle East’s ever changing digital world.
The Sharing Economy – Global and Local Views
2014 was a rough year for Uber’s image, but you wouldn’t know it based on the company’s financials. Despite just turning six this year, Uber is projected to earn $10 billion in gross revenue in 2015 and was recently valued at over $50 billion. Uber’s incredible success despite the company’s current PR problems reveals one simple truth; their ‘share based’ business model is rock solid.
Companies around the world are starting to explore these new business models that deliver improved customer experiences and disrupt a range of traditional industries. With the global sharing economy reaching $15 billion in 2014 and projected to grow to $335 billion by 2025, this new model isn’t a fad – it’s the new way to do business.
Old idea – New normal
The core concepts of a sharing economy isn’t entirely new; companies such as Napster, eBay and even Craigslist all followed similar tenets. Strong communities built around sharing have had a major impact on consumers, creating an environment where customers are more trusting and more willing to take risks.
Companies like Uber and Airbnb are building on this style of consumption, creating affordable solutions that place consumers at the centre of completely new experiences.
The Middle East
This new way of doing business is transforming industries and redefining user expectations around the world and the Middle East is no exception. A number of innovative companies are already looking at how they can leverage this shift in consumer behaviour and improve on existing solutions.
Careem represents one of the most well-known platforms, offering Uber style transportation services in a number of the region’s major cities. Easily accessible through a user’s smartphone, the service provides luxury transportation quickly and easily.
Another platform that has popped up in the UAE is Yumamia. Branding itself as the place “where home cooks & hungry foodies meet,” the platform places users at the centre of an expansive network of talented home chefs. Chefs are able to share their food will a larger audience (making money in the process) and hungry customers get access to a range of home cooked meals.
With more and more services popping up across the region, it’s clear that Middle Eastern entrepreneurs are in tune with this new style of business. It will be very exciting to see what influence the region’s unique cultures will have on this new business model.
Where it’s headed
It is unlikely the sharing economy will end with taxis, vacation rentals, and home cooked meals. Even now it is expanding rapidly and is primed to have a big impact in the coming years.
As consumers start to become more accustomed to sharing their belongings and spaces, demand in traditional industries will likely decrease. Rather than competing with a single new participant, companies will find themselves competing with millions of individuals who are willing to rent the exact same products for a fraction of the cost.
It won’t be long before the majority will no longer debate the merits and dangers of the sharing economy. It will simply be the new way we do business. Traditional companies will fight it, but in trying to do so they are setting themselves up to fail. Along the way there will be growing pains, but the fact is this new sharing economy is here to stay.
What are your thoughts on the ‘sharing economy’? Be sure to let us know in the comments below or tweet us @PAYFORT.
Payfort Monthly Roundup
This week we’re introducing a new monthly roundup that covers some of the most interesting stories of the month. Whether you’re interested in the latest startups-to-watch or new technologies hitting the market, we’ve got something for you.
Be sure to let us know what you think in the comments below and if there’s a story you’d like to see covered in next month’s wrap up be sure to reach out on Twitter.
News: Wuzzuf Secures Egypt’s Largest Funding Round
Over the past years, the Middle East has seen increasing attention from western VCs looking to invest in new markets. For BasharSoft, the startup behind Egyptian recruiting site Wuzzuf, this investment has propelled the company into the local spotlight.
Last week Wuzzuf closed a Series A worth $1.7 million from Sweden-based Vostok New Ventures and UK-based Piton Capital. Wuzzuf, created in 2009 by Basharsoft, uses a proprietary algorithm that analyses applicant profiles and jobs to produce real-time recommendations for both employers and job seekers.
Despite the impressive funding round, Wuzzuf still faces stiff competition in the Egyptian recruitment market. Bayt.com is currently operating in the region and it is rumoured that Rocket Internet are looking to join the jobs classifieds business within the MENA region.
Startups to Watch: Swappaholics launches skillz.io
Swappaholics, an innovative startup that graduated from Dubai’s TURN8 Accelerator program, has launched a disruptive new platform that looks to shake up the way skilled individuals get things done.
Skillz.io is described as a ‘skills swapping portal’ and is modelled around a barter trade system that allows individuals to connect and swap skills in a social setting. A website designer might offer to design a website for a legal professional in exchange for legal services in the future.
It’s unclear whether this new style of service exchange will catch on, but if it does there’s no doubt it will have a big impact for freelancers across the region. Additionally, by turning individual’s skills and knowledge into a useable currency, Skillz has the potential to kick-start local economies where traditional money is in short supply.
Technology: Will smart-shirts be the next big thing in wearables?
Sensors are showing up in more and more of our daily items, evolving each day to improve their accuracy and most importantly their comfort. Building on the technology found in many smartphones and smart watches, Montreal-based Pierre-Alexandre Fournier has developed what may be the future of wearable sensors.
Fournier’s new ‘smart-shirt’ technology was developed by his company, Hexoskin and employs sensors that allow athletes, or anyone, to track their movement, burned calories, and more.
Fournier’s major innovation isn’t creating these wearable smart-shirts, but making them small, comfy, and affordable. Wearable sensors can be found in Nike and Adidas shoes, as well as several smart watches but the tech is bulky and expensive.
This type of wearable tech hasn’t found much use outside of professional sports and fitness enthusiasts, but as the cost drops and people get more comfortable with sensors in their lives it might only be a few years before we see products like iClothes and the Galaxy Shirt.
Mix N’ Mentor Beirut, the largest gathering of established Lebanese startups, took place this weekend on September 5th. Mix N’ Mentor brings together promising entrepreneurs with top regional and global mentors.
The event connects you with VCs, serial entrepreneurs, and mentors all of whom are looking to remove barriers and support the region’s growing startup community.
Event: Techniya – Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Are you part of startup looking for a place to pitch your ideas? Do you want to get feedback that can help you get the most out of your business? Are you located in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia?
If your answers to the above questions are yes, then be sure to check out @Techniya, a monthly meeting where you can talk with likeminded individuals to see if your idea has what it takes. It‘s a private event that takes place on the first Thursday of each month, so if your interested check out techniya.com/register and apply for an official invitation.
Are there any interesting stories you’d like to see on the Payfort blog? Be sure to share them below in the comments or reach out on twitter @payfort!
Payfort acquires White Payments
“How hard could it possibly be?”, I remember thinking. Boy was I in for a treat.
It was April 2014, and I’d just got back from a month-long biking trip to Iceland — a 1,300km journey around Iceland’s Route 1, the road that circles the entire island.
I was dabbling with new ideas for a startup, and found myself intent on solving the broken public transport system in my native Bahrain. So I built out this super-simple landing page and just needed to setup payments so I could test it out in the wild (with real paying customers). I’d set aside a few hours for the payment integration, but quickly found out that I’d need more than that. Alot more. My initial googling efforts revealed that I needed a trade license, a $30,000 security deposit about a month to get setup with the bank. This was a joke. I knew that the process takes about an hour in the US, and it’s also completely free. (more…)
Join the PayFort Team. We’re Hiring!
We’re always looking for the next person who could be a great fit for the PayFort team! Is it you?
What We’re Looking For
Content is one of the keystones of PayFort. We learn everything we can about a topic and share it with our audience. We listen to their insights, work to answer their questions and grow together. We’d love to hear your ideas on how to make our content stronger! (more…)
State of Payments Teaser
PayFort began in 2013 with a simple goal, connecting businesses and their customers through better payment options. Since then we have processed billions of dollars in transactions and worked with hundreds of online businesses across the Arab World.