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Digital Retail in the Age of Technology

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018 9:00AM / Feranmi Ajuwon* 

As businesses shift from the traditional brick and mortar approach of engaging customers to e-commerce, it has become more evident that financial institutions, especially banks’ business models must change. Banks cannot afford to carry on business as usual, hence the need to evolve from building more banking halls to creating technological solutions which allow customers to conduct seamless transactions online to aid financial inclusion.
 

According to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the number of active mobile phone lines recorded in the country rose from 142million in November 2017 to 144 million in December 2017. Statistics from the Nigeria Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS) also showed that the total value of transactions for four major electronic payment channels namely NIBSS Instant Payment (NIP), NIBSS Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT), Point of Sale (PoS), and Mobile (Inter-scheme) transactions rose by 35% to N69.7 trillion in 2017 from N51.6 trillion in 2016. This reflects the market potentials within the country and the growing need for digital solutions through which every Nigerian, both in the rural and urban area, can easily make transactions without joining banking hall queues for long hours.
 

The emergence of Financial Technology (FinTech) companies in the Nigerian financial ecosystem has also changed the dynamics within the landscape, thereby challenging financial services’ players especially deposit money banks to be more innovative in creating digital solutions required to meet customers’ needs and improve customer experience.
 

On the other hand, “digital retailing” has seen customers embrace the Do-It-Yourself (DIY)[self-service] approach of conducting banking transactions—from account opening within minutes to making payments online anywhere, and at any time through banks’ mobile applications. This has largely been facilitated by massive technology investment in the banking industry in a fast-changing business world. Besides the seamless transactions on secure platforms, digital retailing makes access to customer’s data easy; this enhances the improvement of the customers experience by personalizing services for every customer.
 

Most Nigerian financial institutions are taking giant strides to ensure they remain in sync with today’s digital customer behavioural and expectation patterns. A cursory look at Nigeria’s largest bank by tier 1 capital, which hither to the last couple of years was seen as a majorly corporate banking focused player provides deep insight into the future directional path of the nation’s banking sector.
 

Zenith Bank Plc has introduced a myriad of digital solutions in the last year and a half that cuts across the Nigerian retail spectrum and addresses the peculiarities of today’s audiences; focusing majorly on transaction safety, speed, convenience and user experience. An example in this regard is the extension of its account opening options to several channels that include its mobile banking app, *966# Eazybanking, its website (
www.zenithbank.com) and its Facebook page, all in a bid to enable people open accounts without having to visit its branches. 

Zenith Bank has also published 3 free for download apps on the Android and IOS app stores to facilitate customer transactions. The Bank has a dynamic mobile banking app, that is adjourned by users to be one of the most friendly and easy to use bank applications available today. It also has a Scan to Pay app that reduces in store merchant payments to seconds through quick response (QR) code scanning on any internet enabled phone and is one of only a few apps in Nigeria to support MasterPass and Visa payments. Third in its mobile app genre is an e-token app that allows customers authenticate alternative channel (Mobile, POS and Online) transactions without needing to have a hardware token.
 

Like other Nigerian deposit money banks, Zenith Bank has also introduced a USSD banking solution tagged *966# Eazybanking that allows its audiences perform transactions on any phone type by simple dialling short codes.
 

As Nigerian banks continue to re-evolve retail banking to deepen financial inclusion, digital retailing in banking will continue to rise given consumers’ choice for convenience, speed, security and efficiency in banking transactions.
 

Thus, it is essential for banks to focus on providing a more frictionless digital experience to their customers, especially in a highly competitive market. Beyond retail savings, more can be done in small-scale loans to the retail sector of the Nigerian economy. For Zenith Bank, the quest to continue to act in the “best interest of its customers” has just begun.
 

*Feranmi Ajuwon is a freelance content writer and can be reached via feranmiajuwon@gmail.com
  

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