How trust in digital payments is priming social commerce for a major uplift How trust in digital payments is priming social commerce for a major uplift
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How trust in digital payments is priming social commerce for a major uplift

How trust in digital payments is priming social commerce for a major uplift

S-commerce has several other factors going in its favour


Social media is near-ubiquitous in much of the Middle East today. In Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE for example, penetration sits around 99 per cent of the total online population, figures from recent We Are Social studies show. In Saudi Arabia, as another example, the country has some of the highest YouTube per capita viewing figures anywhere on Earth.

Yet what many businesses overlook is that social media could unlock a multibillion sales bonanza for the region’s budding e-commerce sector. Regional merchants and social media companies alike are becoming more alert to the captive audiences of in-channel, on-platform e-commerce; both throughout the year and at key shopping periods like Ramadan.

Indeed, experts forecast that this ‘social commerce’ – or s-commerce – will be one of the region’s key purchasing trends over the next 2-5 years. Social commerce uses networking websites such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter as mediums to promote and sell products and services. Already, 20 per cent of consumers we’ve surveyed in MENA say that they most frequently shop online within a social media app—more than double that of markets such as China.

The reality is that shoppable ads on social media are a vital channel for converting social browsing into social shopping. The headroom for growth is vast. And, as yet, largely untapped. To harness this potential, merchants will have to overcome a few challenges. Perhaps the most potent being that cash-on-delivery (COD) remains a prevalent payment method.

Until recently, digital payments in the region have largely lagged the rest of the world. Two years ago, more than a third (36 per cent) of consumers we surveyed said that their preferred payment method for online purchases was still COD. While the GCC countries tend to have governments who are actively pushing a cashless agenda and have populations who have readily followed suit, there are other parts of the region where the dynamics at play differ.

However, our latest data suggests that anxiety about cybersecurity in online payments—including those through s-commerce—may no longer be the significant sticking point. More than 80 per cent of consumers now regularly check the security encryption of a payment page or app before entering payment details and completing a purchase. The buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) model is also winning trust with traditionally cash-centric customers in the region. It does this by providing a natural bridge from the experience of paying in cash to paying via a digital method.

S-commerce has several other factors going in its favour. First, there’s already a veritable army of smart and powerful influencers in place across the Middle East as potential, high-impact spokespeople for s-commerce brands. Secondly, people in the region overwhelmingly trust social media. Recent studies by Pew Research Center show that 82 per cent of people in emerging markets, including many of those within the MENA region, view mobile phones as having a positive societal impact. Moreover, around 60 per cent specifically see social media channels as having positive personal and societal implications.

What that leads us to believe is that, as the shift away from COD takes place and consumers grow accustomed to parting with money before receiving their product, s-commerce will only gain more traction. For now, merchants in the region need to establish trust when offering digital payments on social media platforms, demonstrating that they deliver on their promise and fostering confidence in the market.

Remo Giovanni Abbondandolo is the senior vice president of MENA for

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