Four things businesses need to focus on for now and beyond Covid-19
The last few months have catapulted us all into making changes faster than anyone could have imagined. Even as we all stood shook with shock, surprise and a wide disarray of emotions coping with lockdowns and social distancing measures brought about by Covid-19, organisations both large and small have somehow managed to transform overnight.
But while some shifts are being viewed as stopgap fixes just to get through the crisis, it's important to recognise that some changes are going to become a permanent part of the way both we – and our customers – live and work.
Understanding consumer behaviour patterns is most vital for the worst affected small business sector, particularly the segment reliant on the physical presence of consumers and those with limited or no digital presence.
Visa's Covid-19 Impact Tracker, an ongoing survey of merchants and consumers across the Central Europe, Middle East and Africa (CEMEA) region, found that more than more than 80 per cent of small businesses in the UAE and 93 per cent in Saudi Arabia have seen their revenues negatively impacted following the outbreak. In addition to their own livelihoods, these small sellers play an essential role in the lives of their customers, employees and vendors.
Understanding consumer behaviour patterns is most vital for the worst affected small business sector, particularly the segment reliant on the physical presence of consumers and those with limited or no digital presence.- Shahebaz Khan, Visa’s General Manager for UAE
While the short-term outlook varies by industry, small businesses must now urgently plan for both the interim and the post-pandemic economy. Visa is committed to helping small and micro businesses bounce back from Covid-19. As a company that enables digital payments at more than 61 million merchant locations around the world, we can leverage the power of our network, products, services to support the global shift to digital for buyers and sellers.
Here are four things businesses need to adapt to for now and beyond Covid-19:
#1 Bringing your A-game for online business development
Our Impact tracker found that 80 per cent of consumers in the UAE have made changes to their shopping behaviour and close to half said they intend to continue the same habits even after government restrictions are fully relaxed. For example, the outbreak has led around two-thirds of consumers in the UAE (68 per cent), as well as in neighbouring Saudi Arabia (66 per cent) to shop for groceries online. Small merchants need to look at how to enhance their online avenues to remain popular with regular customers and acquire new ones too. With this in mind, Visa has launched a ‘Small Business Hub’ - as part of our regional initiative “Where You Shop Matters” - to provide merchants with information toolkits for digital growth and resources on how to move to new digital ways of working. Bringing an A-game to online business development will reap the most benefits long term.
#2 You can't avoid contactless
Covid-19 will forever change the way we interact with money and cash-only merchants are expected to continue struggling as more consumers carry on avoiding frequently-touched objects and surfaces. Our Impact Tracker shows that 58 per cent of cash-only merchants in Saudi and 50 per cent in the UAE have suffered a drop in revenues during the pandemic. Contactless payments already represent at least a third of all face-to-face transactions in nearly 50 countries. In the UAE and Saudi, that figure is higher - with 8 out of 10 transactions in Saudi and more than half of transactions in UAE made using contactless cards or devices. Sellers that still use cash-on-delivery as the primary mode of payment need to swiftly implement a contactless consumer journey to stay in the game.
#3 Making people feel secure matters
With increased reliance on digital commerce, cybercriminals have been preying on more vulnerable first-time online shoppers. Making customers feel secure online and educating them about safe payment behaviour is critical to building trust in an e-commerce offering. According to a Visa study on the impact of Covid-19 on payment behaviour in the UAE, 58 per cent of consumers have abandoned online shopping carts because of authentication delays or failures. The survey also found that of those who abandoned their carts, 35 per cent purchased from other sites. For merchants seeking to deliver an enhanced online experience, Visa Secure (previously Verified by Visa), helps make online payments more secure and seamless, using the latest EMV 3-D Secure specification that leverages fraud-detection intelligence to verify cardholder identity and block unauthorised transactions.
#4 Data will be the decider for success
Understanding data on spending patterns will be the key to anticipating and foreseeing trends to seize the opportunity ahead. As a global payments network, we have a unique view into money movement around the world. Visa supports more than 5 million merchants, 400 million consumers in the region and enable billions of payments through our network. Currently, we are equipping issuers, acquirers and fintech firms in CEMEA with the latest data, analytics and recommendations to understand the impact of the pandemic on their businesses. Our clients can also benefit from three-month free access to our Visa Analytics Platform to analyse Visa debit, credit and prepaid data performance at the cardholder, merchant, and transaction levels to make informed decisions, and take action through analytics.
The author is Visa’s General Manager for UAE