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Propelling retail e-commerce in Africa with trust

At the recent Digital Retail Africa 2023 Conference, held in Johannesburg, experts agreed that e-commerce is gaining great momentum across the continent. Especially due to the propulsion to digitise by the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses are innovating, embracing digitisation. According to SABS News' coverage of the event, it is estimated that nearly half of the retail transactions in Africa will take place on the internet by 2025.
Propelling retail e-commerce in Africa with trust

At the conference, retailers were advised to use e-commerce sufficiently, to attract more customers, effectively increasing their revenue. However, some common challenges were identified. While retailers are encouraged to provide good customer service and carefully monitor transactions to ensure efficiency, e-commerce complaints have increased by 300% in the last year and a lack of infrastructure remains a concern. Add to this that cyber fraud remains one of the major problems for online shoppers and it’s clear that these obstacles must be overcome to create trustworthy e-commerce relationships.

Brendan Cuthbertson, Cisco head of private sector sales South Africa, confirmed at the event that the key here is trust. “E-commerce allows you to get a lot of data from those consumers, but you need to treat that data securely and provide a service. At the moment, with the growth of e-commerce there will always be people trying to commit fraud.” Now the question becomes, how can this be prevented?

Companies can take years to recover from data breaches; not only financially, but also in terms of repairing reputational damage following a public incident
– Carrie Peter

Retailers must ensure online shopping sites are secured for customers to transact safely. Carrie Peter, managing director of Impression Signatures – an EOH company – and a speaker at the event stated that customers are at risk for fraudulent transactions when their identities are stolen, or when impersonation occurs where criminals pretend to be a legitimate retail site.

Peter confirms that the cost of getting it wrong can be astronomical. Between cyber incidents, data breaches, and business interruption, retail businesses across Africa stand to lose crippling amounts of money if the e-commerce process is not safeguarded. “The average cyber incident costs an organisation $400,000. Locally, ENS Africa was recently hit with costs of R5.5m for an online security hack. Companies can take years to recover from data breaches; not only financially, but also in terms of repairing reputational damage following a public incident.”

This should not dissuade businesses from embracing e-commerce. With the right strategy, the legacy paper-based process that opens opportunities for fraud, abuse and data security violations can be overcome. “The key is getting it right from the start. By digitising from the first interaction, risks are massively mitigated. Digitising contracting and signature processes is a crucial step in driving trust and security at scale. E-signatures eliminate processes that are usually paper-based – ensuring security with a digital identity that creates certainty, underpinned by a private key,” adds Peter.

With this digital identity, customers are more likely to grant consent for intrusive biometric verification as part of the onboarding process. E-signatures effectively maximise the value of a single interaction, allowing this single touch to enable multiple, secure digital processes. “In this way, fraud is prevented before it starts, delivering certainty of identity and non-repudiable contracting,” concludes Peter.

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