WiPlatform Mobile Transacting Hits the Sweet Spot

Mobile transaction enabler WiGroup has facilitated in-store phone transactions worth over R1bn in 2013 – a 500% increase over 2012 - as major retailers, including Shoprite Checkers and Pick n Pay have come online with applications like EeziCoupon and MTN Mobile Money.

“This shows quite clearly that mobile phones are now firmly part of the transaction landscape,” says wiGroup CEO Bevan Ducasse. “Over 30 000 point of sale lanes in South Africa are now able to accept mobile payments and process phone-based vouchers and coupons using our WiPlatform mobile transacting solution.”

WiPlatform Mobile Transacting (image: www.wigroup.co.za)Ducasse adds that consumers are increasingly comfortable with the idea that discount coupons, vouchers or loyalty points, to take just two examples, can be sent direct to their phones rather than being printed on paper. “Mobile voucher and coupon campaigns are seeing redemption rates of around 50% or more, compared to less than 10% for paper coupons,” he says. “And it doesn’t need a smartphone – some of the most successful campaigns run through WiPlatform have been targeted to lower LSMs where people often have only the most basic phones.”

Ducasse says WiGroup’s core product, WiPlatform mobile transacting, provides an interface between retailers and mobile transaction service providers and applications.

“The link at the point of sale was always the missing part of the puzzle,” he says. “Changing anything at the point of sale is cumbersome and expensive – there is no way retailers can do it every time they want to introduce a new mobile wallet, banking service, loyalty or coupon system. But with a platform in place that allows their point of sale systems to talk to any existing or future mobile application, retailers are free to try out new things, and that is the key value proposition we offer to retailers through WiPlatform mobile transacting – integrate once and accept any mobile transaction service provider or application you choose to turn on at your point of sale.”

WiPlatform mobile transacting is now in place at points of sale throughout the Shoprite Checkers and Pick n Pay groups, including in subsidiary brands like Boxer and Hungry Lion. It’s also enabling mobile transactions in most of South Africa’s major fast food and restaurant franchises, from KFC and Spur to Kauai and Vida e Caffe.

“WiGroup’s aim has always been to simplify and add value to people’s lives through mobile transacting, and we’re now seeing that value in very real numbers,” says Ducasse. “Now that the basic requirements are so widely in place, we look forward to seeing what innovative ideas, that make use of WiPlatform mobile transacting, retailers and developers come up with next. We have built WiPlatform to be open, interoperable and inclusive; key requirements when enabling a new ecosystem.”

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BANKING: Terribly poor service from First National Bank

“FNB – how can we help you?” That timeless slogan that gets injected into our subconscious via FNB's expensive advertising campaigns time and time again. Well here's how FNB helped me get a new cheque card.

In a nutshell:

Wallet stolen, credit cards cancelled. New cheque card ordered via phone (24/03/2012). Told that card would be delivered to wrong province (KZN). “But I don't live there”, said I. “Sorry, I can't help you”, said FNB. Told it would take 2-3 working days nonetheless. (I recently moved to Cape Town and have been unable to update my address details without physically going into the bank).

First visit to bank (FNB in Cape Town)

Enter bank, wait in queue. Explain my predicament and get issued with a temporary FNB debit card. Pay R60. Told that I need to provide proof of residence and that any recent account with my address on it will do. Suggest that the card at least gets delivered to the right branch so I can pick it up with my proof of residence in 2-3 working days. FNB bank teller agrees and says to expect a call soon.

Second visit to First National

A week passes. No call from FNB. Physically enter bank for the second time – armed with a Telkom account as proof of residence. “Sorry, we can't help you,” says bank teller, “we need an original copy of your docy.” “But I get all my accounts send to me electronically to 'save paper' ”, said I. “And look! That's me in my ID book!” No no they can't trust my word, it needs to be certified.

Head to post office as instructed by the bank and wait in queue. Told that they are unable to certify the copy of my docy; I need to take it to the police station. Head to police station and wait in a glacial queue for over an hour. Leave feeling defeated.

FNB Courier Service

A week passes. I call to inquire as to where my card might be. I am told that the card is now in Johannesburg. “But that is not where I live”, said I. “Sorry, we can't help you, we need authority from your bank to deliver the card,” says FNB Courier Service.

Back to police station. Join the stagnant queue for another hour or so. Docy certified and I write an affidavit as back-up:

“I, Galen Schultz, hereby certify that I live where I say I do and that the above address is my current place of residence. May I please now have my bank card?”

Policeman stamps and signs affidavit without even reading it. I could have written anything, really, but find the following question more strange: why won't the bank believe I live where I say I do but the police station will?

Card ordered without customer authority

Call from FNB card couriers. “Good day, your new FNB bank card is ready for pick up in Johannesburg!” First card had apparently been cancelled and a new one ordered. “But that is not where I live”, said I. “Please send it to Cape Town”. “Sorry, there is nothing we can do", says courier, "ask FNB.”

Third visit to FNB

Back to FNB. Wait in queue. I proudly present my proof that I am not a liar and kindly ask for my bank card. FNB teller attempts to contact couriers with no luck, cancels that order, and orders a new cheque card on my behalf for the third time. I pay a R100 to have it delivered directly to my proven address. “It'll take 2-3 working days, so you will have it by the end of the week at the latest”, reassures Shenaaz the FNB teller. “Give me a call if you don't hear from our couriers.”

Get a call from the FNB couriers the following week. Told that my new bank card is in Durban...

Week 6 and still waiting...

The week expires as does my temporary, paid-for debit card. Have been unable to use debit card to buy electricity, tickets, or pay for anything online, but why does this FNB debit card have to expire anyway? I have paid for it and would like to keep it as a back-up please, FNB.

Can't get hold of Shinaaz. I called 2 hours ago and got told that she would phone me back. Tomorrow I will be officially card-less. It has been 37 days to date...

Update 30/04/2012:

Walked back to FNB in the rain and confronted Shenaaz directly for nearly an hour. I'm told that I will now be receiving two cheque cards - one today and one on Wednesday. Waited in line to lay a formal complaint but needed to head home to wait for the couriers to drop off my card.

Update @ 16h13: I have just received my bank card (1 of 2)

Update 2 @ 16h33: Shenaaz gave me a call to ensure that I had received my card. How sweet.

Update 3 @ 17h00: Have reported the bad service to Hello Peter

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THE OASIS: Fresh thinking on climate change

IT’S hard to imagine that anything sustainably substantial will come out of this year’s Cop17 (Conference of the Parties on climate change). This assumption is based on the fact that this will be the 17th attempt to reach agreement and that climate change remains a heavily heated issue with much to be done by way of solution.

Polar Bear (image: egea.eu)Basically, if things continue the way they are with regards to industry practice and global carbon emissions, we will all be cooked within the next 20 years.

Only acting after the shit squarely hits the fan and the sea levels are on our doorsteps, seems to be the consistent tale of humanity. It is known that if you place a frog in a tub and gradually increase the temperature, the frog will not react until it quite literally boils alive.

We have come a long way since evolving from amphibian-hood and we are better equipped with knowledge and technology than we have ever been before. Let’s hope to hell that this year a real plan of action will be set in motion at Cop17. We need fresh thinking around climate change. Our lives may depend on it.

Fresh thinking on climate change

One of the central issues regarding combating climate change is that big, profit-driven businesses are often reluctant to reduce their carbon emissions if this means a reduction in profits.

But increasingly some big business is coming around to the necessity for change. This year more than 300 businesses have signed the The 2°C Challenge - a document that the Corporate Leaders Network for Climate Action – calling on governments to break the deadlock at Cop17 and reach agreement. Governments must decide how to divide up the carbon budget available to us if we want to keep global temperatures below 2 degrees (a target agreed at the last COP held in Cancun).

Obviously some countries are in a stickier position than others and this will mean a sweaty slap in the face of economic growth for many. Countries and business need to get a lot more creative if they want to find alternative ways to grow without destroying the planet.

Frustratingly, green technologies, in general, are not yet cheap enough for mass use. Older technology - specifically power-generating technologies, are still being pawned off to poorer countries such as South Africa, which puts them firmly in the category of “high carbon emitters.” Then there is the painful attitude of those who plead ignorance and deny that global warming is a scientific reality.

Perhaps what is needed is greater incentive to go green. For one, the country of Bhutan for example is one of the only countries on Earth that is actually a carbon sink. Not only that, but Bhutan’s major export is hydro-electric power. Surely such a role model to the world should be praised and rewarded?

By the same token, businesses of all shapes and sizes should not only aim to meet their new carbon budgets, but be given the incentive to go further - greater rewards for being greener than thy neighbour. But then of course there is the issue of where reward funding would come from.

It will be interesting to hear what businesses themselves have to say on such matters and what some of them aim to do in the coming decades. I’m sure we can expect a lot of PR speak and lobbyist chatter at Cop17, but much of it is likely to be interesting.

Fresh thinking on climate change

One to watch is the discussions that are set to take place at the Fresh Thinking Oasis. This will be convened by the Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership – the organisation behind the Corporate Leaders Network for Climate Action. The CPSL is also widely acknowledged to be a champion of progressive international business when it comes to sustainability issues.

While the world’s governments sweat it out next door around the negotiating table, the folk at the Oasis will be hoping to generate some fresh thinking on the old challenges in a more relaxed environment.

** Video Gallery of COPpuccinos at COP17 **

Greenpeace Report: Who's holding us back?

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THE EXPONENTIAL TIMES: Extra! Extra! Etc. Etc.

I treated myself with the purchase of a NAG (New Age Gaming) magazine the other day, which came with a glossy-ink-scented E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) supplement. The accompanying DVD was also largely dedicated to E3 and consisted of around two hundred game videos, trailers and GameTrailers.com awards.

I do not work for NAG nor do I sell their magazines. I was merely mesmerized by how far gaming has come in the last few years. We are certainly living in exponential times with the bacterial-like spread of information and new technologies.

Gone are the days of chalkboards and letter posting in the developed world. The sale and consumption of hard-copy books is fast dwindling at the hand of the Kindle and other eReaders. If Wikipedia were to be published as a book it would be over two million pages long. There are now even babies in Egypt named “Facebook.”

Exponential Times in Gaming

3D graphics has reached a point beyond comprehension five years ago. The number of gaming devices and vibrating motion controllers on the market this year can have one gleefully immersed 24/7, if you have the time. The exponential rate at which new game titles are being released has made the task of writing letters to Santa quite a meticulous one.

Exponential Times in Social Media

In 2007, one out of every eight U.S. couples met online. It is now estimated to be one in five. When television first entered our lives, it took 13 years to reach a target audience of 50 million. Facebook took just two years to get the same number of people on board its platform.

Greater than the exponential development of technology, is the exponential availability of information. It is estimated that a week’s worth of the New York Times contains more information that anyone living in the 18th century could have consumed in their entire lifetime. The amount of technical information available is more than double every two years.

Exponential Times in Education and Employment

This exponential growth of technology and information is changing the way children are educated. Students are now being prepared for jobs that don’t yet exist and being trained to use technologies that have not yet materialised. It has also been shown that students who are online tend to outperform those who receive more face-to-face education.

This is of course changing the way that people are employed globally. It is estimated that 95% of companies that are online today recruit people using LinkedIn; around the same percentage of businesses use social media for marketing purposes.

Exponential Times Year to Year

In 2008, more than 200 million cell phone calls were made every second. This has roughly tripled every 6 months since. In 2009, every minute or so, a day’s worth of video footage was uploaded to YouTube. In 2010, the number of Google searches completed every ten minutes could have powered Las Vegas for half an hour. This year there are roughly 80 million Farmville farmers versus the 1.5 million real farmers. The moment you’ve finished reading this, most of this information will be outdated.

Here are two of the videos where you can find this information as well as more and more and more...

Exponential Times in 2008

Exponential Times in 2011

** More Web Developments & Absurdities **

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BUSINESS: Banks, insurance companies, religion, prison and parking lots

I TRY really hard not to be cynical about humans and the world order. Of course there are some honest Abes out there.

I asked a forthcoming bank teller the other day why banks encourage us to swipe our cards rather than withdraw cash. Turns out shop owners have to pay the bank a service fee for using card machines. More physical money in the bank also means higher security expenses.

I asked my favourite pharmacist if it's bad not to finish a course of flu tablets (as specified on the bottle) once you're free of the flu. He told me "not at all! It's only to encourage you to finish the lot so that you buy more." Most products tell us to use them every day, unnecessarily, so that we'll buy more.

Insurance companies are up there with the worst. It took me three phone calls before I could leave my car insurance company for a cheaper one. Those with the "gift for the gab" will say just about anything to make you continue paying a monthly premium, even if it's not car related. Health insurance companies 'want us to be healthy' because that means less claims and more profits.

Even parking lots are a business. Close inspection of my parking slip revealed that the owners of a parking lot in Pietermaritzburg were based in Johannesburg. One can assume that that's where the money is sent.

The Internet is a business. You can't even watch a video on YouTube anymore without an advert popping up. And just look at all those flashy adverts to your right! I would even go as far as to say that education and politics are business. Religion and superstition are certainly big business. "Show your faith!" The more money you give the more faithful and blessed art thou. Even prison is big business.

To not be cynical about all this is to consider that people aren't to blame. We are all forced to live under the system that perpetuates this gross behavior. I only wonder if we’ll ever collectively take a stand and do something about it...

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** More Opinion & Analysis Articles **

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