SnapScan-tastic

Yesterday I was privy to Standard Bank’s launch of SnapScan, their innovative new mobile payment app that won MTN Business’s 2013 App of the Year.

I hadn’t heard much about SnapScan, but the premise seemed so simple, that I was sure the set-up was bound to be terrifically complicated. Not so, even a techno-tard like me managed to link my credit card to the app and load our complimentary R100 voucher from Standard Bank in a matter of minutes.

While the app seemed fun and easy, it was the information session presented by John Campbell and Vuyo Mpako that really shed light on what a practical solution the app presents to thousands of small merchants and business owners in South Africa.

The functionality is exactly what it says on the box- use your phone to make credit or cheque card transactions by scanning a merchant’s unique QR code. The merchant gets an SMS notification of the completed payment and you get your stuff without ever opening your wallet. The amount is debited straight from your credit or cheque account.

What I really liked was the reasoning and the long-term objectives of the team behind the app.

Driven by a need to solve real world problems, instead of just creating ‘cool stuff’ for the upper echelons of geekery to race each other over for the title of ‘fastest early adopter’, this Standard Bank powered mobile payment app has, to paraphrase their own words, turned the traditional retail transaction on its head.

Before the relatively recent resurgence of craft and food markets that has come to define the organic, skinny-jean wearing entrepreneurs of my generation, I thought it was a given that most serious retail ventures would spring for a POS system… because if you’re selling homemade cupcakes for R30 a pop, you’re bound to understand that your target customers don’t carry that kind of cash on them.

But POS systems are clunky and expensive, they require inhibitive infrastructure and a massive, ongoing expense that is often just not feasible for the rising tide of SMEs and sole owned ventures.

Recognising that it was not the trader, but the customer who carries a mini, wirelessly networked computer around with them all the time, the clever clogs behind SnapScan moved the complexity away from the seller’s side of the deal and masked it behind a clean, simple interface right in the buyer’s palm.

Here’s what my sample transaction screens at the launch (for a particularly spiffy pair of wooden lion earrings from African Queen) sort of looked like:

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African Queen Lion Earrings

BOOM! One fashion, please.

And here is a video of a more attractive person doing basically the same thing.

SnapScan 2 from SnapScan on Vimeo.

It was all terrifyingly quick and easy.  A dangerous amount of convenience when one considers its uses at the never-cheap Sunday markets, for which the amount of cash in one’s wallet has always been a sobering kind of buzzkill when one is considering spending upwards of R200 on fudge.

Yup, fudge.

Obviously the app has a far reaching effect into South Africa’s unbanked population, leveraging off the bank’s previous ‘Instant Money’ product and allowing merchants to now easily sell their wares and collect their compensation using redeemable vouchers. Vuyo and John went on to say that many of the merchants eventually do open a bank account when they start seeing the benefits and ease with which the app lets them get on with their business.

SnapScan does have some way to go to fully embrace this unbanked, lower LSM market, being that the app still currently requires the buyer at least to have some kind of traditional cheque or credit card account (although the merchant does not need an account if they are happy to use Instant Money to collect their cash).

The app has also been quite strictly developed for smartphones, with the reasoning here that smartphone penetration continues to grow at an exponential rate, and the app has a very ‘future-proofed’ design.

And it’s already making traditional POS systems, or cash-only transactions look as archaic as they really are.

Here are a few more interesting little nuggets of knowledge about SnapScan:

–          SnapScan will work on most smartphones, but more impressively will work across all bank accounts. Both buyer and seller can have bank accounts outside of Standard Bank and still enjoy the full functionality of SnapScan.

–          SnapScan is the bank’s first fully digital offering. The transaction happens in real time and, with the exception of the Instant Money angle, there is no need to have a follow-up interaction at a branch or an ATM. Hallelujah.

–          Open innovation and crowd sourcing were the main influence in the app’s creation and feedback from users will continue to inform future improvements and updates. As Vuyo said, the days of dedicated R&D departments and employees are over. Now companies need to start creating products and services that can be proven to meet actual needs, not just perceived ones.

–          1 card, 1 device. That means that a parents’ card cannot be loaded for a child, and that you cannot select from your collection of cards when making a SnapScan purchase. There can be only one.

–          The number of merchants is growing. There are approximately 10 000 South African merchants using SnapScan (you can use the app to locate those nearby), and the list is growing.

–          There’s more to come. From online shopping that has your purchases delivered straight to a preset address, to expanding functionality across savings accounts and more… The app has been launched with a very simple primary objective right now, but already there are ideas on where it can go.

While the overall security remains to be road-tested properly (although it did come with much reassurance from John Campbell), and I can’t really wrap my head around the app’s use in a large retailer, like a Woolworths, I am looking forward to taking only my phone to the organic hipster food and craft markets and racking up an insanely high bill on artisanal cheese and olives.

Here are a few more pictures from the launch itself (on a side note, I am now available for photographic assignments):

Amazed Adam is Amazed

Amazed Adam is Amazed

Ladies ogling the goodies on offer from African Queen's special pop-up store

Ladies ogling the goodies on offer from African Queen’s special pop-up store

Find out more about SnapScan from their website, or download the app from your device’s app store and give it a whirl at your local SnapScan-using merchant.

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