Mobile is an integral part of our world. Today’s consumers rely on their mobile devices not just for communication but to perform a growing range of functions online; they are also demanding a seamless, end-to-end experience.

By Sherry Zameer, senior vice-president: IoT solutions for CISMEA region at Gemalto

In recent years, for example, mobiles have become an identification device. Almost half (48%) of consumers globally, expect their mobile devices to become their main form of ID by 2025, according to a global survey conducted by Gemalto.

Mobile devices are slowly but surely emerging as promising replacements for traditional ID cards due to new technologies like biometrics, with a single means of authentication to securely access online services, confirm transactions and sign documents.

Gemalto’s survey finds that 48% of respondents, including from South Africa, want mobile to become their main form of ID; and 70% would use their mobiles as passport or national ID if security was guaranteed.


Technological evolution

When it comes to the capabilities offered by smartphones, a key determinant is the quality of the networks. South African mobile operators continue to spend large sums on upgrading their networks. MTN was expected to spend R11.5 billion in the 2017 financial year, with Vodacom expecting to spend somewhat less (R8.4 billion). The two invested R11 billion and R8.5 billion respectively in the previous year.

Another key driver for the mobile economy is the availability of affordable smartphones. Strategy Analytics says that the Africa Middle East region will be the growth engine for the global smartphone market. This growth will in large part be driven by the rapidly falling price of smartphones: the sub-$50 smartphone is now a reality, with $30 the next target.[1]

Smartphone specifications are also expected to improve significantly by 2025. Consumers today, expect super-fast data speeds, with half (50%) estimating over 100 Gigabit speeds will be normal. 5G, the next major advance in mobile connectivity, could potentially deliver speeds of up to 12 Gigabits per second, so there is still some way to go to meet consumer expectations.

Today, consumers use their mobile devices for a variety of activities including planning holidays, making online transactions and even having a seamless control of the gadgets and gizmos in their homes. According to Gemalto’s study, 60% of respondents anticipate their smartphones will be able to exercise full autonomous control over their home devices such as heating, lighting, windows, without any human intervention in the management of the system. This hands-off approach, where devices take full control, would make their lives much more convenient, but require the devices to be trusted as reliable, secure and able to protect data privacy.


Payment experience

Globally, mobile payments have soared in recent years and the research suggests this trend will continue. They have been slow to take off in South Africa perhaps due to the fact that the country has a developed banking system—take up has been stronger in other African countries. Nevertheless, there are signs that mobile payment is growing steadily,[2] particularly in the retail and services sector. Smartphone apps like Snapscan are also starting to challenge cash’s domination of smaller transactions.

On the consumer front, almost half (45%)  of consumers globally expect to be able to use mobile devices to pay for anything, anywhere, at any time by 2025, and 43% consider mobile as their preferred payment method. Interestingly, there is still some reluctance to abandon cash all together, with a quarter of consumers (25%) stating they are unwilling to stop using it. There is clearly some work to be done by banks to increase the trust in non-cash payment methods and convince these consumers to go ‘cashless’.

When it comes to mobile banking apps, banks will have to rapidly complete their digital transformations as almost half of consumers (42%) globally expect they will be able to perform all banking functions from their mobile device, by 2025, without any restrictions. Another key finding from the research is that almost a third of respondents (29%) think they won’t need to visit a physical bank branch.

Today, many of us can already carry out most of our banking tasks on our mobiles and only a few steps need to be made to digitise the overall banking experience. Technology based on facial recognition and the uptake of online ID document verification, which enables a user to set up a new bank account without having to visit a bank’s branch, will make visiting the bank branch a thing of the past for those willing to embrace a fully digital experience.


Mobile services and data privacy

When it comes to data privacy, our study shows that consumers are, in many cases, open to sharing some of their data as long as they get tangible benefits in return. 34% would be happy to receive deals and advice in real time via location tracking, while 28% are open to share their browsing history information or online purchases to be offered better deals. Nearly one in five (19%) expects the cost of mobile subscriptions and services to be offset by advertising, and almost one in 10 (8%) say they would be prepared to trade personal data in return for partial or full discounts on their bill.

Data privacy does, however, remain a major concern with 38% of respondents stating they don’t want any company to have access to their personal data, with the over 50s demographic the most reluctant to share their personal data with third parties. Consumer engagement with their mobile operators is also set to significantly change. The use of on-demand Artificial Intelligence (AI) is particularly interesting, with over a third of respondents (34%) believing this will be a possibility in the future, 28% already seeing their mobile operator as a digital assistant and 33% expecting a highly-personalised service from their mobile operator.

Today’s customers have different set of expectations as they did in the past. They want to use their fast and efficient mobile devices to be their main form of ID, book tickets, control gadgets in their home and so much more. Businesses in the region need to adapt to these changing expectations or risk losing their customers to competitors who are considering mobile devices as a part of their overall business strategy.

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