Five digital business trends to keep up with consumers in 2023

Shanaaz Trethewey, chief operating officer for Comcorp South Africa

It’s hard to think of life without technology. From being able to stream movies on Netflix, asking Alexa to play our favourite songs or just being able to Google the weather, latest soccer scores or answers to life’s most puzzling questions – technology is playing a central role in the way we work, play, and do business.

What’s even harder to fathom though, is that most of these platforms only came into existence two decades ago. As Shanaaz Trethewey, chief operating officer for Comcorp South Africa explains, one of the main reasons for this rapid growth is our insatiable desire for instant gratification and feedback. 

“Digital business is a very real part of our daily lives because we want to work faster, respond to problems faster and adapt to changes faster. The only way to achieve this is with technology, and it has become a non-negotiable that companies have the right people, processes, and culture to execute their digital strategies. Only then will they be able to continue to keep up with the rapid pace of today’s consumer,” she says. 

As a reputable software innovator with over 25 years of financial industry expertise, Comcorp is determined to advance business efficiencies and increase productivity through digital processes, whilst minimising risks associated with not doing proper consumer due diligence. 

Trethewey unpacks some of the top trends for consumer-facing businesses who are focused on improving their digital foundation and processes.

1. Responsiveness to Gen Z 

This is core for any business regardless of whether it has a B2B or a direct-to-consumer offering. The population is rising, with millennials and Gen Z who grew up with mobile telephony and the internet of things, now maturing into primary income earners / customers. 

Not being able to appeal to them and maintain relevancy in their lives is a major concern. Those businesses who don’t take radical steps risk not just losing significance, but at worst, becoming completely obsolete. 

Technology is part of the fibre of businesses and the foundation of any business’s value proposition will, no doubt, be based on how technical solutions bring easier, more responsive, and greater value to the end consumer.

2. Balancing fast consumer onboarding with compliance 

Today’s consumers want to complete most of their business online. They dislike physically applying for services such as opening a new account, applying for credit, filing insurance claims, or signing up for medical care. Despite all the efforts to digitally transform customer experiences, one process remains a challenge – customer onboarding.

Businesses battle to satisfy customers with an easy, streamlined process while protecting themselves from fraud. Compliance is there for a very real and relevant reason. All business roads lead to the end customer, making it crucial that correct checks and balances are intact. It’s imperative that we ensure the end user is who they say they are, with valid credentials, to protect ourselves but also provide consumers the assurance that they aren’t subject to identity theft.

Most consumers want to do their part and authenticate themselves when applying for a loan, a car, or a phone. It’s more about “how” it’s done that makes all the difference to them. A seamless and embedded compliance procedure is the solution – reducing the friction in what can be a clumsy or cumbersome confirmation process.

3. Permission-based data sharing

The financial sector in South Africa may be a bit far from the reality of open banking where consumer’s financial data is easily accessible. However, the growing trend of being able to access other forms of information, with consent, is one we cannot ignore. 

Today’s consumer is used to having their data stored virtually, if on their phone, on an app or in the cloud. Businesses will need to adapt their processes and understanding of how data, financial or not, can be accessed so they can respond to their client’s needs seamlessly.

4. Biometric identification & increased regulatory vigilance

Biometric identification has been around for several years, with products like iris recognition at the forefront of the delivery of identity checks. Biometrics will become critical as widened anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism legislation comes into effect in Feb 2023. 

Increased regulatory vigilance affecting a wider range of financial and non-financial companies means having to implement stricter consumer due diligence, including identification and verification. Biometrics will therefore become even more necessary. 

Also, exploring its use in industries outside of traditional financial services, allows businesses to engage with potential customers and gain assurance that staff on the ground are working with whom they should be.

5. Responsible lending

Easily obtainable credit increases the risk of consumers over-extending themselves. Objectivity, consistency, and a quick response time is something all businesses need to consider, as failure to do so will cause a negative impact later on, as consumer’s affordability decreases.

Businesses have a duty to assess the consumer credit risk profile via direct-to- source information, both from an expense and from an income verification perspective. Responsible lending is a marriage between ensuring effective identity verification, and the complete/accurate affordability assessment.  Having those seamless processes line up will allow some businesses to rise above the rest as we progress into the new year.

Trethewey concludes:  Although cumbersome digital processes can limit the ability of businesses to grow – the solutions to solve these challenges are not so far from the doorstep of local businesses. A solid digital foundation, securing credible partnerships and implementing innovative software, is the way of sustaining growth plans. 

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