4 proposals to develop online payments in Morocco [Wamda Debates]

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Entrepreneurs in the coworking space New Work Lab

How can you launch e-commerce in a country where internet penetration and credit card use remain ridiculously low? Fifteen Moroccan entrepreneurs, specialized in e-commerce, tried to answer this question during the first Wamda Community Debate on Friday, February 14.

Designed to complement Mix N’ Mentor events, the Wamda Debates aim at tackling major problems in an ecosystem by finding concrete solutions. To do so, Wamda invites local experts to discuss select topics, and then publishes the main takeaways in order to ignite conversations among the ecosystem's players with the hashtag #WamdaDebate.

The first edition took place in Casablanca at the co-working space New Work Lab (where WamdaCard holders get 15% discount). Naoufal Chama, the co-founder of Startup Maroc - previously AMPII - took on the role of the moderator with success, while we had the pleasure of having Jérôme Mouthon, founder of Buzzeff, to open the debate.

Entrepreneurs, selected by Wamda, worked for two hours on solutions to develop online payments in Morocco. But after two hours of discussion, many had a lot more to share. It was only around 10 PM, after several mini-basketball matches, that the evening came to an end. Is there a better way to spend Valentine’s Day?!

Before getting to the solutions, we have to set out the problems. Below are the most important:

  • 72% of Moroccans don’t have payment cards
  • Banks automatically put spending limits on payment cards. Few are aware of this which causes their cards to be declined for many purchases.
  • Moroccans don’t trust paying by cards
  • Moroccans don’t trust e-commerce websites. The main reason is that they don’t know those websites and that after-sale service has a bad reputation in Morocco.

And, here some of the proposed solutions:

Online payments are not the only way

Younes Qassimi, the founder of Synergie Media (an agency that launched The Nexties and Maroc Web Awards), predicts that online payments are not the only solution, and are not compulsory except for websites requiring quick payment like deals websites. He noted that other valid payment options exist like paying via mobile, via bank wires, or cash. He added: “you need a successful business before thinking of online payment.”

Therefore, one shouldn't be too wary of offering alternative payment methods that could help build trust and expand a startup's client base.

However, every payment method has its own pros and cons. Kamal Raggad, founder of Hmizate, shared his reluctance regarding COD (cash on delivery), as this payment method gives clients the possibility to refuse the product (and hence payment) upon delivery. Many websites decide not to go for COD, as Kia Davis highlights in this great piece.


Naoufal Chamal moderating the debate

Build trust

Trust doesn’t come by itself; it takes bilateral work. E-commerce websites should put everything in place to build and earn the trust of their clients. To do so, you have to be transparent about who you are and what you do, making sure your clients know that there is a serious team behind the website. Answering questions, attending to clients' issues and requests, and taking part in your clients' conversation about you are all a part of focusing on good customer service. For Hmizate, this means putting in place a hotline as well as an online chat feature, quickly responding to clients inquiries.

Beyond trusting websites, netizens should also learn to trust online payments. All entrepreneurs joining us for the Wamda Debate agreed that this should come in the form of educational programs conducted along with banks.

Some said this requires the launch of an institutional campaign to promote online payment, explain how it works, and highlight the banks' efforts to fight online fraud.

Others added that banks should simplify procedures in case of fraud or problems, and explain the process which, to this day, remains very opaque and mysterious. This should also be clarified on different e-commerce websites to reassure users. With the launch of 3D Secure in March, this is a very important issue. Will users understand its benefits and take the leap?

One of the participants proposed to add a social or recommendations feature to help Moroccans see which of their friends use the website. This is an interesting proposal even if it raises an issue of confidentiality.

Raise the payment cards limits

Technically, one phone call can help clients raise their cards limits. However, this procedure is not explained well and requires more time and effort from the client. Even if the request is quickly met, it represents an additional step in the purchase process and therefore increases the risk of the user abandoning the operation.

Helping users to raise their cards limits by offering explanations is only a short-term solution. The situation has to be improved, but all power is in the hands of banks.

This brings us back to the previous point: banks have the power and e-commerce websites should work with them.

Make the online payment a must

The first steps are always the most difficult. Each participant has his own idea on how to push Moroccans to make their first payment online. Taher Alami, the founder of AbWeb, had a radical solution: “some governmental payments should be only available online.” The potential for positive impact is obvious, but who will make the first step?

According to Yassine El Kachani, founder of LaCartePlz, putting forth offers that are too good to refuse could help Moroccans take the leap, whether these offers come in the form of ultra-competitive prices or exclusive content.

A small group of participants defended the idea of offering products that are more suited for the Moroccan market. For Fatim-Zahra Biaz, it is all about developing local solutions to address Moroccans' problems, taking into consideration their spending habits. According to Younes Qassimi, “websites should be in Arabic to make them more accessible.” 

To take these proposals one step further, an efficient dialogue should be held with the Centre Monetaire Interbancaire (CMI) and banks. Until now, even though e-commerce websites often contact the CMI to declare individual problems, they rarely are heeded. As Mohamed Attahri, the co-founder of Greendizer, suggested, it is necessary that key actors join their efforts and try to initiate a dialogue along with the CMI and banks.

Do you support these proposals? What do you think? Do you have other suggestions? We invite you to take part in the debate and propose direct actions in the comments section or on Twitter with the hashtag #WamdaDebate.

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