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Online payments, including mobile payments and e-commerce, are set to become a crucial part of the digitisation wave currently sweeping across the GCC, according to a number of industry executives in attendance at the event.

“Major trends include subscription payments, payments through mobile app, tracking fraudulent consumer behaviour, multicurrency and payments from Facebook and Twitter (social commerce),” Sirish Kumar, Founder & CEO, Telr said in an interview with Gulf News.

Lieutenant-General Shaikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, on Tuesday visited Seamless Middle East 2017, a two-day event which hosted 350 exhibitors from the payments, eCommerce and retail industries.

There are more and more transactions taking place daily remotely, otherwise known as distance selling.

However, the amount of transactions in the Middle East taking place online are still comparatively small, research suggests.

According to a Euromonitor International 2016 report, online retail was reported to be less than 1.5 per cent of the total retail sales in Middle East region in 2015, while mature e-commerce markets are seeing 15 per cent to 20 per cent of their total retail business from online purchases.

A growing number of people are making purchases from social media channels, and companies are being advised to jump on this trend.

As per a 2016 Mary Meeker report, there is an increasing move across social media from simple social conversation to business conversation and online transactions. In these instances, customers do not need to visit the merchant’s website to make payments. This in turn helps drive online payment tools such as email invoicing and quick links, which are expected to increase by more than 30 per cent of payment features use in the next year.

Many merchants that have an offline presence can enable their presence on the web, mobile apps and social media and accept online payments.

“There is a digitisation wave across the UAE. With e-commerce penetration currently at a lower level than markets in Europe and North America, it is important that the UAE merchants embrace e-commerce and expand online and each to their consumers in overseas markets,” Kumar said.

In Egypt, according to the World Bank, at least 85 per cent of the population remains totally unbanked. “A lot of these people, the underbaked, don’t have access to a credit card, so by giving them a prepaid card, you can allow them to shop online,” Andrew Sims, Chief Executive Officer of NEC Payments said.

“You see a lot of people walking around with smartphones, but no way to make purchases with them. If you ask them how they use the phone, they’ll tell you they use third-party vouchers,” he added.

Sims said that virtual cards would allow these people to make payments directly, and avoid needing to purchase vouchers.

Telr has also recognised the need for enabling smartphones to become the factor of authentication for transactions. According to its CEO, the company has seen more than 60 per cent of transactions through mobile phones in the case of some of their merchants — in such instances, mobile applications can use biometrics in the phone to capture credentials for online payment processes, ensuring safety and reliability.