IT leaders see biometrics and super apps as next digital transformation trends

Survey finds that consumers in Asia are more comfortable with multi-purpose apps than people in western countries.

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A new survey by The Economist Intelligence Unit, "New Dimensions of Change: Building Trust in a Digital Consumer Landscape," found that IT leaders expect super apps to become a dominant force in payment technology over the next 10 years.

Image: he Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic supercharged the digital transformation for early adopters and laggards alike but companies will have to build trust with consumers to keep the momentum going. A new report by The Economist Intelligence Unit, "New Dimensions of Change: Building Trust in a Digital Consumer Landscape," highlights the tension between building user-friendly digital services and maintaining user privacy and trust.

Sixty-one percent of the 1,610 respondents said they changed digital transaction processes due to the pandemic. Businesses must provide customers with convenient options to complete digital transactions that still protect security and privacy, the report authors stated.

"All of this digital progress will be wiped out if we can't remove these barriers to building bilateral digital trust," said Shai Cohen, senior vice president of Global Fraud Solutions at TransUnion in a press release. TransUnion sponsored the research.

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Eighty-five percent of respondents expect biometrics to be the dominant authentication method for financial transactions within the next 10 years. Respondents also think that biometrics could further reduce the trade-off between fraud, security, and customer experience.

The report authors suggest that consumers in Asia make a different cost-benefit calculation about digital-payments technology, given that traditional financial services are more limited in that region than in developed economies:

"Limited access to brick-and-mortar banks and a lack of credit card use, for example, helped mobile money take off in emerging markets like China."

Respondents in China, Hong Kong, India, and the Philippines are the most optimistic about the speed of change in payment technology. These IT leaders are most likely to believe that digital wallets and digital apps will make cash and credit cards obsolete over the next 10 years. 

Trust levels also vary from region to region. More than 80% of respondents in Asia said consumers are comfortable sharing data with both the government and corporations. Those numbers were 66% and 64% among respondents in North America, Europe, and Africa.

The report authors conclude that companies must understand the long-term trends and innovations in security, privacy and fraud to balance optimal customer experience with rigorous security and fraud prevention.

Trusting and using super apps

WeChat, Alipay, and Gojek are super apps. These platforms put multiple services in one place. Chinese consumers can use WeChat and Alipay for sending messages, consuming social media, shopping, and accessing services. Indonesia's Gojek covers transportation, food and grocery delivery, payments, and logistics. This makes it easier for companies to use a standard payment and ordering process instead of building these services independently. These apps also make it easier to acquire customers. The downside to these apps is increased risks around data security and consumer privacy.

Survey respondents identified two big barriers to super-app adoption: Concerns related to security, privacy or fraud, and regulatory limitations on data-sharing with third parties. Regulation is more of a concern in the US and in Europe, where legislators are exploring antitrust and anti-monopoly interventions to limit the reach of large tech companies. As these companies are most likely to build one of these super apps, new regulations may slow the progress of the super app in those markets. In Asia, super-apps will be the dominant portal for commerce in five years, according to the survey results.

The report's main conclusions are: 

  • National digital IDs, biometrics, and super-apps are promising, but security concerns may slow adoption.
  • Smooth digital transactions are now table stakes for most companies, and there is more work to be done to smooth out glitches in these processes.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI)'s greatest benefits so far are in fraud detection and improved security, with pattern recognition tools delivering the most significant gains. 

Methodology

The Economist Intelligence Unit, sponsored by TransUnion, conducted an analysis of the top global trends in the security and fraud space and surveyed 1,610 executives in 12 countries—Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Hong Kong, India, the Philippines, South Africa, the UK, and the US.  All respondents were responsible for growing digital commerce, customer protection (e.g., fraud or security) or customer experience in the firms.

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