Standard Bank Launches SimplyBlu Digital Solution for SMEs

The launch of Standard Bank’s unique SimplyBlu digital solution powered by Mastercard could see thousands of South African small businesses crossing the ‘digital divide’ and entering the world of electronic trading, until now an option that has been closed to local companies because of the costs involved with setting up an online presence.

One of the biggest barriers for small businesses wanting to trade their products online is the cost of setting up an online trading platform. Design costs, security and financial compliance as well as an integrated invoicing and accounting platform often adds up once all the design and financial specialist have created an online trading platform.

The SimplyBlu solution is powered by Simplify Commerce by Mastercard, a simple, secure and feature-rich platform that makes it easier for businesses to accept electronic payments regardless of payment brand. It is the first service of its type to be offered to small businesses by a financial institution in South Africa. The solution enables businesses to begin trading on the Internet for a R500 once-off set up fee. After that, a monthly subscription fee of R575 is payable as well as regular card transaction fees for merchants, says Lincoln Mali, Head of Card and Emerging Payments at Standard Bank.

“Being able to sell online has become a necessity in the modern retail trade. However, the transition from traditional business to e-commerce, digital platforms has, until now, been a process that has proved to be a step too far for small business. With many operators not having the knowledge, access to technology or resources needed to build digital trading sites, many business owners have been unable to take their businesses to the next level. Digital trading and vastly increased customer bases, as well as organic business growth, has been beyond their grasp.”

After extensive research, discussions and focus groups with business owners, Standard Bank identified several friction points that were hampering customers. By leveraging its strategic partnership with Mastercard, the bank was able to address problems like the perceived high cost of digital platforms, cash flow, and easy access to online payment acceptance, electronic billing and receipting that have been difficult for small businesses to solve.

“SMEs contribute roughly 34 percent of GDP and provide employment to about 60 percent of the labour force, yet only a small minority accept electronic payments. With small staff compliments and fewer resources, the cost and complications of digital payments can seem insurmountable,” says Mark Elliott, division president for Mastercard Southern Africa. “Mastercard is excited to partner with Standard Bank to make it simple for SMEs to sell online, accept electronic payments and grow their businesses.”

“The launching of the SimplyBlu solution offers local business owners a comprehensive digital service. It enables merchants to build their own webstores with drag- and- drop functionality and built- in templates, have a unique webstore address and have the site hosted. It is intuitive and requires no specialised IT knowledge and is a one-stop service to customers. The account is opened online and has no restrictions regarding the number of services or products that can be offered online to potential customers,” says Mr Mali, adding that customers could be retail operators or merchants offering services ranging from home maintenance to professional services.

SimplyBlu automatically enables users to:

  • Accept domestic and international credit, debit and prepaid cards from Mastercard, Visa, American Express,
  • Discover, JCB and Diners Club by integrating access to a payment gateway and the bank for webstore payment processing;
  • Accept digital payments through Masterpass, Mastercard’s digital payment service;
  • Take advantage of same-day settlement, into a Standard Bank account. This settlement process solves the problems associated with cash flow that often cripple small businesses;
  • Accept secure payments 24/7, anywhere and everywhere;
  • Use customisable eInvoicing and eReceipting to send electronic invoices and receipts to customers when orders are placed;
  • Manage risk with fraud control tools;
  • Use the SimplyBlu app to view and manage your online store, issue eInvoices, and monitor fraud ‘on the go’ on either iOS or Android devices; and
  • Use shopping cart plugins for all major shopping carts including Shopify and Magneto.

The SimplyBlu solution makes the digital process seamless by providing a secure portal for merchants wishing to set up their online stores and billing facilities.

“The benefit for customers is that they can customise their online store and project a chosen brand. Our aim is to support them by offering a platform that enables users to grow their businesses. Standard Bank does, however, play an ongoing role in ensuring that the sites abide by the ethical principles expected by public users of the site as well as the requirements of a leading financial institution.”

“The monitoring process begins with the on-boarding of customers on the SimplyBlu platform and continues across to the live trading situations. Standard Bank, as it carries the regulatory risk, which is part of the SimplyBlu solution, must ensure that sites operate within legal guidelines and offers an ethical service. We, therefore, reserve the right to close a site if transgressions occur,” says Mr Mali.

“The major benefit for customers is that because their businesses are ‘linked’ with SimplyBlu, they can run their businesses knowing that the systems and payment mechanisms are secure. Many will be using cards as payment mechanisms for the first time. They can do so knowing that transactions are safe and that their interests are safeguarded.”

“SimplyBlu is only available to merchants in South Africa at present. As a bank that has been involved with the development and financing of the small business sector for many years, we expect interest in the solution to grow- not only from within the ranks of our existing Standard Bank business customers but also from business owners who may bank with other institutions or who are presently unbanked.”

“It has often been said that entrepreneurs are vital to building economic prosperity and employment in South Africa. SimplyBlu, because it is a practical tool offering growth opportunities is, we believe, an essential step in building business sustainability within a competitive sector of the local market,” says Mr Mali.

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