Pick n Pay readies crypto payments at all stores

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 01 Nov 2022

Retailer Pick n Pay is looking to imminently introduce crypto-currency payments at all its stores across the country.

The company says it wants to make transactions via crypto-currency more accessible to millions of people.

It notes this follows the successful completion of the first phase of a new pilot that allows customers to pay using crypto-currency on their smartphones using a trusted app.

Pick n Pay is now testing it in more stores.

According to Deloitte’s new Merchant Adoption of Digital Currency Payments Survey, prepared in collaboration with PayPal, many retailers are embracing digital currency payments in hope of gaining a competitive advantage.

It says these organisations believe the use of digital currency will continue to expand and are investing in enabling this capability, often with benefits on numerous fronts.

Globally, says Deloitte, 220 million people now use crypto-currency to pay for everything from travel to sports tickets to mobile phone services.

In another report – “Merchants getting ready for crypto” – Deloitte notes that nearly 75% of retailers plan to accept either crypto-currency or stablecoin payments within the next two years.

Pick n Pay says while for many years crypto was something for specialists on their computers, or used by early adopters trying it out, things are changing.

It says the Financial Sector Conduct Authority’s (FSCA's) recent announcement paves the way for crypto-currency as a mainstream method of payment.

Late last month, the FSCA formally declared crypto as a financial product in South Africa.

The move marks a new phase in regulating the crypto market, making it easier for authorities to monitor the market and protect consumers.

According to Pick n Pay, increasingly crypto-currency is being used by those underserved by traditional banking systems, or by those wanting to pay and exchange money in a cheaper and convenient way.

It notes that many companies are responding to this by accepting Bitcoin.

In its latest pilot, the retailer tested a payment service technology that enables customers to buy groceries with crypto-currency at till points with any Bitcoin Lightning-enabled app – such as BlueWallet or Muun.

It says the transaction is as easy and secure as swiping a debit or credit card. Customers scan a QR code from the app and accept the rand conversion rate on their smartphone at the time of the transaction.

The service fee for each transaction is minimal, costing the customer on average 70 cents, and takes less than 30 seconds, the company says.

Pick n Pay ran the pilot in 10 Western Cape stores over the past five months with pre-selected testers.

This included Bitcoin Ekasi in Mossel Bay, which pays non-profit organisation The Surfer Kids coaches in Bitcoin while simultaneously onboarding township vendors to accept Bitcoin as payment.

As the local Pick n Pay store now accepts Bitcoin, the coaches and children can spend their earnings more widely and conveniently than before, it adds.

The retailer has now extended the pilot to a further 29 stores for testing with customers, with the intention to roll it out to all stores in the coming months.

In 2017, Pick n Pay ran a pilot in the canteen store at its head office in Cape Town. The retailer says it proved the concept, but the available technology at the time was too expensive for shoppers and it took too long to finalise the transaction to make it sustainable.

“This new technology means we can provide an affordable service for high volume, low-value transactions that will promote financial inclusion in South Africa,” says Chris Shortt, Pick n Pay’s group executive of information and technology.

“We are constantly innovating and testing new technology so that we can add real value and choice for the customers we serve. This exciting pilot shows huge potential and is another way we can help and support our customers.”