Electrum Technical Lead, Mordi Serraf, recently returned from a trip to Mexico that included snorkelling with sea turtles, eating churros and assessing what e-services retailers offer their customers.

In 2017, Electrum undertook some informal research into various markets to compare our offering with those in the rest of the world, and to identify potential opportunities. Mexico stood out as a particularly attractive prospect in that study. With a GDP of US$1,046 trillion, good retail sales growth, and a growing middle class, there was a lot to like.

…Mordi did some undercover work scoping out the retail sector.

So when Electrum Technical Lead, Mordechai Serraf, told us he was planning a holiday in Mexico, we hijacked his trip – with his permission, of course. Half his travel expenses were covered by the company and he was paid for his work days, so it worked out pretty well for everyone, we’re sure you’ll agree! In between climbing ancient ruins and getting stuck into some life-changing tacos, Mordi did some undercover work scoping out the retail sector.

VAS integration at this location was minimal


The aforementioned life-changing tacos!

“South Africa and Mexico have similar socioeconomic environments,” he says. “There’s a growing middle class, and a mixed retail environment.” More than 2.3 million mom-and-pop stores share the Mexican market with larger chains: OXXO is Mexico’s biggest convenience store chain, with over 14,000 outlets; Walmart has its biggest presence outside of the USA in Mexico, with 2,400 stores; others include 7-Eleven, Go Mart and Circle K convenience stores, and Comercial Mexicana supermarkets, including Mega outlets.

Mexico’s biggest convenience store chain, OXXO

…South Africa is at least as innovative, if not a little ahead, of the Mexican VAS market.

“The retail environment is surprisingly similar in many respects,” says Mordi. In terms of VAS offerings, Mexican shoppers have access to many of the services South Africans do. Customers can buy data and airtime, gift cards, public transport tickets and pay utility bills.

A fairly typical selection of digital vouchers

Mordi’s impression was that many of these services new to the Mexican market. “South Africans are used to having these VAS options when they walk into a supermarket, but there was a lot of signage and in-store marketing in Mexico,” he says. This may be an indication of competition between outlets on newly introduced VAS offerings. Overall, Mordi’s analysis is a positive confirmation that South Africa is at least as innovative, if not a little ahead, of the Mexican market.

Loyalty programmes are an area of opportunity for Mexican retailers…

The real point of difference came with loyalty programmes. None of the major chains Mordi investigated – including Walmart – had anything like Pick n Pay’s Smart Shopper. South African retailers use their points-based loyalty programmes primarily to incentivise customer loyalty, but also to analyse customer behaviour, allowing a greater degree of customer focus.

Electrum’s service allows real-time responses and customisation for each of Smart Shopper’s 10 million users. The Electrum Platform enables banks and retailers to integrate loyalty programmes, CRM, promotional campaigns, rewards, digital wallets and store cards for a seamless, omni-channel experience. This level of sophistication around loyalty programmes simply doesn’t exist yet in Mexico.

Loyalty programmes are an area Mexican retailers are yet to exploit, and they can certainly learn from successful South African models like Smart Shopper. Based on Mordi’s observations it seems that while South Africans have already fully embraced e-services, Mexicans are still warming up to them – which might mean a great opportunity for South African Fintech services.

A spectacular sunset before heading back home

Electrum Payments

Electrum Payments

Electrum provides enterprise software that represents the next generation of payments technology. Founded in Cape Town by some of South Africa’s most experienced and innovative payments experts, we have built the top payments technology team in the region.