The relationship of Filipinos with digital always reminds me of the dualistic first paragraph of Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities.”
On one hand, Filipinos are the undisputed world leader when it comes to smartphone and social media usage; seven out of 10 Filipinos own a mobile phone. We’re on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube and are first to adopt new trends like TikTok.
On the other hand, we’re far from being digital-savvy; for example, when compared to South Korea and China, where one out of three transactions is done digitally. Here in the Philippines, in pre-Covid years, only one out of 25 transactions happened online. People continued to work in office buildings despite existing legislation that encourages telecommuting. Many would spend hours queuing at bayad centers to settle utility bills instead of doing it through a few taps on their phone.
Filipinos have tried e-commerce in past years, but not in mass scale. It’s perhaps due to our ways and behavior as a culture—we like interacting with people face to face. Touch and scent are integral parts of a purchase. This is why some Filipinos prefer malls over online shopping, and why the country has not been as quick to adopt digitalization as our neighbors.
2020 changed all that
Community quarantine and social distancing policies saw Filipinos make the leap for digital. Within months, the Filipinos’ march toward a digital lifestyle has reached critical mass. Apart from being able to access it in the safety of their homes, digital is easier, simpler and faster compared to the physical way of doing things, and there’s no turning back from this new lifestyle.
So are we on the fast track toward digital? Yes, and no. Filipinos consumer habits are now primed to favor digital, but there still remains the challenge of access. Eight out of 10 Filipinos do not have a bank account or have no access to digital lines of credit.
The access gap prevents the country from realizing its potential as a digitalized nation. This is where companies like Home Credit can close the loop and make a difference.
Home Credit serves the needs of the Filipino digital consumer with a menu of innovative offerings via the My Home Credit mobile app, which processes the customer’s loans in under a minute. He can access Marketplace—a digital mall—where commodities such as smartphones can be easily purchased through Home Credit financing. As they explore this exciting digital economy, their experience improves through Smile Rewards, where customers are able to access thousands of retail partners across the country offering discounts and other great deals.
After being the first nonbank institution to launch a credit card in the country in 2018, we’ve leveled it up so that a customer won’t have to carry his cards with him anymore. Through the My Home Credit App, he can make purchases through Quick Response (QR) codes—a unique digital code—for purchases. What’s been described is a seamless flow that’s integrated with our after-sales service delivered by a network of agents complemented by chatbot and voicebot support.
Where we’re at is just the beginning of endless possibilities for Filipinos using the My Home Credit App. If I were to peruse Dickens’ iconic words to describe the digital landscape just ahead—it may very well be the best of times, the spring of hope, where we have everything before us, as we become a society benefiting from a seamless relationship with technology—a future which Home Credit is ready and happy to help bring about today. The author is Chief Information Officer of Home Credit.