Challenges faced by oil marketers in Kenya in the implementation of electronic payment systems as a strategy to enhance performance
Competitive strategy concerns what a firm is doing in order to gain sustainable competitive advantage.This study was conducted with an aim of investigating the challenges faced by oil marketing companies in the implementation of electronic payment systems. Primary data was used in the study and was collected through questionnaires administered through a combination of drop and pick and electronically transmission to all oil marketers operating retail outlets as listed in Petroleum institute of East Africa insight publication of 2nd Quarter 2014. The study explored organization‟s structure, the different electronic payment systems available to these companies, their implementation strategies and implementation challenges. A response rate of 71.4% was achieved. The results showed that 50% of companies that have implemented electronic payment systems are foreign owned but locally incorporated implying that this mode of payment is a foreign idea that is slowly catching on with local companies. Of these companies 66.7% have more than 40 retail outlets and managers say that the number of outlets greatly influence the acceptability of their electronic payment options. Customers prefer to settle for a company‟s offer if it offers convenience and they would not have to go out of their way to access products and services. Of the various electronic payment modes the branded fuel cards were found to be the most commonly used electronic payment mode followed by bank ATM cards, credit and debit cards. Mobile money transfer came in last as it is still a new phenomenon in the oil industry with the first collaboration being two years ago between Total Kenya and Airtel. Thou being the first telecommunication company to partner with an oil company to offer payment platform Airtel came in second to Safaricom as the preferred collaboration partner. This was attributed to Safaricom‟s large customer base and tariff flexibility. On implementation strategies, 66.7% of the companies employed differentiation strategy while introducing their electronic payment systems. They incorporated some features that made their offer stand out from the rest of the marketer. The main reasons for the implementation of electronic payment systems were seen to be technological advancements and need to differentiate the companies offer from completion. On communication to popularize the platforms, radio was in the lead as the preferred mode of communication, many would attribute this to the costs of such advisement and coverage. Implementation of the electronic payment systems was found to be greatly affected by the high cost of maintenance for machines used in the payments and the frequency of machine breakdown. Most of the attendants operating the machines are semi- illiterate and therefore they lack the skills to operate the machines effectively. The study therefore recommends frequent trainings to be conducted on site in order to equip these attendants and hence lower the cost of operating these systems. The study also recommends sensitization of all business lines on the value of these systems as value addition tools for the company. The researcher recommends further research to be undertaken on the customer‟s perception of electronic payment systems in the oil industry. A further research should also be undertaken on reasons for lower adoption of electronic payment systems in Kenyan oil industry as evident from the data obtained less than 50% of oil marketers have electronic payment platforms.