More than half of e-finance users (67 per cent) in Southeast Asia believe that small and medium businesses (SMB) should begin using digital payments for financial transactions, a study by cybersecurity company Kaspersky has found.

Consumers in Malaysia (72 per cent) strongly favoured SMB adoption of digital payment systems, followed by Singapore (68 per cent) and the Philippines (68 per cent).

The demand for contactless payment systems is unprecedented. It reflects the projected trajectory of rising e-commerce spending by 162 per cent or $179.8 billion by 2025, with digital payments accounting for 91 per cent of transactions, according to research company IDC.

The survey showed a widespread belief (64 per cent) that mobile wallets can even positively boost businesses by increasing their earnings. Thailand is the most confident in this idea (71 per cent), followed by Malaysia (68 per cent) and Vietnam (64 per cent).

The most frequent forms of digital payments among the region’s consumers are mobile payment apps (58 per cent), internet banking via mobile apps (53 per cent), debit cards (36 per cent), credit cards (33 per cent), and internet banking via a browser (31 per cent).

Interestingly, users are also aware of the issues that hamper SMBs in embracing this technology.

More than a quarter (27 per cent) of respondents admitted that local businesses are not ready to use digital payments yet because of internet issues and lack of devices. This view is highest in the Philippines (31 per cent), followed closely by Vietnam (30 per cent), Indonesia (29 per cent), and Thailand (28 per cent).

However, it’s different when an e-commerce provider or seller is subjected to a cyberattack. The survey showed that the confidence of consumers to shop at stores that suffered data breaches dropped by 42 per cent.

Yeo Siang Tiong, general manager for Southeast Asia at Kaspersky, said that while consumers embrace the digital lifestyle and trust these tools that make their financial transactions smooth and fast, they are also starting to gain an awareness of the dangers and risks of cyber threats in their personal lives.

“To put things in perspective, the cost of data breaches in SMBs rises by 54 per cent, but with early detection, the average losses are 17 per cent lower,” Yeo said.

“SMBs are now in a position to speed up their digital transformation. The radical changes to the demands and expectations of consumers can no longer be ignored, or else they might decide to bring their business elsewhere. I would venture to advise SMBs right now to act and ride the wave, so to speak.”

Kaspersky has advised SMB owners in Southeast Asia to perform risk assessment by evaluating potential risks that could compromise the business, training employees on what they should do if they get, for example, a suspicious email, keeping software updated, backing up files regularly and deploying robust cybersecurity software.