In an exclusive interview with Telecom Review Africa, Samson Isa, regional managing director, West Africa, Clickatell, talked about how chat can help to grow revenues. He also spoke about how Clickatell can enhance customer experience and build a loyalty relationship along the way. Isa also detailed the keys to achieving successful chat commerce.

How can chat help MNOs close the financial inclusion gaps and grow revenues?

MNOs have a much bigger reach all over Africa, especially in Nigeria as compared to traditional banks. The Central Bank of Nigeria has given licenses to all MNOs– called the payment service box – that enable them to use agents and distributors across the country to make sure that the financially-excluded Nigerians and all of Africa are included. The payment service banks at the moment are building their footprint in different parts of Nigeria since we have only about 60 million Nigerians with bank accounts, which represents around 75% of our market. The whole idea is to aggregate the value and bring it into the formal market to ensure this liquidity within the country would eventually bring down the interest rate and risks.

The MNOs will certainly play a pivotal role in driving financial inclusion in Nigeria and in Africa such as M-PESA wallet in Kenya. Regarding revenue growth, chat commerce will play a critical role in driving revenues for the MNOs, particularly because it provides an alternative channel. In terms of what we've seen in Nigeria, we've got about six banks that have launched chat banking. With the MNOs especially, bank payment services are growing gradually. Moreover, in regard to call centers, they now have chat desks and a product called “chat flow” which has an orchestration layer that automates transactions and processes. This reduces the cost of call centers in terms of reducing the number of agents, improve productivity and efficiency within the call centers, and ultimately, it drives profitability for MNOs. Statistically speaking, over 2.5 billion people globally use WhatsApp, and I would like to encourage all MNOs to start adopting it for transactions because it is the future. This conversational commerce is much easier for people to adopt and use, which will grow the MNOs’ revenues.

So as the global leader in connected services, how can Clickatell enhance customer experience and build a loyalty relationship with them?

People use chat every day because of its addictive nature. The fact that people us it every day, we have provided a solution from our end: It is clear that WhatsApp chat is very rich in content, where you can publish [a variety of] things as opposed to traditional SMS. In our experience with some banks in South Africa and Nigeria, when you do a campaign on WhatsApp, about 40% will see it, compared to the traditional SMS technique, where only about 5–10% of people see it. In terms of enhanced loyalty, we've seen that as extremely important across subscribers in Ghana, Zambia, Uganda, Cameroon. Clickatell encourages MNOs, wherever they have an opportunity, to launch a loyalty program on WhatsApp channel because it's extremely beneficial. And ROI has been proven to be extremely high.

What elements do you consider keys to achieving successful chat commerce?

It’s very important to play a role in how to upskill users digitally so they can do many other things on chat, like shopping on applications, mobile-friendly web pages, buying goods or making their business accounts where merchants can upload their catalogs for more information, and then customers can place their orders. Those are the elements that will really help us in driving that, and we should encourage it.

During the coming years, what are the goals and future plans that Clickatell is working towards achieving?

We have been very fortunate to play a pioneering role in chat commerce globally. We've seen a slow transition in diversifying and enhancing payment options; we launched Chat 2 Pay, where people can make payments very simply on WhatsApp while they're chatting. When they click the link, they are served a fully hosted checkout page where they can securely enter payment card details and submit the payment. Then a confirmation of the order and the receipt are sent via message. So, it's quite interesting to know the payments journey has only just started. I believe that WhatsApp payments will leapfrog every other [option] and will change the payment landscape globally.

We are still partnering with OEMs to see how to synchronize WhatsApp with their machines. Monetizing this channel has been a journey, and digital literacy is a challenge. We have seen people dropping their traditional SMS to adopt WhatsApp. It's a one-stop-shop: once we enter into it, everything can be done in the comfort of the customer’s room. That's what we want to achieve and what we see in the future.

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