African Banks Perfectly Poised To Benefit From Chat Commerce


By Kingsley I. Ilechukwu, Correspondent Lagos

Attendees at Clickatell’s Connect Interact and Transact (CIT) annual event in November heard how chat commerce can assist companies, especially banks, connect with customers who are increasingly demanding a new way of engagement and shifting their trust from traditional organisations to startups.

The event, which is normally hosted in Lagos for Clickatell’s Nigerian and other African customers and partners, was hosted virtually this year and chaired by Hannes van Rensburg, Clickatell’s Chief Commercial Officer.

He introduced the speakers by positioning the importance of digital engagement in a pandemic challenged world.

“COVID-19 has changed customers’ buying behaviour and how they interact with brands. For this reason, it has accelerated digital investments for many organisations. Companies are now urgently turning to chat channels to help them meet these new expectations. Clickatell is investing and innovating in this space so we can enable commerce where your customers are,” van Rensburg explained.

Featured speaker, principal analyst at Forrester Alyson Clarke kicked off her keynote titled: The Future of Banking, by sharing some of the company’s research findings. These showed how banking business priorities have changed during the pandemic. Of note was banks accelerating their shift to become digital businesses, ranked as the third top priority post-pandemic, closely following growing revenue and reducing costs.

Forrester states that the next decade in banking will be all about insights and who consumers trust to use them. The organization says: consumers want personalized experiences and products, with a level of guidance and assistance set by customer preference; that customers expect return on consent and that trust and permission must not be taken for granted. It was also noted that a focus on financial well-being, through advice and in refining products for consumer needs, will define leaders.

An engaging panel discussion following the keynote focussed on the importance of chat when it comes to empowering consumers in a digital world.

Business Development and Partnerships at WhatsApp, Gareth Bray opened the discussion by sharing how Covid-19 had accelerated existing trends.

“We’ve been working with our partners, such as Clickatell, to onboard new businesses, whether it’s their first foray into conversational commerce or to vastly increase the efficiency of their customer service by using asynchronous chat apps. We have multiple use cases in the fintech space in Africa. One company began onboarding new customers through their chat channel, which meant they could still grow their business even in the throes of a pandemic,” he said.

Co-founder and CEO at Clickatell Pieter de Villiers confirmed this trend saying chat was faster, simpler and smarter for both the customer and for the bank. He said Clickatell believes banks, particularly in the emerging markets, can increase their reach by a factor of three if they implement chat. “The goal should be no pain for your customer and ultimately zero hold time,” de Villiers added.

With over 2 billion users on its platform, WhatsApp understands user behaviour when it comes to chat.

“Meeting your customer where they are is key in all of this. Our findings show that sixty percent of users choose to message a business rather than pick up the phone. They want to interact with a bank on a device of their choosing, on the platform of their choosing, at a time of their choosing. They want this frictionless, convenient service from any company they may be interacting with,” Bray shared.

Clickatell’s West Africa Director, Samson Isa, underpinned these findings when he shared the results of an online poll event attendees had taken earlier. When asked how comfortable their customers were transacting digitally, 60 per cent of attendees responded ‘very comfortable’, 44 per cent responded ‘somewhat comfortable’ and just 6 per cent said their customers were ‘not very comfortable’ transacting digitally.

“We can see that African customers want to engage with brands via digital channels. Enabling chat commerce provides a huge opportunity, particularly for banks in the region,” said de Villiers in his closing.

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