Raheem Akingbolu reviews the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA) estimation, which puts mobile subscriptions in Africa at 850 million, with a meager 300 million internet users in 2020 and maps out how mobile offline can be more useful in the continent.
Africa has a diverse population of 1.2 billion people. According to the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA), there were 850 million mobile subscriptions and only 300 million internet users in 2020. The GSMA also report that by 2021, there will be 500 million mobile internet users in Africa – It is clear that Africa is still predominantly an offline market, a fact that marketers must be mindful in developing their marketing strategy and campaigns.
This distinctive feature of the African consumer market being more offline than online is evident in the ways some brands offer their products and services to consumers, across various sectors. For instance, in Nigeria, all top tier banks offer various services such as account opening, payment transactions, airtime purchase, utility payment and even loan requests via Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD), an offline mobile channel – making their services available to a much wider consumer base than the limitation of their App, which requires consumers to be data subscribers. In the last quarter of 2020, N1.63 trillion was transferred by Nigerians via USSD, while online transactions were 569 million by the end of Q3 2020.
A key point to note on online subscriber data usage on the continent is that it could be misleading. This is because, as a result of the high cost of purchasing data, some online subscribers buy data to use only at specific times i.e. switch on and off when not in use. For instance, a mechanic with a data plan would switch it on to notify his client to pick up his vehicle to avoid a paid voice call or even SMS costs. Therefore, although he can be qualified as an “online subscriber” the most effective way to engage him may not be online. Therefore to thrive, Brands must learn to take full advantage of the basic offline channel ie SMS to reach and engage the African consumer.
Bulk SMS for Customer Engagement
Using SMS to engage customers is nothing new; since the launch of GSM services, “Bulk SMS” has been a way for Brands to reach customers. Bulk SMS involves the dissemination of messaging to a large number of mobile subscribers. However, due to the pervasiveness of the channel it has been abused by unscrupulous Brands and digital agencies who frequently spam customers with irrelevant and unwanted messages constantly, inadvertently leading to negative brand experiences and frustrated customers. For instance, a Muslim would not appreciate being bombarded with messages urging him to try out the latest alcoholic beverage offered by an FMCG company.
So how can we make offline mobile data more “intelligent”, help brands enable hyper-targeted customer engagement and give customers the sort of meaningful experience they desire from brands?
Data-powered Marketing Technology
The answer lies with data-powered marketing technology platforms (such as Terragon’s Customer Data Platform (CDP) – TerragonPrime) specifically made to cater to this peculiar need, within the strictest forms of data privacy. It is a platform that enables a data supply side on one hand and a business demand side on the other.
It has a data supply side, which aggregates data from sources and provides the most relevant and useful data sets of consumers at scale i.e. telcos, and a business demand side which Brands are able to leverage to gain relevant insights and reach their existing customers and prospects.
According to experts, when such intelligence powered by Telco data is applied, Brands experience a higher rate of success and customer conversions because the customer fits the right target market/audience for the brand’s product or service. It is also believed that the customer expects to receive messages from the brand while the brand is able to cross-sell and up-sell other products and services as there is a better understanding of who the customer is, their preferences and interest.
Telco and Data Monetisation
Telecom companies have an untapped asset in the torrents of customer data at their disposal which is exponentially rising every day – Data required by Brands to gain a better understanding of their consumers in order to deliver personalised engagements. Therein lies the opportunity for both parties, an opportunity for Data monetization, which can be fulfilled through marketing technology (Martech) platforms.
Over the past few years, Telcos have experienced an erosion of revenues from their traditional, core offerings i.e. voice and SMS, losing out to subscribers embracing instant messaging and internet-based voice and video calls such as WhatsApp (which recorded 2B active monthly users in 180 countries sending 100M messages a day according to WhatsApp’s 2021 Internal Data)
Telcos have access to various range data sets including demographic, geographic, interests etc due to the types of service being offered, which could help Brands across various verticals (retail, financial services, FMCG, advertising, healthcare, public services, etc) understand their customers better, deliver hyper-targeted campaigns resulting in higher RoI and lower conversion costs.
In the online digital space, Global Big tech companies monetize their data by helping Businesses improve their online advertising campaign performance, resulting in exponential revenues. Search engine giant Google, for example, made $146.92 billion in revenues from their advertising arm of their business in 2020 by processing tons of data and enabling personalized digital advertising for millions of businesses – small mom and pop shops to large multinational enterprises alike. This helps them to capture even more revenue than before. Similarly, Amazon develops algorithms that enable it to personalize online shopping to match customer interests. As a result, it generates per-user revenues that are significantly higher than those of its competitors. According to CTO, Co-founder, GrocerApp, Hassaan Sadiq, “We leveraged Amazon Personalise to provide product recommendations to customers on our apps using customer purchase data. With Amazon Personalise, we have achieved a massive 17% increment in the average order value, enabling us to fill customer orders immediately while increasing the overall basket size.” –
This is the way a number of digital-savvy and ambitious Telcos in Africa who currently engage the service of Terragon view the opportunity of data monetisation.