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How Chat Commerce is Kicking Off a Convenience Revolution in South Africa

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Luis Monzon
Luis Monzon
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Clickatell, a CPaaS innovator and Chat Commerce leader, discussed with attendees at its Connect Interact and Transact (CIT) annual Joburg event on Tuesday the new era of Chat Commerce and how businesses can lay the groundwork for a completely new way of serving customers.

Big-name local brands also gave real-world insight into how they are turning their chat channels into robust, personal customer experiences at scale and generating new revenue streams.

Titled “Turning Conversations into Commerce”, the event was attended by an impressive list of business and technology leaders from across the continent and was moderated by Werner Lindemann, Clickatell’s Senior Vice President Enterprise Sales: Growth Markets.

Guest speaker, Bronwyn Williams, futurist, economist, and business trends analyst, shared a fascinating look into the future of technology and the many exciting opportunities that lie ahead.

Williams pointed out that through the use of rapidly evolving AI and other technologies, chat is becoming increasingly intuitive. However, she noted that while the aim of the new technology was to make chatbots almost indistinguishable from humans, “any effective anticipatory communications with customers must happen in real-time and, most importantly, where they are and in a way that feels natural and not disruptive.”

She summed up her presentation urging business leaders to carefully consider how they automate to optimise cost savings, while still maintaining a sustainable, human connection with their customers.

Building on these insights, Pieter de Villiers, Co-Founder and CEO at Clickatell, took a closer look at what happens when brands engage with their customers where they are, building on ‘the convenience revolution’, first put forward by Shep Hyken.

De Villiers opened by challenging the audience to question the real value of time and how their customers weighed up the value of convenience.

“As anyone in retail will tell you, location, location, location is everything. And, with chat now having almost twice the number of active users than the internet, there can be no better place than the address book of your customers– the most valuable location of all,” de Villiers said.

De Villiers pointed out that the features from mega-platforms, Meta and WhatsApp, would take Chat Commerce to a whole new level, saying that soon there would be nothing that could be done on the internet that couldn’t be done on chat.

“Convenience is not difficult to achieve. If you meet your customers where they are, not only can you build a closer, more authentic engagement with them, but you’re giving them back the one thing that we all crave, time,” he shared.

A robust panel debate followed, allowing Clickatell clients and partners to share their experiences and learnings with the audience.

Looking at the value of chat, Daniela Birnbaum, Channel Partner Manager at WhatsApp EMEA, sang the praises of local brands who she said are leading the charge when it comes to building a strong WhatsApp channel. She also noted that South Africa is ahead of many other EMEA regions when it comes to chat adoption.

Gareth Bray, BD & Partnerships Lead EMEA – Business Messaging Group for Meta, went on to share that the rapid advancement in features had catapulted WhatsApp from a simple text channel to a customer engagement platform where brands can very effectively create personal relationships with their customers.

It is this ability to personalise communication that has allowed local airline, FlySafair to take its digital offering to the next level.

“It doesn’t matter where I made my booking, when I type ‘Hi’ in the WhatsApp channel it will immediately be able to access my booking. We have been particularly excited about how fast we can roll out new features on the channel and being able to reduce the call centre engagement has massively benefited the customers and our business,” explained Eswee Vorster, Executive Manager and CIO at FlySafair.

Turning to how local retail brands had adopted chat, Lynne Blignaut, Head of Loyalty and Customer Rewards at Dis-Chem shared that enabling customers to order chronic prescription medication over WhatsApp has been a game changer.

“Typically we only see 50% of people actually adhere to their chronic medication for a maximum of six months of the year. Being able to reach more people and ensure they adhere to their chronic medication and stay healthy, by expanding the platforms that they can use to order their medication without standing in a queue is a big leap forward. Of course, adding a payment option to this will make a big impact on the overall customer journey, and we are really looking forward to seeing this happen,” she shared.

De Villiers summed up the conversation saying: “WhatsApp is pervasive and safe. We see adding embedded payments as the logical next step and we have no doubt that this will be the one transformative thing that will keep customers engaged and a bold step into the convenience revolution.”

The night culminated with the presentation of three Chat Commerce awards. The first went to FlySafair, who are now running all their day of operation messages on WhatsApp. The second went to aYo Holdings, which uses WhatsApp to onboard its more than 12 million microinsurance clients. Finally, the Chat Commerce Innovator of the Year was awarded to Imperial Logistics, for its use of chat platforms in a B2B environment.

Wrapping up Lindemann said: “The chat industry is currently valued at around eighty billion dollars and it’s no surprise that brands want to use this as a catalyst for their digital transformation. The continued advances made by WhatsApp provide the ideal platform for our clients to turn their imagination into reality and we expect many more ground-breaking use cases to emerge over the next 12 months.”

By Staff Writer.

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