Chat Commerce Offers Businesses a Winning Platform for Innovation and Growth

It is difficult to overstate the impact that mobile technology is having in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the GSMA expecting 613 million mobile connections and mobile technologies in the region to generate a considerable $154 billion (8% of GDP) by 2025. From literacy to mobile health, mobile phones have transformed the way services can be delivered. The advancement of mobile commerce has truly revolutionised how African brands are engaging with their customers. And, as new developments gather momentum, transformative offerings like chat commerce are set to turbocharge digital business on the continent. 

Chat commerce is best described as the simple act of using your favourite messaging app to make a purchase, secure a service or request support. By simply sending a message, the same as you would to a friend or family member, consumers can now quickly and simply query a bill, explore a product or service or even make a purchase without leaving their chat screen. 

African Brands Embrace the Chat Revolution 

Southern African brands have always been widely recognised for their pioneering attitudes when it comes to new innovations, and none more so than in the field of mobile. South African banks are acknowledged as having been some of the early adopters of chat technologies, often innovating well ahead of the global curve. 

As the continent became more connected and smartphones began to proliferate, advances in messaging technology have made the phone the primary device for both communication and commerce, and soon it wasn’t just the banks that were leading the way. 

In February 2023, South Africa’s leading low-cost airline, FlySafair became the first airline in the world to deploy Chat 2 Pay with a pay-by-link capability that allows its customers the convenience of effortless mobile payments via FlySafair’s WhatsApp channel. 

Rather than demanding customers to download yet another app, the airline, which is recognised by TripAdvisor as one of the world’s top carriers based on the quantity and quality of reviews and ratings, opted to use WhatsApp as a convenient and instantaneous customer service and transaction channel for its customers. 

FlySafair customers can now pay for their luggage with a payment link shared to their mobile phones via WhatsApp, eliminating the frustration of having to stand in a queue at the airport. 

The latest service comes just a year after the airline expanded its existing customer service by offering the popular WhatsApp channel through the Clickatell Platform. The channel hosts key information about customer bookings, flight status, general flight information, an option to check-in and receive boarding passes on WhatsApp, the option to chat with a live agent, and now the option to make payments for extra products and services. 

Another great example of local innovation is South Africa’s largest integrated communications company, Telkom, which has also opted to use WhatsApp as a cornerstone of its omni-channel offering. 

The telco now allows its many millions of post-paid and prepaid customers to pay their phone and xDSL/fibre bills, and buy airtime, data and SMS bundles over the channel. With the addition of Chat 2 Pay, customers benefit from a convenient and personalised service to pay bills and VAS top-ups via Mastercard and Visa debit and credit cards. 

Chat Commerce Provides the Architecture to Innovate 

The rise of messaging platforms has been nothing short of meteoric. Chat has quickly become the channel to which South African consumers are constantly connected and WhatsApp is now used daily by 95% of internet users in South Africa. Both young and old are comfortable using the channel, allowing merchants to cost effectively and easily engage with their all customers, where they are. 

For busy merchants, having a channel that can easily automate high-volume repeat customer service requests, lowering the reliance on resource-heavy call centres, can transform business operations. But it is the advancement of in-chat payments that is set to seriously revolutionise chat commerce. 

Looking ahead, no doubt the next step in our mobile evolution will rely on the power of a trusted, two-way communication channel that allows brands to securely connect with their customers. Winning brands will be the ones that can imagine a digital space where customers can connect, interact and transact with them, one-on-one, as they move from browsing to buying, all without leaving their chat screen. This is the future of chat commerce. Where our mobile phones become a mall in our pocket and where brands can create long-term, high-worth customer relationships. 

More particularly, winning brands will be the ones which partner with an experienced chat commerce and business messaging leader which is able to truly customise their chat offering, facilitating frictionless commerce in a low-risk, high-return environment.