Rapid Growth in Chat Commerce Helps SA Brands Deliver on Customer Service

South African companies are inherently innovative and many local brands are keen to engage with new technologies to better serve their customers. Mobile communications and Chat Commerce specialist, Clickatell, looks at the rapid growth of Chat Commerce in South Africa and shares some advice for companies considering adding chat to their omni-channel offering.

The days of having a call centre as the primary (and sometimes only) means of engaging with brands are coming to an end. Global consumers have spoken and 2020 data shows that 57% of customers would rather contact a company via digital channels, with just 3% saying they enjoyed using Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology – the traditional answer to call centre automation. South African brands, meanwhile, have been quick to try and act on the trends, although they have shown mixed results.

“We have seen a number of South African enterprises dabbling with the concept of chatbots without properly thinking through the end-to-end consumer journey. Chat is a catalyst for digital transformation. We don’t see chat replacing call centres, however we see chat having a role to play in optimising the consumer experience through call centre deflection and automation,” explains Clickatell’s Commercial Senior Vice President for Middle East and Southern Africa, Werner Lindemann. “It will also drive costs down because call centre costs are escalating rapidly as consumers demand instant gratification, especially for the big consumer brands.”

Three of the company’s South African clients which have used chat with great success are Pick n Pay, WeBuyCars and FlySafair.

Local growth in chat doubles

Looking at how chat has performed in South Africa over the past year, Lindemann says growth has been on a steep trajectory, particularly in key verticals.

“The area that we’ve seen a big demand for in the last year has been around our new Chat 2 Pay solution that enables merchants to securely accept payments in chat messaging by sending consumers a payment link via SMS or WhatsApp. Driving payments within chat channels is an effective way to address cart abandonment because customers can move seamlessly from their browsing experience to payment. Capturing customers in the moment has proved invaluable and this has struck a chord with local companies hoping to boost their customer experience,” he says.

Lindemann points to the company’s own performance in the region as a proof point of the success of chat, saying that the number of WhatsApp messages (or business interactions) has doubled in the past year.

“A 100 percent growth is indicative of how South African brands are embracing chat. The growth in business interactions also shows that we have helped brands ease the pressure on their call centres – a need which has skyrocketed in the last twenty months. The vertical which has shown the biggest growth in Chat Commerce over the last year has been financial services, with an especially large interest from insurance companies. In addition, with the massive growth in e-commerce, we have also seen phenomenal growth in chat commerce within the retail sector, which has also been driven by the need to deflect volume from their call centres,” he shares.

Lindemann says some local brands have been very strategic with how they are using chat. This includes iterative deployments across the company once they have seen evidence of success. Successful implementations have also been duplicated in other regions allowing brands to quickly and effectively use the channel to better serve their customers and offer upselling capabilities across their operations.

Finding the sweet spot for chat

Looking to the future, Lindemann has three pieces of advice for local companies considering chat.

“Leaders must first understand how technology can transform their business and chat can be a powerful part of that transformational journey. The second thing is that enterprises need to think about how they service customers in the space that customers already are. Leaders need to consider how they want to engage with their customers and this includes in the real world, on the web, and of course on chat. The final piece of advice is to better understand your customer data and, through this, understand what it is your customers really want. With these considerations reviewed, you will be in an ideal place to design a chat implementation that will deliver meaningful results,” he sums up.

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