A Playbook for in-Store Mobile Transacting in South Africa

“South African consumers are driving a mobile payment revolution enabled by a slew of innovative home grown technology companies. Local retailers, brands and agencies are leveraging the power of mobile payments in clever ways to unlock new revenue streams and boost customer retention.” So says Bevan Ducasse, CEO of wiGroup, following the release of the company’s white paper on in-store mobile transacting.

According to the 2013 GSM African Mobile Observatory report, South Africa has just under 60 million mobile phones in use today. “In a population of only 50 million people, it’s reasonably safe to assume that the overwhelming majority of South Africans own a mobile phone. With the explosion of mobile payment services and apps, and the increasing affordability of smartphones, the challenge today is how retailers can tap into the vast potential for additional revenue, customer retention and innovative marketing campaigns offered by mobile payments,” says Ducasse.

Global market adoption looking healthy

Ducasse says recent success in mobile payment adoption in other markets has been encouraging. “US coffee chain Starbucks developed a mobile payment app that processed $1-billion in transactions in 2013 alone. In China, the value of all mobile payments in 2013 came to $1.6-trillion, a more than 200% increase on the year before. While Africa has traditionally led the adoption of mobile payments, clearly the more developed markets are catching on.”

One of the key challenges of driving adoption of in-store mobile transacting has been a lack of uniformity. “There’s currently no one wallet or application that can do it all, and we don’t expect there to really ever be one. The reality is a complex and ever-evolving ecosystem that includes customers, retailers, brands, agencies, banks, mobile networks, and local and international app developers. It’s this interplay between these disparate groups that is producing some exciting possibilities for the mobile payments space in South Africa.”

Local success with mobile transacting

A retailer who seems to have found the magic touch with mobile transacting is fast food chain Hungry Lion. Through various campaigns the company has issued millions of mobile coupons that are redeemed in-store at the till. Brand marketing manager Tashalene Reid says the key to their success with mobile transacting is education. “Our customers generally don’t consume much print media so we took a strategic decision to focus on the mobile phone, specifically feature phones, as this is what our customer base uses. Engaging with them on mass market above-the-line platforms such as Mxit, Facebook, radio, and TV – combined with a strong focus on easy-to-understand in-store information – has translated into some very successful mobile driven campaigns.”

The biggest campaign Hungry Lion has run to date was the Million Ice Cream Campaign which saw the company give away one million ice creams to customers. Through their integration with wiPlatform, Hungry Lion issued uniquely generated one-time-PIN codes called wiCodes to their customer base primarily via USSD, and saw a redemption rate of more than 70%. “Traditionally you’d be happy with 12-15% redemption, but the depth of real-time analytics sitting behind the technology enables us to quickly adapt where we need to and cull ineffective campaigns. We are also keeping a close eye on new emerging technologies that could help to boost the impact of our campaigns. The beauty of having wiPlatform installed at our till points is that we can very quickly incorporate new apps and solutions without heavy investment in time or resources.”

Creating a new playing field

wiGroup’s point-of-sale (POS) platform has lowered the barriers to entry for retailers, brands and agencies wishing to add a mobile transacting component to their sales and marketing campaigns. “In-store mobile transacting includes mobile vouchers, coupons, loyalty and rewards programmes and direct payments and money transfers. One of the great benefits of a single platform is that all your learnings from one campaign can easily be applied to the next, meaning you stand to improve on redemption rates, customer retention and sales figures during every single campaign. This really leaves marketers to focus on developing innovative campaigns that hand them a competitive advantage over other brands.”

Ducasse does warn that the success of any in-store mobile transacting campaign is not only reliant on the technology. “Retailers must ensure that the operations team – including individual store managers – are fully briefed and on board, and that till staff understand how the technology and campaign mechanics work. As we’ve seen with some of our brands and agency clients, customer education also plays a vital role; for this, in-store education campaigns work best. Whatever you do, make it as simple as possible for consumers: if you confuse them, chances are your campaign will fail to achieve its objectives.”

For a copy of the white paper, “In-Store Mobile Transacting: A Playbook for Retailers”, please visit www.wigroupinternational.com. This opinion piece was first published by Shopping & Retail magazine. July 2014.

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