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Tips for banks to reach all ages in Africa

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DEWALD NOLTE, VP Business at Entersekt, offers some tips on how African banks can attract and retain customers, despite their age to ensure they are preparing for future generational expectations.  

As mobile internet connectivity grows, African youth are fast embracing the opportunity to connect, converse and transact on the web.

According to the GSMA (Mobile Economy Report 2015), mobile internet penetration in Sub-Saharan Africa was expected to reach 38% by 2020. This has largely been driven by lower costs of smartphones, which the GSMA says have decreased by 20% since 2008. A rapidly growing local app market and easy access to games and social media have captivated the youth market.

Although the Millennials generation is a Western construct, African youth (18 to 34) – particularly the urban youth – are displaying similar online behaviour patterns to their counterparts in developed countries. And, while the older generations may accuse them of being driven by a need for instant gratification, the youth’s expectation of simple, fast and always-on service is shifting how organisations design their offerings.

Banks, meanwhile, have built their credibility by portraying themselves as the bastions of the economy, institutions designed to protect your money, with caution built into their organisational DNA. While this is important, of course, it isn’t something that necessarily attracts their fastest growing potential customer base.

Here are five pointers to help African banks attract and retain customers, no matter what their age, and to ensure they are preparing for future generational expectations.

1. Prepare to be compared

At the very outset, it’s important for banking institutions to understand that the younger generations are swiftly getting used to having information at their fingertips.

Research published by Pew Research Centre (2015 Global Attitudes Survey) shows that African youth are jumping at the opportunity to engage online. In Tanzania, those aged between 18 and 34 are 17% more connected to the internet than their elders. This climbs to a significant 31% in both Nigeria and Kenya. The research also shows that the connected youth are active on social media on a daily basis.

Social media is being used to ask questions and to make comparisons based on experience. Price comparison websites are also making it easier to make informed decisions.

This significantly changes the dynamic of how the youth choose products and interact with brands. It is obvious then, that banks will need to change the way they engage with the younger generation.  Designing for a frictionless experience must be priority.

2. Just make it work

User experience becomes a key issue when servicing customers across generations.

Based on their engagement with global sites, the connected youth have an expectation that everything must work immediately, offer real value, in a seamless experience.

While the younger generations have a better understanding of technology, continued literacy challenges and multiple regional dialect demographics adds complexity to the user interface served up by financial institutions. Complex security terms such as phishing and pharming can cause mistrust of the service. In many instances, this lack of understanding may lead to customers avoiding digital channels altogether, which in turn drives up the cost of delivery for the banks.

Making use of technology that appears exceptionally simple to the user takes away the fear factor. When it comes to authentication, banks must guarantee their customers’ protection against phishing and other digital fraud vectors without the costly and clumsy use of one-time passwords. These may give the appearance of good security, but they are less effective and overly complicated, particularly for those accessing services on their phones. Removing complexities at the very outset of the transaction resonates with both the older and younger generations.

3. No one reads anymore 

No generational cohort reads lengthy warnings or instructions. People will click through to the end of an instalment or process without actually being fully aware of the details – or this may again increase their mistrust of the service. Moreover, in our experience, when an organisation uses text-heavy instructions, abandonment rates shoot up. When communicating instructions, the “keep it simple” rule reigns supreme.

4. Markets are not the same

Companies also need to understand that new markets work very differently. What may have worked in Botswana, may not be obvious to those in Kenya. People use and engage with technology, language and each other differently in every market. This includes generational quirks.

Banks will need to tweak their user engagement depending on where they are operating. Working with partners who have experience in a region allows a bank to learn from their experiences, which can save time and costly mistakes.

5. Innovating for future generations

We see a lot written about banks becoming simple transaction pipes. To avoid this, they must adapt in order to provide better value for their customers.  This can be achieved in three ways:

  1. A simple user authentication, which has excellent security, is a great way to build trust with customers.
  1. Once this is in place, you can confidently open up your channels and add new services.
  1. Banks can then begin leveraging their merchant network in order to start on-selling their products to their customers – essentially becoming an aggregated merchant platform. By nurturing trust, banks are able to capitalise on a captive customer base and bring to bear vast economies of scale.

The complexities of catering across borders and language barriers and for different generations with different user expectations are enormous. However, if banks invest in technologies that are simple, seamless and flexible, they can not only ensure all age groups form trusting, lasting relationships with them, but also take an important step towards building new revenue opportunities for the future.

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When will we stop calling them phones?

If you don’t remember when phones were only used to talk to people, you may wonder why we still use this term for handsets, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, on the eve of the 10th birthday of the app.

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Do you remember when handsets were called phones because, well, we used them to phone people?

It took 120 years from the invention of the telephone to the use of phones to send text.

Between Alexander Graham Bell coining the term “telephone” in 1876 and Finland’s two main mobile operators allowing SMS messages between consumers in 1995, only science fiction writers and movie-makers imagined instant communication evolving much beyond voice. Even when BlackBerry shook the business world with email on a phone at the end of the last century, most consumers were adamant they would stick to voice.

It’s hard to imagine today that the smartphone as we know it has been with us for less than 10 years. Apple introduced the iPhone, the world’s first mass-market touchscreen phone, in June 2007, but it is arguable that it was the advent of the app store in July the following year that changed our relationship with phones forever.

That was the moment when the revolution in our hands truly began, when it became possible for a “phone” to carry any service that had previously existed on the World Wide Web.

Today, most activity carried out by most people on their mobile devices would probably follow the order of social media in first place – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all jostling for attention – and  instant messaging in close second, thanks to WhatsApp, Messenger, SnapChat and the like. Phone calls – using voice that is – probably don’t even take third place, but play fourth or fifth fiddle to mapping and navigation, driven by Google Maps and Waze, and transport, thanks to Uber, Taxify, and other support services in South Africa like MyCiti,  Admyt and Kaching.

Despite the high cost of data, free public Wi-Fi is also seeing an explosion in use of streaming video – whether Youtube, Netflix, Showmax, or GETblack – and streaming music, particularly with the arrival of Spotify to compete with Simfy Africa.

Who has time for phone calls?

The changing of the phone guard in South Africa was officially signaled last week with the announcement of Vodacom’s annual results. Voice revenue for the 2018 financial year ending 31 March had fallen by 4.6%, to make up 40.6% of Vodacom’s revenue. Total revenue had grown by 8.1%, which meant voice seriously underperformed the group, and had fallen by 4% as a share of revenue, from 2017’s 44.6%.

The reason? Data had not only outperformed the group, increasing revenue by 12.8%, but it had also risen from 39.7% to 42.8% of group revenue,

This means that data has not only outperformed voice for the first time – as had been predicted by World Wide Worx a year ago – but it has also become Vodacom’s biggest contributor to revenue.

That scenario is being played out across all mobile network operators. In the same way, instant messaging began destroying SMS revenues as far back as five years ago – to the extent that SMS barely gets a mention in annual reports.

Data overtaking voice revenues signals the demise of voice as the main service and key selling point of mobile network operators. It also points to mobile phones – let’s call them handsets – shifting their primary focus. Voice quality will remain important, but now more a subset of audio quality rather than of connectivity. Sound quality will become a major differentiator as these devices become primary platforms for movies and music.

Contact management, privacy and security will become critical features as the handset becomes the storage device for one’s entire personal life.

Integration with accessories like smartwatches and activity monitors, earphones and earbuds, virtual home assistants and virtual car assistants, will become central to the functionality of these devices. Why? Because the handsets will control everything else? Hardly.

More likely, these gadgets will become an extension of who we are, what we do and where we are. As a result, they must be context aware, and also context compatible. This means they must hand over appropriate functions to appropriate devices at the appropriate time. 

I need to communicate only using my earpiece? The handset must make it so. I have to use gesture control, and therefore some kind of sensor placed on my glasses, collar or wrist? The handset must instantly surrender its centrality.

There are numerous other scenarios and technology examples, many out of the pages of science fiction, that point to the changing role of the “phone”. The one thing that’s obvious is that it will be silly to call it a phone for much longer.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube
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MTN 5G test gets 520Mbps

MTN and Huawei have launched Africa’s first 5G field trial with an end-to-end Huawei 5G solution.

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The field trial demonstrated a 5G Fixed-Wireless Access (FWA) use case with Huawei’s 5G 28GHz mmWave Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) in a real-world environment in Hatfield Pretoria, South Africa. Speeds of 520Mbps downlink and 77Mbps uplink were attained throughout respectively.

“These 5G trials provide us with an opportunity to future proof our network and prepare it for the evolution of these new generation networks. We have gleaned invaluable insights about the modifications that we need to do on our core, radio and transmission network from these pilots. It is important to note that the transition to 5G is not just a flick of a switch, but it’s a roadmap that requires technical modifications and network architecture changes to ensure that we meet the standards that this technology requires. We are pleased that we are laying the groundwork that will lead to the full realisation of the boundless opportunities that are inherent in the digital world.” says Babak Fouladi, Group Chief Technology & Information Systems Officer, at MTN Group.

Giovanni Chiarelli, Chief Technology and Information Officer for MTN SA said: “Next generation services such as virtual and augmented reality, ultra-high definition video streaming, and cloud gaming require massive capacity and higher user data rates. The use of millimeter-wave spectrum bands is one of the key 5G enabling technologies to deliver the required capacity and massive data rates required for 5G’s Enhanced Mobile Broadband use cases. MTN and Huawei’s joint field trial of the first 5G mmWave Fixed-Wireless Access solution in Africa will also pave the way for a fixed-wireless access solution that is capable of replacing conventional fixed access technologies, such as fibre.”

“Huawei is continuing to invest heavily in innovative 5G technologies”, said Edward Deng, President of Wireless Network Product Line of Huawei. “5G mmWave technology can achieve unprecedented fiber-like speed for mobile broadband access. This trial has shown the capabilities of 5G technology to deliver exceptional user experience for Enhanced Mobile Broadband applications. With customer-centric innovation in mind, Huawei will continue to partner with MTN to deliver best-in-class advanced wireless solutions.”

“We are excited about the potential the technology will bring as well as the potential advancements we will see in the fields of medicine, entertainment and education. MTN has been investing heavily to further improve our network, with the recent “Best in Test” and MyBroadband best network recognition affirming this. With our focus on providing the South Africans with the best customer experience, speedy allocation of spectrum can help bring more of these technologies to our customers,” says Giovanni.

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