Over the past few months, Econet has been aggressively moving into a number of different fields; health, transport, and media. The respective launches of Maisha (or Ada), Kwese iflix, Vaya and Yo Mix all have some similarity. All these services are app-based which means unlike EcoFarmer or EcoCash which are predominantly USSD services, Econet is targeting the app market with these offerings.
The agent way
When Econet launches any product they make a lot of noise about that product and really we should have expected a similar approach with the aforementioned apps. Econet has agents that prompt people to download these 4 apps. You’ve probably met them at some point, book-in-hand asking you if you know about any of the above application and whether you’ve installed it. If you don’t, they school you for a few seconds and tell you why you need the apps in your life. If you do decide to download the application(s) your name will be taken down in the agent’s notebook. This seems like a pretty efficient way for Econet to ramp up their install numbers whilst agents can also make some money for the new customers they are bringing on board. It all sounds great but that’s not to say it’s a match made in heaven. We will talk about the problem with this method later on.
The other route Econet has taken to increase their install base is through promotions. There’s the recently announced the Vaya Million Dollar Promotion. There was a similar promotion for Kwese-iflix, last year as well. Obviously, if you tell people that they stand to win something when they download your app and register, they’ll do exactly that. It’s similar to playing the lotto and the hope of the rewards is enough to entice players. This method will no doubt increase the user install base but I’m not too sure how it bodes for user retention.
The benefits of these methods
Using agents is great because these agents act as the salesman familiarising the public with the benefits of using these apps. For some people who knew that these apps existed but didn’t really understand how they worked there’s a chance of potential conversion and the hope is once the application has been installed users will now understand how to use and there is less of a learning curve.
The promotion method also has its own benefits and if we look at Vaya’s most recent promotion we can see some benefits. First of all, many people who hadn’t installed the application will do so because they want to win something and secondly because you have to take a ride to stand a chance to win, the new installs are forced to learn how to use the application and then you get direct revenue once they do. It’s a pretty great way for people to experience your service and also give you their money. The same thing applies to the Kwese iflix promotions which prompted people to buy bundles and stand a chance to win. The install numbers kind of back this up as well. In November Vaya had over 5 000 installations on Google Play and now that number has doubled and they have over 10 000.
The problems with both methods
If there’s one thing I’m not a fan of when it comes to agents is that because the agents get paid for the number of people they get to install the apps, the guys may tell you whatever it takes to install the application. A colleague of mine was recently informed that the Yo Mix app works regardless of age, which isn’t true. Maybe the agent wasn’t outright lying to him and maybe they didn’t know about the age restriction but either way, if my colleague had gone on to download an app that wouldn’t work for them.
The only problem I have with the promotions is that it’s hard to secure repeat customers through this channel. We’ve seen it before with the OneFusion promotion and the impact tweaking it had on NetOne’s subscriber base and the structuring of the Vaya Million Dollar is kind of similar. How many Vaya customers will continue taking executive rides when the Million Dollar Promotion is over and they haven’t won anything? Of course, there are some customers who will remain once they have experienced your service but how many of them will actually continue using the application after the promotion? It’s hard to tell.
Among the benefits, I spoke of the doubling of installs that Vaya has achieved since November, but even that is hard to quantify. In November, Hwindi just like Vaya had over 5 000 downloads and now their app page also says they have over 10 000 downloads. This means they have effectively doubled their install base without the need for promotions or hiring physical agents to convince people to install their apps. It’s a slippery slope but judging on appearance alone, Hwindi might have the upper hand because their acquisitions are more organic.