The modern customer expects the process of engaging with a brand to be simple and easy. It is a long-accepted norm that the only way to achieve the level of service that delivers this convenience today is through digital channels. For this reason, organisations understand that they need to move with innovation in order to provide a fully digitalised end-to-end customer journey.
This expectation around digital communication extends to every aspect of a business, from the search function to offering a service for payment. Brands are usually good at delivering the first three stages of any customer journey, namely: connection, cultivation, and consideration. Stumbling blocks usually start at the conversion stage – when it is time to pay for goods or services that often require some form of authentication and validation.
These steps of course are critical for trust and security, and the smoother this stage is, the more likely you are to be creating a returning customer. The payment stage can be cumbersome if the back-end technology is not up to scratch. There is nothing more off-putting to a customer than having to go through the tedious process of registering for an account, remembering passwords and log-ins and even physically having to print, scan and send documents to complete a transaction. If we were writing a guide on how to lose customers efficiently – these sorts of stumbling blocks would make the list.
Brands are thankfully getting wise to this and in response, digital payment services have been evolving from this clumsy cobbling together of processes to a more streamlined fully automated experience.
The customer expectation that this should be easy has been building steadily building over some years, but it was the pandemic that provided the real stimulus for change. Lockdown created a sudden surge in online traffic, the likes of which have never been experienced before. It led, as we know, to an almost overnight change in customer behaviour which caused the majority of customers to engage with brands through digital channels. Interestingly, what we saw was a surge in chat commerce, especially in South Africa, and companies that already have chat commerce capabilities have seen a huge uptake of these services at the start of this year.
As a result, most traditional voice contact centres now have chat capabilities too that enable customers to connect over a channel such as WhatsApp. In fact, we are seeing huge volumes of traffic being driven through Over the Top (OTT) services such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Instagram. Customers want choice and simplicity.
However, the shift to digital channels also highlighted challenges with the payment aspect of chat commerce. As such, many existing payment solutions have been seeking innovative methods to make payment processing easy and seamless with OTT products such as WhatsApp.
Payment channels are now available over OTT platforms such as WhatsApp, and this is revolutionary. When WhatsApp for Business API was launched in South Africa, it was initially very focused on customer service. Recently, two issues with WhatsApp were solved with the enablement of authentication and the addition of a security layer, which means it can now be used to process payments.
Doing more with OTT
Customers can now search for a product, look at it, and pay for it as part of a WhatsApp Customer Experience (CX). This is how payment solutions have revolutionised WhatsApp. While this was largely propelled by the pandemic, customer expectations grew as people wanted to do more via OTT platforms. The expectation was that things needed to be simplified over a channel that the customer already uses. In addition, customers are more likely to utilise channels such as WhatsApp for payment services from a data usage perspective. Chat apps typically consume less data than online portals or mobile applications.
However, to effectively leverage digital communication, organisations should adopt an omnichannel approach. This essentially means consolidating an organisation’s communication channels into a single communication strategy. It makes little financial and managerial sense to have multiple providers for different channels.
A multiple-channel approach gives enterprises a comprehensive view of their communications strategy, allowing them to analyse inbound data. Omnichannel is not about the outbound reach, but about inbound information. Once you adopt this inbound strategy, you are letting your customers speak to you on the channel of their choice. This will drive volumes and also real data through your contact centre.
Chat commerce has exploded in South Africa, and East and West Africa are also getting onto the CX bandwagon with WhatsApp. We are currently riding this wave and so many developments in this space coming at a rapid pace.
About the author
Shaun van Rooyen Manager, Strategic Accounts & Partnerships Africa at Infobip