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Chat commerce is undoubtedly the way of the future, according to Pieter de Wet, President Business Development: International Markets at leading pan-African fintech enablement partner Ukheshe Technologies. “Ukheshe’s own Eclipse Chat Commerce solution offers everything a business needs – not only now, but also as an organisation grows.”
Consumers are making a rapidly increasing portion of their purchases through chat commerce channels. Juniper Research estimates that sales made via chat commerce channels like chatbots, digital voice assistants and messaging will grow more than seven-fold from $41 billion in 2021 to $290 billion by 2025.
Gartner research also estimates that by the end of 2022, 70 percent of all customer interactions will involve emerging technologies such as chatbots and mobile messaging (up from 15 percent in 2018). Messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and WeChat now have over 5 billion monthly active users, and people use them even more than social networks.
It makes sense, then, that commerce would follow on these channels and that companies need to get in on the action as soon as possible. But with a multitude of platform offerings on the market, how do you choose the perfect partner?
Companies need to recognise that customers want to experience convenience on these channels, says De Wet. “Customers are looking for conveniences such as improved customer support and a commerce platform that doesn’t require a payment device or an alternative app to make or receive payments. They want all these services through a single device or application.”
That’s why, with the predicted exponential growth on these channels, jumping in head over feet could be a mistake. “Companies need to make a considered choice when partnering with a chat commerce platform. Chat commerce enables merchants to manage their businesses on the go with minimal difficulty – but only if their enablement partner operates from a digital-first perspective, with solutions that are quick to market and help merchants through a seamless process.”
Future needs and capabilities should also be factored in, as teaming up with a platform that only meets your current needs will soon become obsolete – costing you more money in the long term and hurting your sales in the process. Simple payments links, for example, and especially when these are limited to only certain platforms or channels, aren’t enough. Similarly, a platform that only offers one payment provider or card issuer will mean losing out on customers and sales.
De Wet says organisations need to find a well-rounded solution that offers vast capabilities on multiple channels, is inclusive of multiple payment channels and schemes, and can be easily expanded as your needs grow.
The future, perfected
Ukheshe’s Eclipse Chat Commerce solution is an inclusive digital-first payments solution that can be executed or delivered on multiple channels. “Ukheshe hosts a vast SME-in-a-box offering. This suite includes virtual card issuing, QR and person-to-person transfers through MCQR and VQR, e-commerce tokenisation to protect sensitive data, VAS vending (for airtime and data), money transfers, payroll HR, invoicing, tap-on-glass payment facilities (softpos) and mPOS,” says De Wet.
When it comes to chat commerce, the Eclipse API allows organisations to view and pay bills via QR codes, cards and digital wallets; create virtual cards and pay with them; transfer money through WhatsApp or any other chat bot solution; and get paid through QR codes. Customer support chats can be done through multiple chatbots.
Ukheshe Technologies enabled the first Mastercard virtual card to be used in WhatsApp, an African-first, through customer Telkom Pay. Ukheshe has also partnered with both Mastercard and Visa and aims to be scheme-agnostic and inclusive of all payment methods and issuers.
There is great opportunity for chat commerce – especially in emerging markets, with Africa having 650 million mobile users, surpassing the number in the USA and Europe, believes De Wet. “Africa has the possibility to become the leader in digital banking adoption if more unique and seamless experiences are created for consumers looking to trade using a digital device.
“Providing a cost-effective, safe and efficient solution for merchants that allows them to transact in multiple ways is the golden thread when it comes to financially including populations that wouldn’t necessarily have access to this kind of technology and banking. Chat commerce closes the gaps we see in financial inclusion by providing multiple solutions from a single channel best suited for the merchant. The possibilities are endless with digital-first payment solutions.”