Written by Adeola Kayode - Nigeria
The rapid spread of smart phones is expanding the possibilities for digital technology across the world. There is a significant shift in mobile communication, as smartphones ensure that people can now go beyond the traditional phone calls to other Internet-enabled functionalities, including emailing, browsing, using social media and using mobile payments. Most of these functionalities are being powered, using various applications.
In an Ericsson Mobility report earlier in June, it was asserted that the number of global smart phone subscriptions would double by 2020. The report also said that 70 per cent of the world's population would have smart phones by that date.
Is this possible? Certainly. This is because Africa, which has the lowest Internet penetration, has emerged as one of the fastest growing continent when it comes to digital and mobile technology. Africa's population is largely youthful - many of its teeming population are already getting used to living with phone technology.
How are brands and businesses positioning for this global reality? Take the example of Facebook. Before apps became a trend, Facebook had keyed into opportunities in mobile apps. In early 2014, Facebook made waves in the tech world by acquiring WhatsApp for an astounding $19bn. About 18 months later, it bought another photo, messaging app for $1bn. While so many people had debated the rationale behind the huge transactions, current market performances confirm Facebook's decision.
Facebook own four of the top 10 mobile, messaging apps downloaded across the world. As the focus on the screens across the world moves to laptops, tablets and mobile phones, there is the need for brands and businesses to pay close attention to online and apps.
It is interesting to note that as mobile apps have continued to increase, smart phone users are moving from social networking to mobile messaging. In fact, someone described social networking as someone attempting to communicate with friends by pinning a messaging on their doors and hoping that they will see it somehow.
To deepen discussions around mobile in the new conomy, TechCabaland WeChat organised the first edition of AfricaBeta event taggedChat 3.0 to explore technologies that are shaping the future of the African continent. Bringing together leading experts from several industries, the event was designed to stir discussions, debate and explore the possibilities around mobile technology.
It also provided some start-ups the opportunity to pitch for business support and to gain access to the WeChat platform. While the event was supported and led by WeChat, it offered many businesses and industry watchers the opportunity to think on how their businesses would leverage mobile applications in the emerging business landscape.
Telecoms on the look out
Are telecoms watching this trend? They had better be. As far back as April 2013, Daniel Thomas had written in theFinancial Times about how the rise of chat apps were eating into the profits of traditional mobile telecommunications companies. As customers continue to dump traditional calling for online chat and messaging apps, it is important they understand how the trend affects their business and how to respond accordingly.
Nowadays more businesses use Instagram, WeChat, Viber, WhatsApp. Small businesses, especially, are already using the apps to reach the millennials, a generation raised during the evolution of social and mobile technology.
How are businesses looking to use mobile messaging apps for business?
Online hailing, ordering and kook ups
Businesses like dry cleaning and taxi services like Uber, TicketMobile and Jekalo are already using these apps.
From mobile chat to e-commerce
The power and potential of mobile phone and mobile money is already known across the world. With more than 80 per cent of global mobile money transfers happening in Africa, services like MPESA is already teaching the world about the power of mobile money transfer even with feature phones.
However, online messaging apps, like WeChat, is already pushing and expanding the circle in mobile e-commerce by enabling mobile payment functionalities within its messaging application. Popular within China, WeChat is one of the world's fastest growing mobile messaging platforms with an average of 600 million monthly-active users globally.
Mobile chat for live support
Mobile messaging apps have continued to help businesses to meet the privacy needs of their customer. This offers better opportunities than traditional channels of customer service.
Apart from using traditional mobile messaging apps, there are customer service applications designed to extend chat functionalities in order to integrate online chat into any company's existing customer relationship management process. They include Desk, ZenDesk, Parature and Get Satisfaction.