Entrepreneur Greg Chen. Picture: Supplied
Entrepreneur Greg Chen. Picture: Supplied

Think that instant messaging platforms have overtaken SMS as the marketing leader in the digital realm? Think again.

The SA market is many things: complex, challenging, diverse and variable. It’s a landscape of challenges, but also a space where entrepreneurs and innovation can thrive. This is certainly the story of Mobiz, an SA company created by entrepreneur Greg Chen that recently received R18m in funding from Kalon Venture Partners, a local venture capital firm, to continue with its SMS success story in an instant messaging world.

Mobiz aims to create deeper personalisation and customer engagement using SMS messaging – a communication tool thought out of date but, as it turns out, one that is still a good way to build brand engagement.

The SMS goes straight into the digital environment and can be customised to do anything that’s needed, so brands can really leverage it to build marketing campaigns and customer engagement, says Chen.

Existing databases can be used by consumer-facing businesses with large volumes of customers to create targeted messaging that’s aligned with specific campaigns or customer retention programmes. For example, he explains, a unique link in the SMS text can take the user through a deeply personalised journey from the moment they click or tap on it – from the device to a customised landing page that is able to offer account information, or promotions that fit with their buying habits and behaviours. “It’s a blend of the staple tech of the SMS with emergent tech and analytics that allows for improved communication across vastly different customer bases,” he says.

“Using a secure and trusted link in an SMS, brands can build targeted landing pages that are hyperpersonalised using customer data that makes it easier for marketers to achieve personalisation at scale. Clients in the entertainment space, for example, can deliver favourite TV shows based on what that specific customer watched before. This is a smart way of pulling people deeper into the company’s offerings and network without being invasive.”

During the pandemic, Mobiz underwent significant growth as the platform became incredibly relevant for organisations looking to engage with customers while improving their invoicing and payment solutions. The platform allows for streamlined online payment integration, and with Mobiz’s collaboration with MTN, Cell C and Vodacom, they are able to zero-rate the data costs and remove the data barrier for the user.

“Currently, more than 50% of consumers in emerging markets, particularly Africa, don’t have access to data at any given moment,” says Chen. “This made it essential for the networks to come on board so that customers could pay, connect and manage their brand relationships during the different stages of lockdown.”

The growth opportunity that the pandemic afforded Mobiz saw the company refine its offering for the local market, and expand its reach into the global one. The funding of R18m by Kalon Venture Partners in 2020 allowed the organisation to expand its reach into the US and make a move from the enterprise focus of SA to the small to medium enterprise (SME) in the US. It is also a market that’s ripe for the SMS picking – according to research, 98% of text messages in the region are opened with 95% responded to within three minutes of delivery.

“We have developed a streamlined platform for SMEs that provides them with curated templates that can be used with ease – Wix for SMS, if you will,” says Chen. “This will allow for the SME, both in the US and in SA, to get the kind of digital marketing reach usually reserved for enterprises.”

Global expansion plans, a smarter and sassier SMS platform for SMEs, and a growing local enterprise customer base – all ticks in the right boxes for a local business that’s taken legacy technology to the next level. Mobiz includes Lewis Group, MultiChoice, Momentum, Cash Crusaders and Food Lover’s Market among its many clients, and the goal is to continue this expansion as the company broadens its reach and redefines its capabilities.

“If you had said that SMS would be a more trusted and reliable way of building customer engagement a few years ago, most people would have laughed; today it is one of the most powerful digital marketing tools on the market,” says Chen.

The big take-out:

SMS can be used to build marketing campaigns and improve customer engagement

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