Technology

Ethical use of data, tech in customers race key to growth

spam

A lot of work has been done on the email front to mitigate, reduce and combat spam but it is not enough, given the potential upside of the infraction.

Summary

  • Where businesses get it wrong, is the attempt to short circuit the consumer journey. In a digital mobile-first world, harvesting, purchasing, or generating databases of emails and phone numbers is the start.

In the quest to mop up every shilling from customer wallets, many businesses tend to ignore two key tenets in their interaction with customers and potential leads — ‘compliance’ and ‘best practice’.

Compliance deals with regulatory oversight that dictates what a business must do to align with laws and governing policies of a given jurisdiction, a black and white situation in most cases.

Best practice, on the other hand, is inclined to guiding principles looked at from the lens of the ultimate consumer experience. This can be curated by an industry association or created at an individual company level, embedded in culture to drive service experience differentiation.

In Africa, mobile presents the biggest channel for business communication, and with the growth of mobile data and digital payments. It will soon do the same for commerce.

This promise has led to a gold rush, where business owners or other charged executives want to harvest as much consumer data as they can to drive their sales and marketing funnels.

The cost of consumer acquisition remains relatively high in African markets given that there are no recognisable indigenous data vending companies that aggregate critical customer demographic, economic and purchase data such as comprehensive contacts, location, age, gender, income range, types of products purchased, frequency of purchases and interest indicators.

The closest one gets, restricted only by the lack of mandate or licensing to broker data, are the mobile network operators, who in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the GSMA in their Mobile Economy Report of 2020, will have 614 million unique mobile subscribers and 475 million mobile internet users by 2025.

Where businesses get it wrong, is the attempt to short circuit the consumer journey. In a digital mobile-first world, harvesting, purchasing, or generating databases of emails and phone numbers is the start.

This leads to a deluge of spam across preferred consumer channels. A lot of work has been done on the email front to mitigate, reduce and combat spam but it is not enough, given the potential upside of the infraction.

On mobile, it gets more interesting and devastating given that it is possible to bill a subscriber’s airtime or trigger payment from a digital wallet. The nuisance of unsolicited messaging is one thing, but the loss of monetary value leads to irreparable negative experiences.

Ethical use of data and technology must be adopted as default best practice before consumer disquiet destroys trust and opens the floodgates of regulation that will probably put a damper on what could be magical consumer engagement that meets the needs of the marketplace.

Njihia is the head of business and partnerships at Sure Corporation | www.mbuguanjihia.com | @mbuguanjihia