Sep 9, 2015
Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Rancard, Mr. Ehizogie Binitie has highlighted the importance of e-Commerce and the need to build trust in online marketing. He spoke with Obinna Chima. Excerpts:
What are the various ways consumers can change their shopping experience with e-Commerce?
I think one of the greatest advantages of e-Commerce is the ability to find a wider variety in a short amount of time. So, you can go online and identify products that you want and you can search across multiple channels where it is offered. I think one of the greatest advantages of e-Commerce is improved purchase experience and better selection and pricing. So, instead of having to drive around multiple stores in a long period of time, especially with the traffic, you can quickly go online, identify a wider selection in a shorter time and then make better choices. But I think the number one thing that e-Commerce does to our shopping experience is to enable you make better choices.
But there is still the issue of trust?
Trust is a huge issue and it is something that Rancard as a business is working hard on. But more importantly, working together with other industry partners, we think it is something that there is definitely a solution for. So, the issue of trust boils down to when you are making a transaction, do you trust the person who is selling? Does the person who is selling trust the person who is buying and does the person have the ability to buy? And more importantly, that nobody can hijack the transaction in the middle and do something to it. So, there have been lots of initiatives in the industry towards improving trust. So, for us as a business, I think that our goal is to better facilitate the trust between different parties involved in the transaction.
You said there have been some initiatives towards increasing trust in the e-Commerce space. Can you share some of them with us?
I think very broadly, you see some of the payment providers, card issuers like Visa, Verve, MasterCard, have user verification. And what we have done as a business is to try and build those verifications or authentications into the payment process on our platform.
But what are the challenges affecting digital marketing in Nigeria and also Africa?
I think the number one challenge from the way I see it is performance. Anybody who is spending on anything these days is trying to ensure that they are getting good value for their money and it seems like an uncertain, complex and ambiguous environment and the companies who are even interested in using these channels do not seem to know how to get the best return on their investments and even as they spend across multiple channels, how do they make sure that their spending is coordinated.
The patronage of mobile money in the country is still very low. What do you think are the obstacles hindering this payment platform?
There are a number of issues affecting mobile money. Firstly, how does money get into the mobile money ecosystem? And that is a big problem. If I want to pay a bill and I have two choices, there what is called the small boy syndrome whereby I can call a small boy and ask him to go and pay the bill for me or I can decide that I want to use and electronic channel. But for most people it seems more convenient for them to call somebody and give the person the money to go and pay than to call the person and ask him to load your mobile money wallet before you spend.
So, if we don’t fix the issue of how money gets into the mobile money ecosystem, you are still going to have that fundamental problem. Also, I think one of the premises of mobile money is slightly flawed. The idea of banking the unbanked is very important, but that is not the major limitation to the adoption of mobile money. I think that there is a sizeable population who have access to bank accounts and some form of digital payments but are not able to because the entire ecosystem does not support them.
So, it might be that the Know-Your-Customers’ requirements are too high to get them started and it might be that the availability of points where they can take their monies in and out of the system is also not widespread. These are areas that need further investments to see the industry grow. But I think it will get better, I think that as e-Commerce continues to grow and the propositions around mobile continues to grow as well, I think we would see some growth in mobile money.
Do you think a company’s digital presence can influence its potential customers?
Absolutely! Consumer purchase behaviour is very interesting because what happens is that at the point of making a purchase choice, most users would go with the most convenient means of achieving whatever purchase decision they choose to make at the point when they are ready to make the choice. What brands or businesses should be thinking about is how they can get their brand or businesses in front of the users and at the point where those users are ready to make purchase decisions.
So what solution(s) is Rancard offering to the market?
Rancard is a multinational African technology company. We are incorporated in Mauritius and we provide a software platform that is focused primarily on mobile users and taking advantage of the growth in the mobile space in Africa and all round the world. What we have done was to build up a system which makes it possible for businesses to identify new customers and try to do business with them via their mobile phones.
We can do so at a price which makes sense for your business. So, the old way of advertising generally simply meant that you could go out there and say you want to spend a particular amount and hope for the best. With that, it wasn’t very easy to measure the results or performance of what you were advertising on. So, we have been working on this idea which makes it easy for businesses to find customers. We have been working on this technology that takes advantage of large amount or big data available in the industry by applying social recommendation and artificial intelligence to it. The technology also helps businesses identifies potential customers and also to do business with them.
Our technology platform is called Rendezvous. A Rendezvous is a place where people meet and the idea is that people can meet and find their customers when they come on the platform. It is quite simple, the platform is online. When you get online, you sign-up as a business, you describe the business or product you intend to sell and how much you want to spend and what you think will be a good price for each user you want to you want to acquire and then it takes over from there and does all the work for you.
It helps you manage your budget, your spending and helps you optimise it across all the different channels that are available – whether it is online, social media, mobile, voice and helps you manage your spending across these channels. It also helps you to ensure that you are meeting the objective of your marketing or digital goals. So, it is an end-to-end digital campaign manager.
How can a bank benefit from this platform?
For example, if a bank wants to sell a loan product, the question is who is willing to buy a loan? What the software would try to do is to identity points where people who may need a loan are sending out this information and then it helps businesses identify that these particular persons may be interested in loans and helps the business connect with these people.
A ban could use it to drive its customer acquisition strategy, their customer retention strategy or deliver new product penetration and some others. This is an interesting space because it can technical connect businesses in a predictable manner. What we have is an amazing piece of technology for helping businesses achieve their marketing goals in a very simple way