Smartphone connections in Africa are expected to double to 636 million by 2022. By then, Africa will have more smartphone connections than North America.
Such rapid growth comes with opportunity.
Increasing digital maturity across the continent is fuelling digital businesses such as fintechs, healthtechs and edtechs. In 2019, African tech startups received $1.3 billion in venture capital funding—nearly double the amount in 2018. And these businesses are proving to be a critical vehicle of economic growth, with the mobile economy responsible for 3 million jobs and 7% of GDP.
However, the digital economy has a big problem. In a region with comparably weak broadband penetration and low internet speeds, digital businesses struggle to do the most basic part of running a business: communicate with your customer.
Effective communication is the foundation of any transaction. I need to know what you want, when, and how you want it to ever satisfy your needs. For brick-and-mortar businesses, this happens naturally. They communicate with their customers face-to-face at the point of contact. When you walk into a car dealership to purchase a car, you can iron out all the details right there: the price, how to pay, and when the car will be delivered. Communication happens in the simplest possible way: in-person.
Digital businesses are online, meaning that all these interactions happen virtually. Before they can communicate with their customers, they need to access the infrastructure, channels, and tools that enable them to do so.
This has been difficult in the African market as the existing tools and communication infrastructure are inefficient and expensive. On average, messages sent by digital businesses only reach customers half the time. This not only ends up costing the business more as they may have to send repeated messages to ensure they get to the right source, but they also run the risk of alienating their customers.
In essence, digital businesses in Africa struggle to communicate and build relationships with their customers, which inhibits the growth of the digital economy. Without communication, there can be no agreement. Without agreement, there can be no transaction. Without transactions, there is no business.
Consider a customer who is trying to use a ride-hailing app to get a taxi, and, while doing so, receives alerts of the driver’s location every minute. When they check their email, they find 50 emails from the app.. Annoyed, they delete the app and download a competitor’s app instead.
For any business, getting customer communication right is make or break. A 2017 Gartner customer experience survey found that four out of five businesses expected to be competing on customer experience alone by the end of the decade. The way businesses engage with their customers often determines whether they stick to that business or switch to a competitor.
Businesses that communicate well, build and maintain relationships with their customers, enjoy greater goodwill, more interactions (e.g., website visits), sales, and recommendations.
Take a customer ordering a meal online and heading to the checkout page. Two seconds after entering their card details, they get a text message from the restaurant with a unique code sent to the phone number associated with the account. Once they enter this code, the order is accepted. Thirty minutes later, they get a notification that their meal is on the way. Another thirty minutes later, they are on the phone with a friend, raving about this new restaurant’s food and how seamless it was to order it.
The difference between the two customers’ experiences is how they communicated with the business. In the second instance, communication was timely, relevant, and via the most appropriate channel. When digital communication is this seamless, customers will opt for digital transactions; the benefit of face-to-face transactions is successfully appropriated.
Attaining this has been difficult for digital businesses in Africa, allowing offline businesses to retain an edge. Until now.
Termii addresses this problem by providing infrastructure that enables digital businesses to communicate seamlessly with their customers. Their Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) ensures a 90% deliverability rate, allowing digital businesses to enjoy similar ease of customer communication as their offline counterparts.
They do this by providing the bridge between the business and customer that enables businesses to engage, verify, and authenticate customer transactions through E-mail, SMS, Voice, and WhatsApp.
Termii uses application programmes interfaces (APIs) to easily integrate their solutions into the business’ application or website. These APIs connect the business app and messaging channels.
A familiar example is a banking app. When you make a transaction on the app, you get a notification with the details shortly after. These APIs connect your banking app and mobile service provider to allow the app to send messages to your mobile phone. In essence, these APIs enable the app to “speak” to the customer the same way that a bank teller would.
The digital perfectly substitutes the physical.
While this technology is not new to the market, Termii brings an edge. One way is through the ease of use. They have pre-installed configurations that allow their APIs to be integrated into third-party apps in under 60 minutes. From sign up to set up takes just an hour—a process that could normally take hours, if not days, of developer time. Once integrated, the business can go ahead and communicate with their customers.
This ease of use means that different parts of a business can use Termii’s services. They can be used in marketing departments to send out campaigns, customer service for account security, and operations for account notifications and appointment reminders. Businesses get to choose how they would like to communicate with their customers.
Termii has created a technical innovation and made it accessible to the people that can build customer relationships and drive business growth.
Finally, Termii boosts the efficiency of its services by exploiting one edge digital businesses have over brick-and-mortar firms in customer communication: quickly understanding customer behaviour and optimising communication using that information. Termii offers its customers detailed analytics that provide insights into their customers’ mobile network status and settings. For example, Termii can detect a customer’s mobile network even if it has been ported from a different network.
These analytics extend insights into how customers engage with messages they receive from digital businesses, including whether they open the message, click on any links, or unsubscribe from any services. The business can get better insights into their customers’ communication preferences.
By combining high deliverability rates, omnichannel options, and ease of use, Termii provides a simple and effective tool to help digital businesses build and maintain relationships with their customers while saving costs without compromising quality of service.
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The business model
Termii is a B2B2C communications platform as a service. It connects digital businesses like fintechs and e-commerce companies with their customers, allowing them to engage with them and understand their behaviours and preferences.
Termii’s business model is simple: they operate a per-billing model and charge customers for each message sent.
The business has enjoyed tremendous growth under this model, with revenues growing by double digits each month in 2020, helping Termii surpass its revenue projections. The company currently boasts thousands of customers including Bamboo, Helium Health, Eversend, Chaka, Yassir, Paystack, ULesson, Bankly, Omnibiz and Credpal.
Termii thrives on third party integrations and works with customer apps to optimize and enhance their communications and marketing operations. Termii helps these businesses address a core need for communicating and building relationships with their customers. As a result, Termii is an enabler of the growth of Africa’s digital economy, and, in turn, benefits from a larger digital economy.
The future of Termii
The global CPaaS industry is worth $3.6 billion and is growing at a rate of 6% yearly. This growth is spurred by rapidly increasing demand for digital services on the continent, which in turn is driven by an expansion of the economically empowered population and increased smartphone and broadband penetration in the region. Termii’s per-billing model means a simple equation drives its growth: greater digital activity spurs greater demand for businesses to communicate digitally with their customers, leading to more frequent interaction between digital businesses and their customers.
Termii’s vision is to build the infrastructure that powers digital communication across the African economy. The first leg of this is providing an efficient and reliable way for businesses to reach their customers, i.e., the bridge is opened in only one direction.
Future ambitions include plans to facilitate the second leg, which would allow customers to respond to or even initiate conversations with businesses.
Termii’s journey has evolved with the founders’ deeper understanding of the market. Starting as a B2B communications platform, they quickly realised the real value lay in helping businesses communicate with their customers—if businesses cannot do this, the entire transaction cycle breaks down.
The founding team has substantial expertise in business communication and CPaaS solutions.
The CEO, Gbolade Emmanuel previously worked as the CTO of a direct-to-consumer shoe startup and as the COO of accounting technology startup Accounteer.
The CTO, Ayomide Awe also has deep experience in technology start-ups, having worked as a software engineer at Reliance HMO—another Y Combinator alumnus. Ayomide also holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science.
Together, they bring many years of experience in digital marketing and software engineering, as well as expertise in building both B2B and B2C businesses, which allows them to understand their customer needs better.
Termii is at the cusp of digital transformation across the continent. We’re excited to back the Termii team and welcome Gbolade, Ayomide and the Termii team to the Future Africa community.