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AI and ‘phygital’ experiences re-set to reshape the customer journey in 2024

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By Andrew Egan, Africa Regional Sales Director at Infobip

With brands recognising the power of conversations, AI-driven solutions, and phygital experiences, consumers can anticipate more personalised, seamless, and satisfying engagements with businesses this year. As technological innovations continue to shape the business landscape, 2024 is poised to be a transformative year for customer experience. However, businesses must keep an eye on the emerging trends shaping the landscape as they realign their strategies to prioritise customer satisfaction.

Balancing customer experience trends against business process optimisation

Increasingly, the emphasis on Customer Experience (CX) is prompting organisations to adopt creative ways to use customers to start, and sometimes complete, the processing journey against an item of work. As businesses look to grow customer acquisition or reduce processing costs, it is becoming evident that Generative AI and Interactive AI are critical tools for improving cost-of-service ratios or Life Time Value: Customer Acquisition Costs (LTV: CAC) ratios for improved x-selling and upselling outcomes. In line with this, identifying work types for automation is key to quantifying how much effort organisations can remove from their support centres and what Capex or Opex costs can be optimised. Additionally, businesses must understand their customers’ behaviour and their choice of when, how, and if to engage with a brand.

CX is not merely about providing a channel to customers or a five-star rating at the end of a call. It is about ensuring that customers return to the brand, measuring and appreciating customer behaviour across your digital ecosystem, and knowing when to support them or when to sell to them. In many environments, improving business processes with tools such as Generative AI or Interactive AI results in a downstream impact of improved CX. Hence, organisations should look at the business challenge to be solved before attempting to resolve the issue of CX in isolation.

End-to-end conversational journeys with businesses and brands

As consumers seek an enhanced customer experience, they will increasingly demand two-way conversational interactions with a business or brand through the same channels and chat apps they use with their families or friends. They will also desire a seamless experience rather than switching between devices and channels.

Until now, brands have been reimagining this journey through a conversational lens, where much of the user journey is directed through a single chat app or digital channel like WhatsApp. The focus now shifts from merely adopting these channels to perfecting the end-to-end conversational experience.

Thus, we can expect to see the emergence of truly end-to-end platforms, where customers can click through an advert on Instagram, educate themselves about a product, click to purchase, pay, receive delivery notifications, and complete a satisfaction survey within a single conversational thread on WhatsApp.

META, with WhatsApp, is leading this revolution, with new features such as Flows and Payments facilitating users to transition smoothly from viewing an Instagram ad to making a purchase, all within the platform. Leading brands like Google and Apple are also making waves in this space, and more platforms are likely to follow.

The move from generative AI to interactive AI

Generative AI, or Gen-AI, has made remarkable progress, especially in customer support. This technology has been instrumental in auto-generating content for messages and emails and AI-driven bots that can handle basic queries.

However, the future lies in interactive AI, where, according to British AI researcher and entrepreneur Mustafa Suleyman, “bots that can carry out tasks you set for them by calling on other software and other people to get stuff done.” In line with this, analysts predict the emergence of a federation of different bots and AI algorithms being used to trigger different actions across the customer journey.

These advanced tools will be central to marketing and sales automation, answering product-related questions, scheduling deliveries, and managing payments. Integrations will span from generating campaign content to providing AI-driven chatbot interactions, ensuring fluid, human-like conversations with the customers, all within a customer’s favourite channel.

The rise of the super app

The ‘super app’ concept has gained significant attention in recent years, with platforms such as WhatsApp, WeChat, and various others. These platforms, boasting billions of subscribers, present a golden opportunity for brands to integrate and offer their products and services. Tech billionaire Elon Musk described WeChat as “Twitter, plus PayPal, plus a whole bunch of other things, and all rolled into one with actually a great interface.”

Telegram appears to be moving towards this model, announcing in September last year that “developers can (now) use JavaScript to create infinitely flexible interfaces that can be launched right inside Telegram — and can completely replace any website.”

Envisioned as multi-purpose hubs, these apps will evolve into platforms where users can seamlessly interact with multiple brands.

The rebirth of virtual reality and augmented reality

However, things are also heating up in the virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) space. META recently launched its new generation of Ray-Ban META smart glasses. Among other updated features, these will integrate META’s AI-powered, advanced conversational assistant. By saying “Hey META,” users can engage with META AI to spark creativity, get information, and control features. Apple has also unveiled its much-anticipated Vision Pro headset, a mixed-reality device capable of both VR and AR experiences.

These products signify a step change in the world of AR and VR, which has, until now, been seen by many as somewhat gimmicky. It is expected that VR and AR will transition from merely PR stunts to real-world use cases. Using these tools, businesses and brands can create exceptional, awe-inspiring experiences on a scale that has never been possible in the physical realm.

Phygital experiences

Against this backdrop, it is anticipated that further convergence of the physical and digital realms will occur, with businesses and brands crafting captivating ‘phygital’ experiences tailored to customer preferences in real-time. Retailers will further weave technology into their brick-and-mortar stores, leveraging data to personalise what customers hear, smell, and see. Simultaneously, e-commerce platforms will explore the potential of virtual and augmented reality, pioneering a new age of digital retail.

Numerous examples already demonstrate this concept in action, like retail brand Marks & Spencer’s AR shopping app, which allows customers to walk around a store with the app using an AR filter to direct them to the location of specific items. As this technology develops, it will help customers experience products as if they were already in their possession, allowing them to make informed decisions about what they buy.

More to come

This year promises to be an exciting year for customer experience. With brands recognising the power of conversational interfaces, AI-driven solutions, and phygital experiences, consumers can anticipate more tailored, seamless, and delightful interactions.


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Ugo Onwuaso is an ICT enthusiast. He believes technology should be used for general good. He holds a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree from the Lagos state University. Dear Reader, Your support matters. But we believe that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world. That is why, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and finance and how they affect lives. Our incisive and analytical view of how technology news affects the daily life help individuals and organizations make up their minds. Quality journalism costs money. Today, we're asking that you support us to do more. Kindly support our effort to deliver technology and finance journalism to everyone in the world. Donate as little as N1,000. Bank transfers can be made to: UBA Plc 1017156876 Communication Week Media Ltd

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SLTV to Create Jobs, Shore Nigeria’s Forex- Nwafor

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Metrodigital Ltd., homegrown satellite pay television and owners of Silver Lake Television (SLTV), has promised to impact positively on the lives of Nigerians and shore up foreign exchange for the country.

SLTV to Create Jobs, Shore Nigeria’s Forex- Nwafor

Dr Ifeanyi Nwafor, the company’s managing director who stated this in an interview in Abuja, said that the plan is to create thousands of jobs for the teeming Nigerian youths, adding that dealers were already springing up across the country.

“Each dealer will have his own installer and offices would be opened in this regard. So, SLTV is going to help in creating a lot of jobs and will also create another platform for innovations,” he said.

The businessman said Nigeria’s focus was on leading the world’s industry. He noted that the Nigerian music industry was already making waves worldwide and expressed hope that Nigeria’s indigenous pay-TV industry would also experience the same quickly.

‘’The success will bring in foreign exchange earnings for the country,’’ he said.


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How Virtual Accounts Can Help Businesses Manage Finances Efficiently

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Efficiently managing your business finances isn’t just a task, it’s the key to scaling your business for sustainable growth.

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Several tools exist today to help businesses achieve their financial management goals and establish themselves in a very competitive market.

One such tool is the virtual account, offering several benefits for multinational corporations, startups and SMEs, helping these businesses achieve their financial management goals while scaling sustainably.

In our article, “What is a virtual account and why you need it for your business,” we explained the basic concept of virtual accounts, including the types of virtual accounts, and benefits. Taking it forward with this SeerBit article, we explain the various roles that virtual accounts can play in ensuring businesses achieve efficient financial management.

  • Cash Flow Management

Virtual accounts offer a level of precision and agility that the traditional bank account does not offer businesses in today’s world. Virtual accounts give businesses more control over their funds, as they can easily segregate or compartmentalise funds for various expenses, regulate their cash flow in real-time and ensure safety for the business’ cash reserve. The ability to segregate funds for different short-term needs, such as supplier payments, tax payments, staff payments, and other long-term investments allows the company to make wiser financial decisions and ensures there will always be capital when it is needed.

  • Streamlined Reconciliation

Virtual accounts help to streamline reconciliation for your business, making the process seamless and fast by matching transactions with corresponding records for each unique virtual account. Every virtual account has a unique identifier, making it easy to match both outgoing and incoming transactions on the account with the business’ accounting records. This process is automated, consequently saving valuable time and reducing the possibility of human errors. Hence, you get accurate financial reporting in real time to make informed business decisions, thereby resolving disputes quickly and improving customer satisfaction.

  • Risk Mitigation

Virtual accounts play a crucial role in risk mitigation for businesses by providing an extra layer of security and control over financial transactions. The ability to segregate funds for specific purposes minimises the risk of mixing funds and potential misuse. Additionally, virtual accounts offer customisable access controls and permissions, allowing businesses to restrict access to authorised personnel only, thus reducing the risk of fraud and unauthorised transactions. This heightened level of security not only safeguards financial assets but also enhances trust and confidence among stakeholders, ultimately contributing to more efficient financial management practices.

  • Cost Optimisation

Virtual accounts contribute significantly to cost savings for businesses by streamlining banking operations and reducing associated fees. Through the consolidation of funds into virtual accounts, businesses can negotiate better terms with banks and optimise their banking relationships, potentially leading to reduced transaction costs and account maintenance fees. Furthermore, virtual accounts eliminate the need for maintaining multiple physical accounts, thereby reducing administrative overhead and freeing up resources for other strategic initiatives. By leveraging virtual accounts, businesses can achieve greater efficiency in their financial management processes while simultaneously lowering operational expenses, ultimately boosting their bottom line.

  • Adaptable and Scalable

Adaptability and scalability are other features of virtual accounts that make them effective for managing your business finances. They are customisable and flexible, and this allows them to adapt to whatever preferences or needs that your business has. It also means that you can configure your virtual accounts to meet specific objectives and requirements of your business. So whether you are just starting your business or already growing, virtual accounts can meet every business need at different points, even when you start to scale. This adaptability is good for your business, especially if you’re experiencing fluctuating sales volume.

Conclusion

Virtual accounts are an effective and versatile tool for your business to optimise the financial management process and enhance control and efficiency in the cash management system.

Switch to virtual accounts today!

 

 

 


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Instagram Celebrates African Women in ‘Made by Africa, Loved by the World’ 2024 Campaign

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In celebration of Africa Day on May 25, Instagram has launched its international and pan-African campaign ‘Made By Africa, Loved by the World’. In a first, this year’s Instagram campaign celebrates women of impact, spotlighting four trailblazing women from the continent and diaspora – all of whom have built a global presence through their exceptional talents and passions across sports, entertainment and music.

Now in its fourth year, the women featured in this year’s 2024 campaign hail from Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and for the first time Egypt. Eniola Aluko, Bontle Modiselle, Victoria Kimani and Tasneem Elaidy tell their inspiring stories in four beautiful short films highlighting their successes, challenges and passions. Shot in collaboration with five rising filmmakers, Haya Khairat from Egypt, Michael Rodriques from South Africa, Nyasha Kadandara from Kenya and London based Nigerian Aaliyah Mckay alongside co-director Shehroze Khan, these films amplify the unique voices and stories of women who are changing the way Africa is viewed on the international stage.

As part of the campaign, Instagram is also partnering with local African content creators to host the third edition of its community challenge, ‘#ShareYourAfrica,’ bringing together emerging and established content creators to create a movement and celebrate what it means to be African.

Speaking about the campaign, Kezia Anim-Addo, Communications Director, Africa, Middle East & Turkey (AMET) at Meta, said, “For the fourth year running, we’re incredibly excited to shine a spotlight and celebrate just some of the amazing women from across the continent and beyond, who are having a remarkable impact globally. These are women who are contributing to positively shaping the female African narrative and inspiring change across football, music, entertainment and culture. At Instagram, we’re deeply rooted in culture and connection, and we know our platform provides the perfect space to showcase passions and creativity, whilst inspiring a worldwide audience.”

Meet the stars of ‘Made by Africa and Loved by the World’ 2024:

●      Bontle Modiselle (South Africa): An award-winning dancer and influential figure in the South African entertainment industry, Bontle has won numerous awards, including a ‘Africa Movie Academy Award’ and has travelled the world showcasing her impressive dance skills

●      Eniola Aluko (Nigeria): A trailblazer in women’s football whose contributions to the women’s game has made her a significant figure in the world of sports. Eniola has played for some of the world’s leading football clubs, and recently made history by becoming the first African female to make the board of Italy’s female top-flight football club FC Como Women.

●      Victoria Kimani (Kenya): A singer, songwriter and entertainer known for her distinctive blend of R&B, Afropop and Hip-Hop. Victoria has carved a successful path in the African music scene and beyond, collaborating with well-known local and global artists, and was once referred to by the Grammy Awards as ‘Kenya’s Best Kept Secret’.

●      Tasneem Elaidy (Egypt): A singer and songwriter with strong vocals whose songs have earned her international recognition, Tasneem started out on social media, releasing cover songs and original music. She went viral after releasing her version of a popular song and today, she has a growing audience of nearly 2 million followers on Instagram, 3 million on TikTok and over 100 million combined views for her music!

To view each short film, follow the four women featured on Instagram or via the Meta Africa Facebook Page.


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