By Olatayo Ladipo-Ajai

According to McKinsey and Company, banking in Nigeria has over $9 billion in value pools. Yet despite high levels of competition, the vast majority of consumers are underserved. Lack of access to services, especially in rural areas, issues of affordability, and poor user experience all contribute to the frustrations consumers experience. The uptake of new technologies in Nigeria’s financial services industry has typically been driven by this highly pressurised environment, where the customer is becoming increasingly powerful and wants to engage with brands over his or her preferred channels.

In recent years, this trend has seen organisations in the financial services sector make use of various communication channels, such as SMS and email. However, customer demands have evolved rapidly, where today’s digitally savvy generations want an all-encompassing solution where rich content can be shared, including images, voice messages and files.

The use of rich content services, for example messaging that includes group chats, videos and image sharing infiltrated the Nigerian financial services sector when banks started to embrace digitisation in 2010. These institutions also realised that too many people physically visited their branches to perform basic transactions or resolve simple queries. A decade later, during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, it then became impossible to physically perform transactions. This, paired with the pandemic’s challenging impact on consumer pockets, means it is more essential than ever for financial organisations to invest in creating, maintaining and growing Customer Experience (CX). The idea is to create additional channels to give customers an alternative to going to the bank in person, and to instead, perform these transactions remotely.

Adapting to customer demands

The banks that have implemented this strategy successfully were those who started using rich content to engage with their customers over mobile apps. Via these apps, customers could open basic accounts, use fingerprint verification, obtain digital signatures, and so on. While these institutions likely experienced a decline in customer branch visits, they saw a sharp uptake of digital channels among users who enjoyed the convenience of remote banking.

As customer demand evolved and digital transformation accelerated, financial institutions also had to quickly adapt in terms of automation and robotics.

It is no secret that customer engagement is key to the success of any business, and a business that cannot reach its customers in a way that is convenient and beneficial for them runs risk of losing valuable business and a downturn in revenue. Financial service institutions are having to constantly innovate. This year’s Fintech week will no doubt focus on how to further digitise the financial industry in Nigeria in the time of evolving economic disruption.

Now, any financial institution that wants to remain relevant and successful has to offer their customers the option to communicate and engage over social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp – ubiquitous channels used by people every day.

Being where your customers are

Today, customers have little time, and demand that a problem or query is resolved during a single engagement, without having to visit a physical branch. Rich content allows for this to happen, and WhatsApp Business API is proving itself to be the clear leader for this type of engagement.

According to We Are Social and Hootsuite, WhatsApp has become ubiquitous and is used by 85% of Nigeria’s 122 million internet users, meaning that financial services institutions can share rich content with their customers over a channel that they are already using. The familiarity and simplicity of the WhatsApp messaging platform makes it easy for consumers to interact with the bank, receive alert messages/notifications, get answers to queries in a seamless and convenient manner. By meeting customers on the channels they use most, organisations can ensure a smooth experience across the entire customer journey and help drive brand loyalty.

Any financial services company that does not embrace digital transformation through channels like WhatsApp could risk losing customers, as they look to find ease and convenience elsewhere.  In today’s unpredictable environment, companies must play innovation first in order to stay ahead. And those who stand still really do risk being left behind.

Olatayo Ladipo-Ajai is the Country Manager at Infobip Nigeria


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