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Africa Tech Festival 2024 – The Home of AfricaCom, AfricaTech & AfricaIgnite
Event dates: 11-14 Nov 2024
Exhibition Opening Dates: 12 - 14 Nov 2024Cape Town International Convention Centre, Cape Town

Mobile Identity: Providing MNOs the Opportunity to Drive Brand Engagement with African Consumers

Across Africa, mobile technology will prove crucial in the coming years as markets navigate current economic fluctuations and continue in their road to recovery from the disruption of the recent pandemic. In many places across the continent without steady Internet or Wi-Fi, mobile is the de facto connected device. The GSMA predicts that by 2025, there will be 615 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa subscribed to mobile services, approximately 50% of the population1.

Central to building these connections are the mobile network operators (MNOs), investing in the physical infrastructure, and providing the services and tools needed to encourage digital adoption and move more people and businesses online. Importantly, beyond just connectivity, MNOs now also have the opportunity to evolve their roles into something more than the ‘pipelines of the internet’. They can expand in the realm of digital marketing. A field previously dominated by technology giants such as Facebook and Google, MNOs can now emerge as the trusted partners for brands to promote services and raise awareness of their offerings.

Mobile Identity comes to play

Driven by search engines, 3rd party cookies and social media giants, the ability to track and identify consumers online is a cornerstone of the strategy for almost every digital advertiser or brand wanting to engage with their customers. Mobile Identity, a new feature added to Upstream’s mobile marketing platform Grow, enables MNOs to compete in this space by leveraging a unique asset at their disposal, their subscribers’ unique mobile phone numbers, to identify users on the open web.

Until now, if a brand wanted to acquire this data, it would have to ask the user to fill in their details via a form. However, Mobile Identity can instead instantly recognize the MSISDN of a user visiting a website and auto-fill their details, making the collection of first-party data more user-friendly and easier than ever. The only thing required is for the user to give their consent via a simple tick box just once, thereby also complying with privacy regulations.

As a result, brands and advertisers can work with mobile operators to use this information to drive personalized and interactive marketing experiences tailored to individual customers. Importantly, this technology provides an alternative to third-party cookies that have been widely used for years to track and target consumers as they browse retail and e-commerce websites and are soon being phased out.

The opportunity for telcos

There are two ways in which mobile network operators can greatly benefit from mobile identification technologies. Firstly, through the creation of a better user experience for their own subscribers, enabling the design of more personalized services and offers, and the retargeting of any customers leaving a sales funnel before completing the transaction.

Just imagine that you can personalize the content of your website and show offers relevant to the individual consumer visiting it without any apps or logins. For example, let’s say a customer visits the website of their mobile provider, and, without logging in, being able to see how much data and credit he still has available, so that he can decide whether he wants to buy or not. Another use case example is mobile operators running Mobile Number Portability acquisition campaigns by identifying guest visitors to their website from other operator networks.

This is Mobile Identity put to use by MNOs for pushing their own “agendas” and services. But on top of this, sits the opportunity to monetize the technology by offering it to content partners, e-commerce brands, and other businesses boosting their advertising capabilities. This simply means new passwordless solutions for authentication and, as a result, better user experience and more conversions.

The numbers come to prove the business case. Up to 90% of customers find messages from companies annoying if they are not personally relevant2. Companies using first-party data in advanced marketing activations can achieve up to 3x higher revenue uplift thanks to the greater levels of personalization it can offer3.

For brands, there is a multitude of applications. For example, an online retailer can automatically show a younger customer gaming offers or relevant beauty products, or an insurance company can use the technology to upsell the next higher plan to an identified existing customer. Similarly, brands can promote "buy now, pay later” offers at the top of the page as a reward and incentive to existing high value customers.

Any brand that makes digital sales can retarget customers that fall out of the sales funnel via a mobile messaging channel such as SMS or RCS. Likewise, an application that needs to validate the user's mobile phone number, can do so automatically in the background without requesting any one-time passwords (OTPs) from the user.

Connecting with new customers across Africa

As consumer appetite for mobile engagement across Africa grows, effectively reaching these audiences must be where brands place most of their energy. With the digital marketing sector worth $455 billion in 20214, and mobile marketing representing 75% of this, technologies such as Upstream’s Mobile Identity represent a huge opportunity for MNOs to compete more effectively against over-the-top services such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger that reap billions in revenue every year by making use of the significant infrastructure investments MNOs make.

The timing is perfect for MNOs to place themselves at the epicenter of the digital advertising ecosystem. Upstream’s Mobile Identity provides a transparent and user-friendly identification technology that can easily replace and improve upon older alternatives such as OTPs and third-party cookies. Using technologies such as mobile identity operators can not only boost their own campaigns but ensure a seamless and smooth experience for brands wanting to connect with growing customer bases and markets across the region.

By Kostas Kastanis, Upstream Deputy CEO