BY Fast Company Contributor 3 MINUTE READ

South African tech company Mobiz wants to give SMs-ing a new lease on life.

The South African market is many things. Complex, challenging, diverse and variable. It is a landscape of challenges, but it is also a space where entrepreneurs and innovation can thrive. Where the unexpected suddenly translates into the relevant, and where technology finds fresh cracks within which to prosper.

This is the story of Mobiz, a South African company created by entrepreneur Greg Chen, that recently received R18 million in funding from Kalon Venture Partners to continue with its SMS success story in an instant messaging world.

The company set out to create deeper personalisation and customer engagement using SMS messaging – a communication tool thought out of date, as it turns out, is still the best way to build brand engagement.

“There are three things that are guaranteed in life, taxes, death and SMS”, says Chen. “The SMS goes straight into the digital environment and can be customised to do anything that’s needed, so brands can really leverage it to build marketing campaigns and customer engagement.”

Enterprises in the consumer space with large volumes of customers can use their existing databases to create targeted messaging that’s aligned with specific campaigns or customer retention programmes. For example, a unique link in the SMS text can take the user through a deeply personalised journey from the moment they click or tap on it – from the device, to a customised landing page that is able to offer account information, to promotions that fit with their buying habits and behaviours. It’s a blend of the staple tech of the SMS with emergent tech and analytics that allows for improved communication across different customer bases.

“Using a secure and trusted link in an SMS, brands can build targeted landing pages that are hyper-personalised using customer data that makes it easier for marketers to achieve personalisation at scale,” says Chen.

“Clients in the entertainment space, for example, can deliver favourite TV shows based on what that specific customer watched before. This is a smart way of pulling people deeper into the company’s offerings and network without being invasive.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mobiz underwent significant growth as the platform became incredibly relevant for organisations looking to engage with customers while improving their invoicing and payment solutions. The platform allows for streamlined online payment integration, and with Mobiz’ collaboration with MTN, Cell C and Vodacom, they are able to zero-rate the data costs and remove the data barrier for the user.

“Currently, more than 50% of consumers in emerging markets, particularly Africa, don’t have access to data at any given moment,” says Chen. “This made it essential for the networks to come on board so that customers could pay, connect and manage their brand relationships during the different stages of lockdown.”

The growth opportunity that the pandemic afforded Mobiz saw the company refine its offering for the local market, and expand its reach into the global one. The funding of R18 million by Kalon Venture Partners in 2020 allowed for the organisation to expand its reach into the USA and make a move from the enterprise focus of South Africa to the small to medium enterprise (SME) in the USA.

The latter market doesn’t have access to trusted and affordable tools that grant them the reach and scale of enterprise in the USA. This is a gap that Mobiz is set to fill. It is also a market that’s ripe for the SMS picking – according to research, 98% of text messages in the region are opened with 95% responded to within three minutes of delivery.

For Mobiz, it presents an opportunity to not just grow the company, but to take African innovation abroad and once again, draw a bright line under the ingenuity that defines the local entrepreneur.

“We have developed a streamlined platform for SMEs that provides them with curated templates that can be used with ease – like a Wix for SMS, if you will,” says Chen. “This will allow for the SME, both in the USA and in SA, to get the kind of digital marketing reach usually reserved for larger enterprises.”

Global expansion plans, a smarter and sassier SMS platform for SMEs, and a growing local enterprise customer base – all ticks in the right boxes for a local business that’s taken legacy technology to the next level. Currently, Mobiz includes Louis Group, MultiChoice, Momentum, Cash Crusaders and Food Lovers among its many clients, and the goal is to continue this expansion as the company expands its reach and redefines its capabilities.

“If you had said that SMS would be a more trusted and reliable way of building customer engagement a few years ago, most people would have laughed, today it is one of the most powerful digital marketing tools on the market,” concludes Chen.