Lack of customer data hampering commerce in Africa

For innovation, industries need to collect more customer data for analysis

A lack of customer data has been identified as an impediment in innovating commerce in Africa. Beyond digital payments, most additional individual customer information in Africa is largely uncollected in the commerce chain. The main reason is that many businesses in Africa are still heavy on cash transactions, which leave little customer trail. Even companies that have initiated enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions, find themselves with little customer data.

Although heavy cash reliance is the primary problem, it is also coupled with the total lack of knowledge on what other anonymous customer data they should collect and how comprehensive customer data can help organizations innovate their marketing and sales initiatives. Decisions such as where to open up another retail branch, which goods can sell in the market, and what are the new customer trends that businesses can explore, are left to chance and the little customer insights that a couple of research companies conduct through traditional surveys.


Fragmented digital payments

One would think that the ever-growing digital payment landscape in Africa would offer some reprieve but at the #WhatsNextMettaNBO forum in March, Francis Mugane, General Manager at Interswitch, revealed that the fragmentation of the digital payment landscape in Kenya is in fact leading to a lack of collection of data. While multiple payment points offer choice and convenience, they are never tied to a common backend so data reconciliation becomes a daunting task, since each payment system has a different reporting style.

DirectPay Online, a payment service company in Kenya, has tried to integrate all possible payment options in the Kenyan market and give one back end. Other payment aggregators include PesaPal and iPay Africa. Mugane said that Interswitch is also working to launch a product that will ease the data collection pain and ensure that different payment methods are consolidated.

“If I pay by card today, it [the PoS system] will probably only capture the amount and the date stamp. They wouldn’t be able to even know if I came back or what I bought today. So the solution we are building will be able to tie payments to unique customer reference,” Mugane said.

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