USSD – A Vital Marketing Tool For African Markets

Sub-Saharan Africa is the fastest-growing mobile region in the world and has been for a few years now. What does that mean for your business? It means you have access to just under 750 million people – almost nine percent of the global mobile population! This is a massive market you simply can’t afford to ignore. However, there is one very important fact to bear in mind: only around a third of all mobile subscribers in Africa have a smartphone. So, if your business is only trying to reach people through apps or a mobile responsive website, you’re missing out on around half a billion potential customers! This is why you need to explore alternative, more universal ways  – such as USSD and SMS – to reach your customers.

USSD has several essential benefits over SMS:

  • It is far more responsive and flexible.
  • It is much cheaper – In fact, it’s free for your clients to use, and highly cost-effective for you to implement and run.
  • It’s highly interactive, almost like talking to a person.
  • Its interactive navigation allows for two-way communication that’s up to seven times faster than SMS.
  • USSD messages can contain up to 182 characters, while SMS messages are limited to 160.

It also has significant benefits over internet-based communication:

  • Doesn’t need an Internet connection or data.
  • Works on all phones – from the cheapest and most basic models to the most high-tech and expensive ones.
  • It can run without mobile software or SIM. All it needs is a connection to the GSM network.
  • USSD codes work across all cellular networks.
  • It is easily customisable to suit your business needs.

USSD also has the huge advantage of being very familiar to the majority of cellphone users, as they use it to perform a wide variety of tasks, including checking their pre-paid balance, transferring airtime, recharging their account, buying data bundles or sending “Call me” messages.

Many people also use USSD for banking, as they don’t have access to online banking, and the nearest branch or ATM is far away. USSD banking codes can be used for transferring funds, paying bills, making purchases and viewing mini-statements.

What is USSD Push?

USSD Push messages are similar to SMS messages in that they are sent to a recipient’s mobile in plain text. You can use these messages to communicate a variety of things with your customers, including:

  • A one-time pin or password
  • Information about a special offer or promotion
  • Important news about your company (a merger, changes in policy, the closing of branches or relocation, for example).
  • Important information about product shipments or service provision.

Where USSD Push messages differ from SMS’s is that they can’t be stored on the recipient’s phone. This may, at first glance, sound like a disadvantage, but it is actually a great security feature – no one wants one time pins saved to their phone! If your phone were to be lost or stolen, you would be at huge risk of having your sensitive data available to unauthorised people. The fact that USSD Push messages disappear after you read them gives you an added measure of security and peace of mind.

Other advantages of USSD Push include:

  • An extremely cost-effective way to communicate with your customers.
  • Real-time communication.
  • Messages can be automated.
  • Messages reach your customers no matter where they are or what phone they have.

What is MSISDN?

MSISDN stands for Mobile Station Integrated Services Digital Number. It’s used to identify a mobile phone number internationally and includes the country code and a national destination code that identifies the subscriber’s operator. It is used to verify that a mobile number given during an account or other registration process is actually legitimate. This has a huge benefit to you as a business for several reasons:

  • Helps prevent fraud by establishing if the device being used to access an account actually belongs to the registered account holder.
  • Makes password-free logins possible by immediately identifying the user to the service provider without the user doing anything.
  • Provides a better user experience for your customers by speeding up the registration process. There is less input required from them as there is no need for the generation or input of a one time password.
  • Authentication is both fast and secure, and can even be used when roaming.
  • Avoids the frustration for the user of having legitimate transactions blocked.

At Cellfind, we provide a complete range of high-volume, multichannel messaging solutions to businesses of all sizes. Talk to us today about our range of secure, reliable offerings that let you interact with your customers, employees and other people important to your business in a cost-efficient, secure and timely manner.

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