Mobiz CEO Greg Chen reinventing SMS marketing


Greg Chen: Brands can now develop hyper-personalised digital engagement over SMS.

South African SMS marketing engagement platform Mobiz could very well be the next big disruptor in the digital marketing world. We live in a world where brands are baying for the consumer’s attention using every platform on which their customer base is most active.

SMS, with its 160 character limit, is often perceived as the less attractive medium compared to emails or social media marketing strategies, although it was always a necessary part of the marketing mix. However, Mobiz’s extreme makeover of the SMS marketing channel could see it outshining other platforms like email and social media. 

Mobiz CEO and cofounder Greg Chen says the idea to makeover SMS marketing came from his 15-year span in the mobile industry, where he saw misalignment between businesses and consumers when it came to customer engagement. 

“We went through a stage where everyone wanted apps, but nobody had airtime so we wanted to make sure that brands were getting to their customers through the right channels at the right time,” says Greg. Brands can now develop hyper-personalised digital engagement over the most responsive channel, which is SMS.” 

One of the biggest selling points for SMS-driven marketing campaigns is that SMS is a direct, immediate channel which boasts a read rate of 97 percent within 15 minutes of delivery, according to online learning platform Smart Insights. 

In a recommendation-driven world, whether you’re a big brand or SMME or local franchise, you can now access your customers in real time as your promotion runs using personalised adverts based on their customer data, which is curated using their purchase history. 

What makes Mobiz SMS marketing so innovative is the fact that links in the text message will take users to a landing page, where they are able to browse other promotions at zero cost. The Cape-Town-based tech start-up says it has entered into agreements with the four telecommunications giants two years ago that allows it to absorb the data costs. 

“So generally when you click on a link, it tells you whether you have sufficient data or not, so what we’ve done is asked the big four telecom companies to zero rate our landing pages. We’ve basically reversed billed, and we are paying for the data on behalf of the consumer,” says Greg. By doing this, Greg says they’ve achieved an average click through rate of 15 percent, which is almost ten times higher than any other channel.

Hyper-personalised SMS marketing is proving effective across all LSMs, according to Mobiz. While exorbitant data costs means less engagement for brands with clients from poorer communities, it’s proved to be more straightforward and effective with higher-end consumers too. “Email adverts end up in the spam folder, you get hundreds of them, most of them don’t get read and end up getting deleted. Yes, there is a lot of SMS spamming too, but what our clients have found is that the SMS message is much more concise and most of the information is on the landing page anyway,” says Greg. 

Hyper-personalised adverts based on individual customer data could be a lifeline for the digital marketing world, where adverts are optional and pretty much a hindrance, seeing as how people are willing to pay for ad free content on major platforms like YouTube and Spotify.

Mobiz is growing in leaps and bounds, with a phenomenal growth spurt during the Covid-19 pandemic. “Suddenly all the digital channels were extremely active because people were quarantined and big brands had to pivot to a channel with a faster and more reliable read rate,” Graig said.
This worked to Mobiz’s advantage because SMS marketing proved more cost effective at a time when people were constantly on their phones at a time when marketing budgets and consumer spending was slashed due to the economic crisis. “Our revenue actually increased by about 300 percent,” says Greg. But even before they achieved this significant growth rate, they’d already signed on with big brands like Homechoice, Multichoice, Lewis Group and Momentum.

Mobiz also caught the attention of investor firm, Kalon Venture Partners. “Kalon’s input has been invaluable, without their capital we can’t offer zero-rated landing pages,” says Greg. “It’s not just the financial backing, Kalon has really been vital to building the business and providing us with a network across various industries.” Mobiz is now eyeing a market gap in the US. “Americans are growing weary of social media platforms like Facebook and Google, and all direct customer engagement is happening over email, so this is a green field for us,” says Greg.

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