Gustav Praekelt is a deep thinker about how technology enables small businesses to be successful at surprisingly little cost. His eponymous Johannesburg-based technology consultancy provides “human-centered” UX design and engineering, natural language understanding, and also helps businesses use chatbots and WhatsApp to engage, communicate, and generate revenue.
The latter topic, using messaging apps to empower African businesses, dominated our recent conversation in Cape Town, which we captured in a BigFive podcast that you can listen to below. Praekelt, an engineer who takes meticulous notes using color-coded fountain pens, has a strong vision for a world — not far into the future — where messaging apps will enable very small businesses to communicate in a fully automated yet authentic way with consumers 24/7 and in their language of choice. It’s a powerful vision that will reshape the AME digital ecosystem and place small businesses on a level field of play with larger enterprises.
Here are a few highlights from our engaging conversation.
Why Messaging Apps Are so Important for Consumer Engagement
“We have always had a passion for connecting with the new users and consumers. And the user and consumer of the 21st century will be different from the user of the 20th century. Every consumer now has a device, but they do not download applications. However, every single one of them uses a messaging application. What’s App is now more popular than Facebook….What we have found is that this is a completely frictionless mechanism for consumers to find the information they want and also to transact with businesses.”
How Chat Platforms Will Empower Small Business
“Why should only big enterprises have the tools to be able to communicate with end users through conversational platforms? Let’s use these new generation tools like What’s App and chat and social media to enable that bi-directional conversation. The interesting thing about using text-based applications is it’s amenable to analysis by machine learning. It means we can start automating certain functions. The new millennial consumers communicate and transact differently. if they wake up in the middle of the night they want to be able to respond. But the small business owner doesn’t have a 24/7 call center. Automation or bots enable smaller businesses to be able to communicate or respond 24/7.”
Why It is so Much Easier for a Small Business to Scale Today
“You could easily provide something on a social channel where all your marketing is via social media or What’s App. What’s App daily status updates, which no one thinks of as advertising, have more than 450 million viewers. In Nigeria, small business owners have been using their What’s App daily status updates to provide their daily specials. And your contact database could have thousands of people. It is zero cost advertising.”
Gustav will touch on similar themes when he gives a talk at the upcoming BigFive Summit in Cape Town. Please fill out the form below to receive a promotional code for a preferred rate to attend the summit. Just put “Summit” in the subject line.