In this interview with Prince Okafor, the Chief Executive Officer of Dochase Adx, Chibuike Goodnews, speaks on the company’s growth trajectory, the innovative products it has introduced in the markets and others issues. Excerpts:
Your company is involved in programmatic advertising. What does this type of advertising imply?
Programmatic advertising is the base point of what we do, though not everything the brand stands for. This type of advertising involves the use of automation in buying and selling of spaces on the internet. It is concerned with how businesses leverage artificial intelligence to identify the kind of audience that fits into the prospective customers among billions of internet users.
Therefore, the use technology to automatically decide who fits into the customer segment of a product is known as programmatic. It further underscores the placement of advertisements to only people who fits into that customer segment. For instance, if you are selling fashion and you want to sell to people in Lagos, we have about 10 million people on the internet in Lagos. You don’t have to advertise to those 10 million people, you just need to identify about 10,000 people that should be your customers.
Programmatic helps you to identify who in that 10 million audience segment are interested in fashion, capacity to buy fashion and a device that they can use to buy that fashion. It uses social data in compliance with all necessary privacy laws to make right decision and place the ads. Therefore the person can be shown an advert for fashion.
What are the potential and opportunities in programmatic advertising?
The number of people going on the internet keeps multiplying yearly. It implies that soon the internet will become the environment for every human activities including buying, selling, shopping and decision making, information about ourselves. Therefore businesses need to be that point and meet users in that environment. Formerly, to advertise you have to buy a newspaper space and wait for the paper to get to users before they see your adverts.
But things have gone digital. Implicitly, businesses also need to move their activities and customer marketing on the internet and start looking at what technologies will be able to work on this huge massive space of the internet. The internet advertising technology doesn’t have to be a flat one that advertises to everyone. But it has to be a dynamic technology that businesses can leverage on advancement in data, Artificial intelligence and machine learning to decide who among the vast majority of people on the internet becomes their customers.
Does programmatic advertising work side by side with Artificial intelligence?
It works sides by side with artificial intelligence. It is what powers the targeting, re-targeting and re-marketing. We have super effective target parameters including age, income, devise, behavior and lot’s more.
What is the impact of audience segmentation and market analysis?
The audience is the particular subset of people that have similar characteristics. Audience for a vehicle could be the sum total of people who buys, searches, and talks about the vehicle on the internet. When you bring together platforms such as facebook, twitter, Instagram and Google and others, there are numerous people there but inside those platforms, you have to build an audience of people.
Therefore if you want to get automobile lovers they could be a cross different channels which is why our platform is a cross channel platform. Those audience are a collection of people across those channels. The audience for a vehicle or auto could be 1000 people from websites, 10,000 from facebook, 5000 from twitter, and maybe 2000 from Instagram.
When you collectively put them together, you will realise that 20,000 people are interested in this audience, so when you say this audience segment, it is a collection of 20,000 people that are spread across multiple channels. So when you setup a marketing project to target those kinds of audience, programmatic will use technology to identify the audience across those channels, and use advertisement serving technology to push advertisement to only audience that fits into that, instead of serving advertisement to everybody on the internet.
In essence, it helps businesses to minimise costs. If you compare that to placing an advertisement on a billboard at Lekki Tollgate, where everyone passing that road will be seeing it and you will be paying for everybody that passes through that route. However, everyone passing through that route is not your customer, it is possible that a few of them are your customers, but when you use programmatic in placing that it means that you are only going to pay for those appropriate segment that are useful for your product. Instead of paying for every segment.
75% of digital marketing spent is wasted because advertising is done to the wrong people, so our goal is to optimize and save that wastage. We are focused on pushing advertising to people interested in the product. For instance, you want to be advertising kids products, there is no point advertising baby products to teenagers or unmarried people. Rather, you focus your advertisements on married people or those giving birth. When you advertise baby products to nursing mothers, there is higher propensity for them to buy.
How much have you penetrated the market and what is the level of regulation?
The growth for us has really been interesting in terms of market penetration. Many years back, digital advertising was more like basic and very few people understood the application of programmatic. But over the years, due to the concerted efforts and activities Dochase has been doing, almost everyone in marketing industry in Nigeria knows about Dochase presently and almost every agency has had something to do with Dochase in the time past.
A lot of that growth was recorded in 2020 despite the COVID-19. In terms of market penetration, we have had over a 100% increase in market share between 2018-2020. A lot of people have known about us. Also, people have known better ways to do advertising and it has also transcended into the partners and businesses we have worked with. Sometimes, we see a threefold increase in the number of businesses we work with over the years and these are the validation of our market penetration.
As a pioneer in the market, you have a responsibility of education and social engineering. This implies that you need to enlighten the markets that there is a better way of doing business.
Social engineering is a process of getting people used to improved way of things digitally from the comfort of their homes or office by logging into Dochase platform. There are early adopters, but majority maybe late adopters. So the early adopters are in and the late adopters are coming, and more people are coming.
At several times, you launch different products such as the Chatbox, DSP and others. I will like you to explain each of those products and the rationale behind them, what was the customer traction?
I will like to state here that technology is very broad and technology companies are work in progress always, so programmatic is the general word for digital advertising, but the application of programmatic is quite different in various climes. In Europe, it is quite different from what it should be in Africa. So if we as a technology company brought in programmatic into Nigeria, we have to make that technology suitable for the local market.
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The localization of that technology means we need to introduce products that make that suitable for this market. We want to solve the major problems of businesses in Nigeria and Africa, and bring down the barriers of customer acquisition in Africa. Africa has a lot of grey areas around data clarity and penetration. What has worked in Europe is not going to work here. Based on research, we have with products that make customer acquisition and retention to be as effective and cheap as possible.
One of the products we launched was the WhatsApp chatbot which is a virtual assistant product that helps businesses to build a customer service person that sits on WhatsApp and attends to their customers and doing everything such as accepting payments, booking flight tickets, hotel reservations and others. Depending on the used case of each business, so for a banking business, you build the chatbot to serve for banking services, for a mail you build a bot to serve for shopping, for airline you build a bot to serve for flight ticket, and for hotels you build a bot to serve for room reservation. We also build for manufacturing industries.
The WhatsApp platform makes people have personalised communication. If a businesses that have to attend to 1,000 to 3,000 customers, you cannot have one person replying to 1,000 persons, but when you structure the process of that business to know that when a person comes in this is the question they will ask, you will build artificial intelligence into a robot that sits on WhatsApp and respond to those 10,000 people at the same time, so when they ask question the robot responds and you think it is a human that is responding.
We have over 9,000 clients on the platform. By the time you put the products together with marketing, it helps businesses leverage on the Dochase core marketing platform with the chatbot to identify customers across the internet who are interested in your product and bring them to a chatbot. Then you can communicate with them thereafter and build the database of people that have communicated with you over time. You can communicate with them months later, so they become your customers for life. So it adds a very big value to the traditional digital advertising which is transient.
The Dochase Demand Side Platform (DSP) is a tool used by advertising agencies and brands to advertise across the internet. So it gives a centralised platform for businesses to plan their media buying, plan their advertising and identify their customer segment and initiate advertising that will go to that segment across the internet. The Dochase DSP has access to Google, 50 other exchanges, social media and over 10,000 applications and websites. The DSP has access to over 97% persons on the internet through mobile phones, websites, integrations.
The click to SMS. This product is such that customers of a particular business click, it will initiate SMS or USSD. So you want people to recharge and do things with USSD, the Dochase platform just connects that so when people see the advert and click on it, it will initiate a USSD session you through that.
We also have the Dochase reward system. The Dochase reward system helps businesses to reward loyal customers. These loyal customers are people have interacted with the business in time past or an incentivisation for them to do one or two things with the business.
For instance, when you say buy our product and get N200 airtime, Dochase automates that process so that as long as you buy the product, you put your phone and then it sends the product to you. The reward can be data, airtime or shopping coupon. The value for businesses is that first it helps to create that customer loyalty, and it also helps businesses to know the interest and impulse of their customers. Then you can build a set of loyal customers from that.
Regarding Cyber security, we have very strong cyber security measure in place. Our servers are hosted in decentralised locations. It is quite difficult to hack into one and have access to others. It is quite difficult for someone to hack through our systems.
Customer reaction has been very great. There is this excitement they feel whenever they see the products in actions. It is the reason behind the growth we have been experiencing. The response has been exciting and we have seen loyal customers that have stayed on over the years. We have seen low customer dissatisfaction.
COVID-19 notwithstanding, our customers stay for very long time.
2020 has been a turbulent year for businesses and corporates in Nigeria. How were you able to succeed?
One of the key things is that our business is growing and there are a lot of miles to cover. Marketing budget is the first thing that gets cut in a pandemic period. But we experienced increase in the number of customers doing business with us because Dochase is the go-to when businesses are looking for efficient and effective ways to marketing.
As part of our efforts to increase market share and deepen penetration over the years, we did a lot of activities with industry stakeholders; Advertisers’ Association of Nigeria, Marketing Edge and Business Day and industry group that involves both practitioners in marketing, digital advertising, businesses. We educated them on the technology we are bringing into the market and worked them through the used cases and application of such.
Regulation in Nigeria is quite an interesting one. There is a lot to be done on regulations of technology in Nigeria. The Advertisers Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) is making efforts to regulate digital space, but the technology to enable that is not strong. There is a will power, but there is a still gap in the implementation because basically if you want to regulate every advertisement on the internet, you have to build a technology that will be able to find out who is advertising?
And where are they advertising? So until we have such technology, regulation will not be effective. The regulator will only identify a few people and go after them. But a wholesome regulation has not been in place. Also, advertising has not become a major policy issue in the economy.
The major policy issue in Nigeria has always revolved around food, shelter, clothing and this is what they have placed regulation on. But it starts going to hybrid, the economy has not developed enough where you have to regulate who gets what? Data privacy and others. Nevertheless, there is also the bandwagon effect which Nigeria regulators emulate. For instance, they see activity happening in Europe, they adopt the same thing in Nigeria, then say you have regulated.
It is not regulation. We have to regulate in line with what is happening in our environment instead of copying from another environment and adopting it. In Europe, you have high internet penetration and the digital attitude is quite different from what we have in Nigeria. So they have different dynamics when it comes to regulation. But over here the offline advertising is properly regulated, while online is not regulated.