Unlocking access, online engagement in Namibia

Reverse billing has the potential to reshape the online experience, fostering accessibility and driving engagement for businesses and consumers alike in Namibia's dynamic digital ecosystem.

Johannesburg, 27 Feb 2024
Brent Wantenaar, Operations Manager, Cellfind.
Brent Wantenaar, Operations Manager, Cellfind.

As Namibia's digital landscape evolves, innovative technology solutions are emerging to address the challenge of costly data consumption in a mobile-first world. Brent Wantenaar, Operations Manager at Cellfind, believes reverse billing has transformative potential for businesses of all sizes across Africa and the company is working with MTC, Namibia's leading telecommunications company, to make it happen.

“You’re looking at cost savings and incentives for customers. Reverse billing enables small businesses in Namibia to offer their services online without their customers worrying about data costs,” explains Wantenaar. Reverse-billed websites can also increase customer retention, making whatever service you’re offering more accessible and engaging. “By absorbing those data costs, small businesses can encourage customers to spend more time on apps and websites. This could lead to more sales,” he says.

The rise of remote work

One of the most interesting use cases for reverse billing is the rise of remote work. Even for those businesses adopting a hybrid model, the ability for employees to access enterprise websites at no cost is a valuable incentive. Reverse billing also removes the complexity of setting up VPNs and managing data and mobile dongles. “It’s uninterrupted access to work resources. It makes it a lot easier for staff to work – all they need to do is log onto a URL,” adds Wantenaar. “APNs, for example, can add a lot of stress to your IT team. But by reverse billing those applications, workforce URLs and IPs, employees can communicate and collaborate without additional charges.”

Reverse billing for the enterprise goes beyond productivity and efficiency – it makes it feasible for companies to support a more inclusive workforce. “It comes down to the affordability of data. A user doesn’t have to worry about their own data,” he says. “Any MNO can join, unlike an APN, which ties you down to a specific network. With reverse billing, anyone can come in with any SIM card, which makes it a lot less of a headache for the HR.” Wantenaar adds that reverse billing also puts a halt to the misuse of dongles and cellular phones as a user can only make use of business URLs and content. That means if an employee decides to access their social media accounts, it’s automatically done at their own cost.

Driving down data costs

There’s no question that e-commerce is dominating the online shopping scene in Africa. It’s estimated by Statista that the e-commerce market will reach 187.62 million users by 2028 and mobile growth in Africa is driving a significant portion of this expansion. Smartphones may be more accessible, but data is expensive and this can create a barrier to fully harnessing the potential of e-commerce for all segments of the population.

“A lot of customers want to engage and they want to purchase items online, but when you have to pay for that purchase journey, especially when you don’t have a lot of data, it’s prohibitive,” says Wantenaar. On the other hand, if a retailer’s website is reverse billed, customers are more likely to explore services and offers. They’ll take time to scroll and click and read brochures and content, which leads to a better-informed purchase by the consumer. “They make a better decision and that automatically enhances your customer satisfaction,” he adds.

Similar to reverse billing in South Africa, Namibian companies can also be selective on how they apply reverse billing. “They can reverse bill specific critical services or key content so that they can manage costs for themselves,” explains Wantenaar. “Companies can identify the most impactful areas to apply reverse billing based on analytics to ensure they engage with the right customers on the right product.” It’s not only about the best experience for the consumer, but for the corporate as well.

Implementing reverse billing can open up new opportunities within a previously segmented market, leading to the expansion of a business's customer base. According to Wantenaar, encouraging more customers to visit your websites not only boosts traffic but also enhances the potential for increased sales. “Reverse billing will add that much-needed competitive edge to Namibian customers. We’re enhancing the customer experience, access and engagement as well as the satisfaction of knowing that you’re visiting a site at no cost. We can do this all while managing and optimising the associated costs that comes with setting up reversible data.”