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Cell C transitions into platform-based digital solutions business

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Cell C says it is ramping up its platform-based strategy as part of a new vision to transition into a digital solutions provider – as it moves away from being a traditional mobile network operator (MNO).

The operator says as part of its turnaround strategy to create the “Cell C of the future”, it is repositioning to offer customers a marketplace of integrated digital products and services, through an ecosystem of third-party partnerships.

In an interview with ITWeb, Simo Mkhize, chief commercial officer at Cell C, explained the MNO, which has consistently been under-performing for some time, has developed a new business model, based on building a sustainable company that seeks to evolve beyond offering mainstream telco services.

COVID-19 has accelerated digital adoption of e-commerce by several years, resulting in more South Africans shopping online, whether it’s for basic goods or telecoms products.

Mkhize points out that Cell C, in partnership with third-party service providers, is looking to offer numerous services across various categories, including insurance, SME, banking, online education and content-based lifestyle offerings – as the business scales its multiple channels.

“Our strategy is underpinned by the desire to enable accessible, transformative digital experiences for all South Africans.

“Our intent is to create a digital lifestyle ecosystem and to on-board a diverse range of partners who will co-exist in symbiotic relationships, as we transition to become a digital solutions provider. Cell C has demonstrated we are the easiest company to partner with and our digital platform enables ease of integration,” noted Mkhize.

Through its partnership with local insurers, Cell C currently offers device insurance and funeral cover.

Cell C has generated significant losses of R33 billion over the years − and the new turnaround strategy is aimed at helping the business explore growth opportunities to become a profitable business.

The platform-based model forms part of Cell C’s three-year vision, premised on four key pillars – network strategy, platform-based solutions, telco-focused products and services, and providing superior customer experience, he said.

Simo Mkhize, Cell C chief commercial officer.
Simo Mkhize, Cell C chief commercial officer.

Hybrid approach

During a year of enforced lockdowns and partial closure of physical stores, local MNOs have been accelerating their omni-channel initiatives with an aggressive e-commerce strategy that offers customers a range of mobile products and services.

Cell C points out that understanding local customer behaviour and preferences has played a key role in its new focus to champion digital inclusion and enhance the lives of South Africans, as it evolves its traditional retail business.

As a result of changing consumer behaviour over the lockdown period, Mkhize pointed out Cell C has since closed 128 stores, and is aggressively shifting its focus towards a hybrid strategy, which will serve consumers across physical stores, digital platforms and through its nationwide network of retail partnerships.

“We’ve had to adapt to delivering services through our digital platforms, whether it’s through the app or our Web site, as well as through our telesales channels, which is a very important adaptation that we’ve had to do very quickly as a business, to scale up and to connect customers to multiple channels.”

Cell C has seen 26.7% uptake in sales on its mobile app, while Web site activity has shown an increase of 8.41%, according to Mkhize.

But what is also important, he added, is that the telco is still able to service customers who choose traditional physical retail, while adhering to the strict measures observed in-store in line with government’s COVID-19 lockdown regulations.

“Physical retail is still important because consumer behaviours are not the same. There are some who have adapted quickly to digital, while others haven’t and still prefer human engagement. As we reposition our brand, we’ve had a very strong momentum that we’ve carried towards the end of 2020, with some good results across customer numbers and great revenue and profit margin,” concludes Mkhize.

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