Safaricom will soon allow businesses to advertise on M-Pesa, here’s 3 ways it could be done

Last year, when I first got wind of Safaricom testing a new M-Pesa app, I was excited. Although it didn’t make sense to launch a dedicated M-Pesa app when the mySafaricom App had just been revamped, it sort of felt right since the new App was different in looks, in features and in appeal.

Over the coming months, before the official launch of the app in June 2021, I used and really quite liked the App. It felt fast, didn’t sign me out when I moved to another phone, didn’t require me to enter my PIN with every payment thanks to phone’s biometrics, and overall just looked badass (in a yeah-I-could-use-this-everyday sort of way).

By the time the official launch was happening, the app already enjoyed 1.3 million users. This was thanks to of course it being new and looking good, but also Safaricom’s own incentives enticing customers to download it.

It was during this launch that it finally sunk in what Safaricom was trying to do. The company wants to build a super app around their greatest product. They want to have as many people associate everything they want to do with M-Pesa. You want to travel, think M-Pesa, you want to buy food, gas, insurance, anything… just open the M-Pesa app and get it done via the many mini-apps within the DISCOVER section of the app.

It’s like China’s WeChat but without the conversation and social media aspects. They had tried bringing social media with M-Pesa through Bonga – an app that never went public – and saw that wouldn’t work. However, this approach seems to be a huge hit. A one stop place for all businesses! Perhaps that’s why the company is now bringing adverts to the app.

According to information availed this week, Safaricom may soon allow businesses to advertise on the M-Pesa app. Currently we don’t know how this will be implemented. We can only throw wild guesses.

Ways Ads may come to M-Pesa Super App:

  1. Banners at different parts of the app telling you about different deals – We’ve seen this done on mySafaricom app with swipe-able cards at the bottom of the app. So this could be the method Safaricom is bringing to the super app, but now allowing for many more business and targeting users based on interest, and data it has collected on how they pay, where they pay, and much more.
  2. Mini Apps listing – having businesses pay to be listed on the DISCOVER section of the app. The company already said they will be listing very many businesses during launch. So perhaps this will by asking businesses to pay to be part of the listed mini-apps. Or have a highlighted section in the mini apps category where you pay to be in the highlights for a period of time.
  3. Notifications – we’ve already seen pop-ups on the homepage of the app. For example when DSTV and NHIF became available as mini-apps, we saw notifications mentioning this. Perhaps businesses could pay to have such kind of notifications.

A Cluttered Super App:

I already raised concerns on the Super App at launch. You can read my thoughts here. But here are some of the words I shared:

Super Apps sound like good ideas on paper. But actualising the dream is always very difficult. This is not only because there are so many modules to be integrated, but also because in the end it’s all about business. And business means greed. And greed more often than not ends up masking businesses from what the end users actually want.

Won’t the app feel cluttered once more businesses are signed up? Whose responsibility will it be to ensure all the mini-apps work well without affecting the overall user experience?

I want to see how the super app fairs on in the coming years. I don’t use it as much nowadays as I did at the beginning. Funny enough right now, the mySafaricom app feels easier, and better organised.

In my initial review of the super app, I was really pumped about it being an app for M-Pesa and M-Pesa only. I loved the features like biometric authentication, being able to have receipts, using QR Codes, requesting money from people, and sending to many.

These are all features that now feel secondary in the actual use of the app. They’ve shifted from being the allure of the app. It feels like the company is now pushing third party businesses more.

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