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Omnichannel and USSD: What you need to know

Omnichannel and USSD: What you need to know

If you are looking for a cost-effective addition to your omnichannel strategy that adds plenty of value, USSD codes offer an excellent way to expand your mobile engagement.

Every single year, technology continues to adapt and grow, making it easier to reach out to customers across a broad range of channels. Today, it is easier than ever to pay bills, transfer funds, request call-backs, submit votes, check balances, and perform other actions with just a few button taps and a mobile phone. Today's technology has vastly improved the way that we communicate, but it's also improved the way that we do business and the way that we connect.

While email, social and other digital marketing strategies remain every bit as powerful, one mobile marketing channel is helping to reduce barriers that arise from a lack of internet connection and data. USSD codes are bridging the gap across various sectors while also providing a fast, efficient channel to lower income groups who do not traditionally have access to data or internet. For those who cannot afford smartphones and tablets, USSD offers a way to enjoy the same benefits offered to those with data and smartphones, with many services offered through this technology, from mobile payments all the way to interactive chats.

Just in case you are wondering if text communication is still relevant, it is worth noting that text-based messages are still very much important – even with the number of smartphones and apps in use all over the world. It may be rather simple, but USSD remains an incredibly inclusive, accessible mobile technology that offers many benefits over SMS and other types of mobile marketing.

In emerging markets such as South Africa, low-cost technology is especially important. Smartphone adoption rates are far slower in developing countries, which means that reach is greatly reduced unless you are able to provide platforms that are accessible even to those that do not have smartphones, WiFi, Fibre or data.

How Do USSD Codes Work?

USSD is short for Unstructured Supplementary Service Data. Simply put, this is a protocol used to communicate between cellphones and service providers. Applications and services that use the technology utilise codes that typically start with something like '*123#', which is assigned by a telecommunications provider. This shortcode connects phones to a server that then provides a menu that can be opened by users, offering a selection of options that can be taken after entering the code.

After actions have been taken, users are often presented with a success or fail message, which then indicates the end of the process. USSD messages are not charged to mobile users.

As a real-time messaging system, USSD is similar to SMS, with messages sent over the airwaves. Unlike SMS, which uses a store and forward message flow, USSD uses a session-based connection. Responding messages are also different to SMS in that they are usually sent in a very simple format with 182 characters or less.

Key Types of USSD Codes

There are generally two major types of USSD codes used – push messaging and pull messaging. While these are similar in their nature, the core differences come down to how the message is sent or received.

Push messages are one-way messages that are sent by networks to mobile subscribers. These include services and messages such as voting and polling and announcements that are sent out to subscribers.

Pull messages are requested by mobile subscribers, using USSD codes. These include news and sporting updates, currency updates, ticket purchases, banking transactions, balance checks, and even call centre messages who use USSD for voice support.[embed][/embed]

Why Use USSD Codes?

While we have already shared a few of the benefits offered by USSD codes, it is worth noting that this technology offers many other advantages as well. The ease of use and cost-efficiency of this channel has made it a popular choice with many types of businesses. Service industry businesses, financial institutes and other businesses that rely on customer communication will all note significant improvements in service, costs and overall efficiency when using USSD. Some of the things that makes this type of mobile messaging worth investing in for your campaigns include the following:

  • Accessible on all phones. USSD works in every single type of phone, from cheap, basic cellphones all the way to top of the range smartphones. That means that there is a far greater accessibility compared to strategies that rely purely on smartphones.
  • Free for consumers. Because USSD is free to access, consumers are able to use these services without paying for data or texts. That further increases the accessibility, making sure that your campaigns are not limited to those who are able to afford airtime and data.
  • Interactive. USSD is also surprisingly interactive, helping to take consumers through a series of actions in a way that delivers responses with every action. That can help to increase conversion rates on campaigns while also keeping people engaged.
  • Fast and reliable. The rapid data exchange of USSD is faster than SMS, with an interactive navigation that allows for quick, reliable two-way communication. USSD codes work on all networks, too. As they are not mobile software or SIM-based, they do not require anything beyond a connection to the basic GSM network.
  • Easily customised. Messages and codes can be easily tailored to your business needs, making this a highly flexible solution for various types of promotions and campaigns.
  • Reduces call centre pressure. USSD can also help to take pressure off call centres. When there is a quick, simple way for consumers to book appointments, get information, check balances and perform other actions without the need to speak to operators, this also reduces costs and even improves customer service.

Looking for more information on USSD codes to determine whether this is a good choice for your business? The Grapevine team has prepared a useful fact sheet that gives you a simple breakdown of USSD in an easily digestible graphic format.

Download the USSD fact sheet now to get started. We can also offer our expert advice to help you get started with USSD as part of your broader omnichannel strategy or as a stand-alone strategy.

Contact us today to find out more about how to get started with USSD codes for your business, and find out what makes this technology one of the fastest-growing trends in the mobile industry.

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