Vodacom announced that it is starting the next phase of the development of its super app, VodaPay, and is onboarding merchants onto the platform through “Mini Programs”.
Already partnered with around 70 merchants in South Africa, Vodacom aims to create an all-in-one shopping platform — a “one-stop digital mall”.
The mobile network operator is developing the platform in partnership with Alipay and according to the chief officer of Vodacom Financial Services, Marian Cassim, they hope to launch at the end of August 2021.
Merchants that are already partnered with Vodacom for integration into the VodaPay app include Makro, Builders Warehouse, Clicks, Edgars, Game, Exclusive Books, KFC, Petzone, and Bookings.com.
Users will be able to access each merchant’s own digital storefront, browsing through catalogues and making payments within the app.
The company also plans to roll out a bridging finance micro-loan service. This will allow users to take out a loan to complete a purchase through the app.
The amount of credit available upon checkout is determined by the user’s credit score as calculated by Vodacom, similar to its existing airtime credit service.
VodaPay will be available to users from any mobile network, though Vodacom users will enjoy zero-rated data charges while using the app.
With the development of a platform like VodaPay, Vodacom aims to transition “from a telecom operator to a digital technology services company”, CEO Shameel Joosub stated during the media briefing.
Asked which markets Vodacom hopes to target with VodaPay, Cassim said that in time it is meant to target every single segment in South Africa.
“As a start we will be focusing on the high-value segments, predominantly the smartphone-enabled customers — your mid-to-high value segment.”
However, there are plans to expand the app to offer services aimed at lower-income users with features such as creating bank accounts and offering a store of value.
Regarding the Mini Programs initiative aimed at merchants, Vodacom said that it allows shops to quickly develop a storefront in VodaPay.
This is similar to developing a stand-alone mobile app, but Vodacom promised it would be faster and that developers will be able to deploy to Android and iOS from a single codebase.
According to Cassim, Mini Programs can be developed, approved, and deployed to VodaPay in as little as a few hours.
Other merchants may take as long as a few months to develop their Mini Program, depending on their existing ecommerce capabilities.
Once on VodaPay, merchants can perform targeted marketing to their desired audiences.
Cassim emphasised that they will provide ample support to new merchants during the onboarding process, including an in-house team on standby for merchant support.