Android app Chatpages has launched with an initial focus on South Africa, offering small and medium enterprises (SMEs) an affordable communication, marketing and customer service tool.
Chatpages – which describes itself as a cross between a mobile Yellow Pages, WhatsApp and Groupon – allows mobile users to search companies by name, category or keyword, and chat to them in real time.
Businesses can post discount coupons on their listing, which customers redeem in store, and can also upload product pictures and video links for an instantaneous mobile site. Maps and GPS routing direct customers to the door, while SMEs also have access to in-built analytics.
Co-founder Henri Pereira told Disrupt Africa was competing with the likes of Google and Facebook, as well as other mobile-based business directories such as Yellow Pages and MTN.
“We are currently doing it slightly different, where we have introduced a live chat communication option, where customers can chat to a business representative,” he said.
“The business owner is thus able to hold multiple chat conversations, unlike a voice call, where only one customer can be handled at a time. Chat is the definite communication channel of choice for millennials as it is affordable and offers privacy.”
Pereira said Chatpages was differentiated further from the competition in that it allows the listed company’s representative access to basic analytics, and the option to issue and manage digital discount coupons. The startup also has a built-in affiliate programme that allows registered affiliates to earn ongoing commissions on successful referrals.
Though the app is available for download globally, the startup is focusing its initial efforts on the South African market in order to gain the necessary traction.
“We realise that the business model needs substantial business listings for users to derive any benefit from it and so are pushing hard for that,” Pereira said.
“We’re also looking at appointing country representatives in other growing English-speaking economies in Africa, such as Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana. Of course, the United States (US), United Kingdom (UK) and Australia are also on our radar screen, but will require additional funding.”
Chatpages has been bootstrapped thus far, but the startup is now looking to raise a seed round as soon as it has gained some traction. Funding would be used for further development – including a iOS app – and marketing.
The service offers a freemium listing plan, with limited features, as well as two subscription paid plans. It is currently offering six-month free premium listings in order to increase traction, and in future may introduce limited in-app advertising.