Innovations in Platform-Led Upskilling:
Increasing Profits of Small Business Owners by Helping Them Build Habits Around Record-Keeping with On-Demand Advice and Tips
Oze brands itself as a business coach in your pocket. Designed to assist small businesses to digitize business transactions, Oze is a smartphone app with over 21,000 registered MSMEs users in Ghana (mostly in Accra) and over 1,000 users in Nigeria. Approximately 70% of Oze’s users are young men; one of the company’s goals is to increase the number of women users who tend to be more engaged. Around 77% of the app’s users are young people under 35 years old.
Insights into the Impact of COVID-19
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, Oze had 324 paid active users who input at least 40 data points into the app per month. While most of the paid users remained active during the pandemic, they showed significantly reduced revenues. Of users who had been using the app consistently before the pandemic, 66% had zero revenue by March 2020. Once Ghana’s lockdown restrictions were lifted, most users resumed using the app and were quickly back in business, although sales volumes had not reached pre-COVID levels by October 2020. At the end of 2019, 82% of Oze customers were profitable, up from 66% in the first quarter of 2020.
Training for Small Business Owners
Oze is sensitive to the fact that it is difficult to draw someone away from their business for training purposes, particularly if they are a sole proprietor. For this reason, Oze focused on perfecting in-workflow training through push notifications in the app. It enabled business owners to access content at their convenience, or while conducting a task related to the training topic so that it has increased relevance. Daily business tips, which are read by more than 70% of users, are pushed through the app to keep users engaged. Oze would like to know how soon after a customer gets a tip that they put it into practice.
Interpersonal training is provided to users through a business coach. Customers paid for this coaching before, but Oze recently started offering it for free as a reward for engagement. Users can collect “Oze coins” by engaging with the app and reading the push notifications, and coins can be exchanged for coaching sessions. The coaching service has proven to be very popular with users.
Oze also conducts in-person monthly business training seminars, which have been digitized through Zoom and Facebook Live streams since the outbreak of COVID-19. These seminars focus on significant operational changes, business tips, and advice on COVID-19-related products.
Using the App to Track the Impact of a COVID-19 Relief Fund
More recently, Oze has piloted awarding $5,000 COVID-19 relief loans to eight companies. These loans were offered at below-market interest rates with a grace period of three months. Although Oze put a lot of effort into scaling up this program, they could not do so because of regulatory diligence fund issues. They had hoped to have over $100,000 in this fund by September 2020.
Partnering for User Growth
Oze recruits users in several ways. Approximately 30% of their users come from (1) active user referrals, (2) Facebook marketing, which costs about 52 cents per recruitment, and (3) institutional partnerships. Some companies even mandate that their clients use Oze. Oze has attempted to develop several private sector partnerships with e-commerce platforms and FMCGs.
How Upskilling at Oze Helps to Fill General Skills Gaps
Though Oze is an app to keep track of business transactions, they have a serious focus on training. The different touchpoints Oze has with customers through interpersonal training and in-workflow moments allow them to gather user insights, get feedback on features, update the app based on user needs, and constantly iterate on the training they offer based on user needs.
This constant feedback between the core business offering and training topics helps ensure that the training remains relevant and has maximum impact for users, and, in turn, for Oze itself. This is a unique advantage that platforms have over traditional training institutions, which are more removed from the realities of platform work and selling, and one reason why platforms are a useful conduit for upskilling. Greater links between partnerships and training institutions could help equip those leaving university with skills that better help them thrive in the world of work.