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Knowing your audience’s behavior is key to mobile marketing

There is no doubt that mobile phone behaviour is changing. Only a decade ago, mobile phones were used to make phone calls, set your alarm and perhaps to send text messages. Fast-forward ten years and mobile phones have evolved to become much more than a communications device.


Howard Moodycliffe – MMA SA Advisory Board Member & Head of Marketing at wiGroup

There is no doubt that mobile phone behaviour is changing. Only a decade ago, mobile phones were used to make phone calls, set your alarm and perhaps to send text messages. Fast-forward ten years and mobile phones have evolved to become much more than a communications device.  The evolution of smart phones and tablet devices has had a significant effect on mobile consumption, but one should not ignore the changing face of the consumer. Consumers are increasingly tech savvy, time poor and generally hungry for a bargain. The world has changed and this is partly due to the impact of technology as well as the rise of climate of austerity as consumer confidence remains low following the global financial crisis.

In South Africa, mobile penetration is at a staggering 128 per cent. At any time in any given day, South Africans are online and using their phones to do a multitude of daily activities including social networking, email, search, SMS, banking and increasingly mobile payments.

Mobile commerce is helping to solve the banking issues facing many of the migrant population who typically work away from their families and look to send money home each month. The strong user growth in the MTN Mobile Money solution highlights the appetite by South African’s to use mobile technologies to solve their daily problems.  With the rollout of innovative payment solutions Flickpay, Snapscan and Zapper it is expected that consumers will further change the way they use their phone as they strive for safe and speedier payment solutions. Mobile phones are transforming daily habits as they become much more than a communications device and are seen as a lifestyle enabler. The mobile phone is now in essence a digital wallet, a lifestyle planner and transactional device as well as being a communications device.

With a captive audience, the significance of the mobile device as a targeted marketing channel becomes obvious. However according to a new report from Forrester, marketers’ use of mobile technologies does not match consumers’ behaviour. Too few marketers have mobile strategies, and those that do are not aligning these to how consumers are interacting with their phones today.
According to the report, mobile is the catalyst for broader technology and marketing changes. Marketers that do not evolve their traditional marketing strategies to include relevant mobile marketing solutions risk their brands becoming irrelevant in the future.

The report goes further to state that when marketers do embark on a mobile strategy, they are too often focused on trendy technologies instead of delivering solutions that the consumer wants.  Knowing your audience is critical to delivering successful mobile marketing campaigns. There are multiple solutions readily available in the South African market and take into account the variety of handsets that South African’s use and how they use them. For instance, SMS promotions, point of sale integrated mobile coupons and vouchers, mobile apps and mobi sites. Mobile marketing can, and does, work across the full spectrum of handset types, it is simply the marketing execution that requires adjusting dependent on the consumer market you are targeting.  

A particular characteristic of the South African market is the high rate of accessing the Internet via mobile versus a PC. Two thirds of all web use comes from mobile devices. A significant proportion of this is search, where users are searching for everyday products, services and businesses themselves. Mobile search is critical for business with the mobile experience of sites expected to be of the same quality as regular websites, to avoid significant drop off. Last year, Google changed their search algorithms to enhance the user experience with websites and mobile sites being penalized by Google if the experience is not at an expected level. When we consider mobile penetration levels and consumer’s browsing patterns the marketing potential of optimized mobile sites is very attractive. Geo-location marketing further allows businesses to entice consumers through targeted offers such as in-store or at the point of sale discount vouchers. The potential is endless.

According to Forrester, "The most successful marketers take the insights they gain from measuring their programs and roll them into new iterations, programs, and strategies.” Marketers that fail to add mobility into their digital marketing mix risk losing brand relevance. The real opportunity now lies with brands who know their audience and target their marketing accordingly.

We have come a long way since the launch of the first mobile phone in 1986. Today mobile phones are seen as a necessity and not a luxury item. Smartphone uptake will only increase in the coming years, and this, combined with the decreasing cost of mobile devices and data is driving a phenomenal shift of change across South Africa.

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