Mobile search is emerging as a major opportunity for South African marketers, provided they take the time to understand the mobile Internet and put the right services in place to serve mobile customers.
By now, most marketers are aware of the fact that the mobile phone is the electronic channel with the widest reach in South Africa. What's more, Internet-enabled smartphones are starting to proliferate in the market. By some estimates, they already account for about 15% of the total cell phone population, a number that will rise quickly in the years ahead.
Perhaps even more importantly, people who own smartphones are beginning to really depend on the Web and Internet features they offer. For example, numerous South Africans use their mobile phones to check Facebook and update their statuses on the run. An estimated 25% of all search queries on Google South Africa today come from mobile phones.
These numbers point to a simple reality: the mobile Internet has finally arrived, bringing with it a wealth of new opportunities for marketers. Since this is still an emerging channel, marketers can often deploy high-impact mobile search campaigns at a low cost.
Mobile search usage differs from traditional Web search in a number of ways, and marketers need to tailor their approach to the needs of the channel. Let's look at a few trends in mobile search.
Time of day trends
Mobile and traditional PC searches show peaks at different times on any given day. Most PC-targeted PPC campaigns peak at lunchtime in query volume and then taper off until the end of the working day. By contrast, mobile search queries rise throughout the day and peaking during the television prime time in the evening.
This effect is especially pronounced when a mobile search campaign is linked to a television advertising campaign. We call this the couch search trend - people who don't have PCs at home or who don't want to leave their lounges to go to the computer in the study use their mobile phones instead.
Over the weekends, we see more consistent volumes through mobile search than through desktop search as well. What this means is that mobile search allows you to reach users at times of the day when they're not in front of a PC.
It's not just when mobile users search the Web that is different from desktop and notebook users, but also why and how. A user in front of a desktop computer might be considering a big purchase and will take the time out to do some in-depth research.
A mobile user usually wants to get a hit of relevant information straight away. For example, an executive who finds himself in Sandton with an hour to kill before his next meeting might want to find a convenient coffee shop with Internet access. Someone looking for a particular shop might need directions or a telephone number. Or a family might spontaneously decide that they want to go to the movies and book tickets from their smartphone.
Mobile campaigns currently deliver great value for money because there are fewer competitors bidding for popular key words. This picture could change as more people get on the bandwagon, but for now, return on investment from mobile search is very attractive.
We also see high conversion rates in the mobile space, because people are often searching with the intent to buy or pay for something. It is important to note that having a good mobile site is critically important to the success of a mobile campaign.
A mobile site should be easy to navigate and allow a user to make a booking or a payment or find information with minimal fuss and distraction. This in turn will allow for high conversion rates within the mobile space. Too many companies make the mistake of running mobile search campaigns and linking to websites that are unwieldy for mobile users.
In closing: an always-on approach
Mobile users are always active, which means that marketers need to have an always-on approach to mobile search to serve them. Think carefully about your bidding strategy and how your mobile search campaign is supported by other marketing efforts, build a conversion focused mobi site and try mobile search out. You'll be pleasantly surprised by the results.
About the author
As managing director of Acceleration Media, Diane Charton oversees the growth of South Africa's leading digital media strategy, planning and buying company, and helps clients to maximise their use of the Internet.