With 128% mobile penetration in South Africa, there are more active SIM cards than there are people in this country. Which begs the question - just what are we using our phones for? Let's evaluate LSM 4-7, the largest consumer market group and find out what they are doing with this tool.
The mass market is a key consumer of mobile technology, mobile content and mobile media. To understand their behaviour we need to understand the technology to which this market has access, and the tools, applications and mobile sites they use.
The most recent inMobi 2013 stats show the average South African mobile web user consumes 6.2 hours of media daily and they use their mobile devices for 30% of this time, which is equal to 114 minutes per day. The statistics also show mobile browsing occurs mostly while we're lying in bed, watching television or waiting for something to happen.
One thing is clear, for those who access the web via their handsets, mobile is the preferred device for communication, entertainment, searching, and even shopping.
E-mail on our phones is also becoming a mainstream tool across the population, while cameras, diaries and games continue to dominate the list of features used on phones. FM radio and music players are also showing increased frequency of use, according to WorldWideWorx's 2012 research.
Even though smartphone penetration in South Africa is increasing at a rapid pace (estimate around 20% a year), the mass market still mainly uses so-called feature phones, a mobile phone that has additional functions over and above a basic mobile or 'dumb phone'. A feature phone is intended for customers, typically found in the LSM 4-7 market, who want a moderately priced and multi-purpose phone without the expense of a high-end smartphone.
Let's look at a few mobile sites, apps and tools most used by the mass-market consumer.
Facebook stats show over 80% of local Facebook visits are via a mobile device. BlackBerry chat (BBM) on the other hand has well over 3.3 million unique South African users, which was eclipsed by WhatsApp in 2012 with over 4.6 million unique users. The platform 2 Go has just over one million unique users and Mxit currently has over 6.5 million unique active local users. From these stats, we can see this market is actively involved in a variety of social media platforms.
In terms of the age breakdown of Mxit, the evolution over the past six years can be compared to the way WhatsApp grew in South Africa in a very short time. Users will join WhatsApp and encourage their friends and family to join as well, so they educate everyone in their circles on how to use the tool. Due to this organic education via consumers, the youth in this market is educating older age groups to use various social and communication tools. This leads to a broad and representative age demographic for Mxit, Facebook, WhatsApp, BBM and others.
Vodafone Live - with well over six million unique monthly users - provides content covering news, sport, weather, entertainment, games and music, all of interest to the LSM 4-7 market.
In terms of engagement, News24 is South Africa's leading digital news brand reaching close to 1.5 million unique South Africans monthly on mobile phones. Similarly, mobile sport sites such as SuperSport, KickOff, Kaizer Chiefs, Cell C Soccer Portal, Soccer Laduma and Football 365 have a cumulative number of well over two million unique sport fans in the country.
When it comes to cellphone banking, its very nature changes as rapidly as the capabilities of phones change. The Mobile Consumer in SA 2012 report (part of the Mobility 2012 research study) shows that while most cellphone banking is still conducted via text messages and Unstructured Supplementary Service Data, more than a third of customers of these services are now also using phone browsers for their banking.
Having a mobile device on hand while watching TV has become an integral part of consumer routines - a recent well-known mass market retailer campaign showed a massive spike in the clients' mobile application activity during, and for an hour after, a commercial break that had a mobile call to action. The so-called second screen experience is becoming a phenomenon that is easy to implement and should not be overlooked during media strategy and planning sessions.
Mobile phones are changing the way the mass market live in and engage with the world. It has become an always-on companion and it gives consumers access to more information, more content, and more options.
As marketers and strategists we have to understand how consumers use their mobile phones, so that we can connect with them through channels and technology that they use daily and are most comfortable with.