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The future of digital marketing in South Africa

Brands not clearly focused on digital marketing will quickly find themselves becoming irrelevant - all promise and no delivery, no demonstration, no entertainment, no conversation...
The biggest challenge for brands in this space is simply keeping pace with the speed of change - the constant dramatic inventions and disruptions simply cannot be ignored. To stay current is a demanding task but we do have the advantage of other parts of the world being ahead of this curve and we can learn from them as they deal with the macro and micro forces, which are re-defining marketing.

© Sergey Nivens – 123RF.com

Some big factors requiring brands to re-think are the growth in connection speed, the expansion of mobile browsing, the proliferation of customer data and improvements in marketing service technology.

We all know about the astonishing levels of mobile phone penetration in SA but it's worth noting that more South Africans (29 million of them) use mobile phones than any other single media (radio has 28 million, TV 27 million and PCs only 6 million).

Despite delays to undersea cabling plans, bandwidth capacity to South Africa has been more than doubling year-on-year since 2011. Regulation in South Africa has often hindered broadband deployment, however the government has an ambition to provide broadband access to every citizen by 2020.

Not only does government see internet access as critical, more importantly so does the South African consumer - so internet access locally remains on an explosive growth path.

According to the Digital Media & Marketing Association (DMMA), South Africa internet users grew by 2 million in the last 12 months and PWC predicts that consumer spending on internet access to reach R59.6bn a year by 2017, up from R19.8bn last year.

Data costs will continue to fall and demand for data will continue to increase. The SA Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) reports that half of South African smartphone users now have access to over 1GB of data per month and those users are generating more data, and therefore more marketing intelligence, than ever before.

Smart phone penetration will continue to grow its share of the mobile market. This will be helped along by the battle to provide the cheapest smart phone as the high end becomes saturated - Vodacom currently offer the Smart Kicker for R550, MTN is selling the Steppa at around R500 and other options are available sub-R500.

This will all make mobile the primary device for many browsing behaviours including shopping - a recent study by Effective Measure found that mobile visits to retail websites grew from 32% to 47% in December last year - which leads us towards the absolute digitisation of the customer journey.

South African brands will become increasingly required to compete for share of awareness, engagement and ultimately wallet by serving richer, more personally relevant mobile experiences.

In order to win in this emerging digital battleground, marketers need:
  • A willingness to invest properly in mobile content
  • An appetite for experimentation and trial
  • The development of faster and more flexible processes
  • To take account of an emerging consumer world where the quality of traffic trumps quantity. Or, put another way, engagement eats reach for breakfast.

About Ben Evans

A key part of the Ogilvy & Mather South Africa team from January 2014, Ben is responsible for leading Ogilvy's digital portfolio of businesses comprising more than 200 people. This portfolio comprises OgilvyOne - Ogilvy's digital customer engagement specialist, Gloo South Africa's leading digital design agency, Gloo@Ogilvy - a full service creative digital agency formed from the merger of Gloo and OgilvyOne in Johannesburg, Neo - Ogilvy's digital media and performance marketing business and Strike Media - a leading mobile agency.
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