All new things require a champion who will move swiftly to showcase the value and benefits that an innovation presents. Technology and its derived solutions also need that final push at times to go mainstream.
The mobile market – think applications and mobile web, has grown tremendously in terms of usage as mobile data becomes increasingly affordable and the cost of “smart enough” phones drops to consumer friendly levels. On the development side, both creative and developer types are busy creating services that they hope will gain traction in the market.
A disconnect exists though, and I have observed this from my interactions with various players in the mobile ecosystem. For techies, their immediate need is to make a living building services that leverage the technology that they have come to love. The quest for monetization has become tricky for local apps as the Kenyan consumer doesn’t quite purchase applications, there is little or no support for in-app purchases and traffic to the various properties is not sufficient to make sensible revenues if the target is solely the Kenyan consumer.The current modes of monetization of applications and services are upfront purchases, in-app purchases, advertising and commissioned projects. The current developer experience almost exclusively leaves commissioned projects as the sure way to get revenues, and that market is not as large as we would assume.
The key to unlocking the growth in this space may lie in the increased participation of brands using these channels of engagement to connect with their clients. Unfortunately the biggest block to this growth is what I call “brand and marketing manager chills”. Brands both big and small are in a perpetual fight for mindshare. However, it has always been a game of replication, where the brands simply copy what the competition is doing and adapt is slightly for their brand. Fear to innovate seems to have clouded the people charged with looking at a different way to engage.
If the brands that have healthy ad spend would adopt mobile platforms, I believe that we will see a shift in the mobile tech sector. How? First, awareness will be drawn to the consumer on additional utility of their mobile phone and get them used to more, beyond their regular interactions. This will see more traffic to local properties, thereby growing the mobile ad market ,as well as increasing discoverability for niche apps or services. Next, in the classic case of jumping onto the bandwagon, other businesses will have their curiosity piqued on this new models of engagement deployed by larger brands resulting in an increase in projects for techies and broader understanding of the possibilities.
Our market is unique and while others are heavily driven by entertainment and gaming, we need to ease our consumers in on the increased utility of their mobile if we are to have a sustainable mobile ecosystem. Brands hold the key.