Despite teething problems, mobile Web is taking Africa by storm and is certainly the next stage of mobile technology evolution. Zachary Ochieng and Alex Owiti of CIO report.
The advent of mobile Web–the web browser-based access to the World Wide Web using a mobile device connected to a wireless network—has completely changed the way people do business. Notably, advertisers are increasingly using the mobile Web as platform to reach consumers. As at 2007, the total value of advertising on mobile was $2.2 billion. A recent study by the Online Publishers Association reports that about one in ten mobile Web users said they have made a purchase based on a mobile Web ad. While 23 percent said they have visited a Web site, 13 percent said they have requested more information about a product or service and 11 percent said they have gone to a store to check out a product.
Giving mobile advertising its edge
According to Mbugua Njihia, CEO, Symbiotic Media Consortium, the addictiveness, pervasiveness and sheer dominance of the mobile device is what gives mobile advertising its edge.
“Forget the generic SMS marketing initiatives, though they are yet to be fully exploited in the region. The addition of extensive profiling and location awareness creates a potent mix that adds value to the mobile user and advertiser as it gives more bang per shilling spent and is actually useful to the person receiving it as it is hyper targeted”, Njihia observes.
A very big opportunity also exists for the Government to streamline its operations and improve service delivery to its citizens using mobile applications and mobile Web as a tool. The cost savings that can be realised here run into millions of dollars. What the Government needs to do though, is to start with its most basic services and make them mobile so that the citizens can get a better perspective of the services and buy into the vision that m-government holds.
“Sometimes policy and legislation act as stumbling blocks to simple proofs of concept. The beauty about mobile is that scalability is not something to cause sleepless nights”, Njihia says.
In view of the uniqueness of mobile technology, service providers can latch onto it by embracing developers and providing them with tools that allow them to build services that interact seamlessly with the networks infrastructure. The mobile operators cannot match a developer community in terms of ideas, implementation and rollout. Njihia argues that a network operator may only be able to focus on, say, five value added services, while the developer community will have up to twenty different services addressing different niches. If provided with the tools, access and reasonable revenue agreements, it becomes a win-win situation for everyone.
Africa’s creative capital
The biggest challenge, however, is for the region to develop a new generation of mobile entrepreneurs.
“Ideas on mobile are Africa’s creative capital; this is how we will leapfrog into the future. These ideas however must get off the ground and this is where the first bottleneck is encountered. Having been part of two startups in the mobile vertical, I have experienced firsthand the hardships of raising venture capital…let’s not even touch on bank loans. We don’t have a particularly vibrant venture capital pool in East Africa that look at virgin ideas, embrace the potential and grow the ideas to the multimillion businesses that they should be”, Njihia offers.
However, things are changing, with “old money” starting to look at new ideas mostly in the mobile and mobile Web space as the next big growth areas. This presents a unique opportunity for the new generation of mobile entrepreneurs. A lot of education is needed especially on the business planning process, and this is where many young entrepreneurs seeking to enter this lucrative industry fail.
With the mobile revolution sweeping across Africa, Moses Kemibaro, Business Development Director, Dotsavvy Limited, says marketers have no choice but to adopt the new medium to market their products and services besides other media like print, Tv, Radio, in/outdoor and direct mail.
Marketing that is proactive and personalised
“But there is one marketing channel that is really taking off–mobile marketing- that is proactive and personalised, versatile, interactive, fast, efficient, affordable, ubiquitous, traceable and measurable,” Kemibaro observes.
In his definition, mobile marketing refers to “using mobile and mobile-based technologies to market products and services”. It also involves one-to-one communication; streamlined fulfillment; testing and re-optimising, as well as measuring the results. To effectively use mobile marketing, he advises the industry to hinge on the drivers of mobile technology which are to ensure that every mobile device is SMS and MMS-enabled, handset prices are falling and features are increasing, broadband and 2.5G proliferation, improved infrastructure, exponential subscriber growth and mobile money for transactions.
“The growth of mobile in Africa is remarkable. It has grown by 550 percent over the last 5 years. Currently, there are 350 million mobile users and 3 in 10 Africans now have a mobile phone. The mobile has therefore become the number one communications device in Africa. But one thing the industry should not take for granted is that the mobile is so much more than a phone…it’s…. SMS/texting, e-mail, the web, the bank, entertainment, a camera, socializing and mobile lifestyle”.
Key considerations to the success of mobile marketing are therefore based on the mobile uptake which is exponential worldwide but more so in Africa. Global statistics show that mobisites are becoming more dorminant, having grown by 129 percent in 2009 since mobile Web-enabled phones have exceeded computers in numbers.
“For many in Africa, their first and possibly only Internet experience will be via the mobile web. Dotsavvy’s proposition is therefore to extend leadership from Internet marketing to mobile marketing in 2010, establishment of DotsavvyMobile and strategic partnerships with leading mobile VAS providers for various mobile marketing services. Currently, we are offering mobisites, mobile web ads, SMS and MMS marketing services,” Kemibaro says.