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THE END OF MONEY? READ ON…

Does anyone remember a South Africa that was so awash in supermarket shopping bags that the thin plastic bag was once dubbed ‘SA’s national flower’? Then, about 20 years ago, consumers in South Africa started paying for these bags and suddenly their willy-nilly usage plummeted. Today, many of us see value in these bags (that we’ve forked out 50-odd cents for) and would never dream of simply discarding them all over the place. This shows how powerful hitting us in the pocket can be when you want to direct behaviour towards a more environmentally-conscious end. It also shows how on-the-ball our country is in many areas. The National Credit Act is another beautiful piece of legislation that was introduced just at the right time, that is, shortly before the global credit crisis really hit. Much of the world is now seeing how damaging the cousin of the plastic bag is turning out to be. I’m speaking, of course, of the plastic straw and its partner in the environmental crime of the last century and of the current young century: the styrofoam cup. Mostly used for coffee, the styrofoam and other plastic derivatives of this takeaway favourite is now being recognised for the rotter it is turning out to be. Forget caffeine keeping us awake, the caffeine holder is now giving us all sleepless nights wondering what damage is being done to our world. We often mention real-world examples of mobile marketing in this blog and today I have such a cracker for you that’s related to the above. Not content with offering customers discounts for bringing their own cups, Costa Coffee in the UK has now teamed up with Barclaycard to launch a coffee cup that’s not only reusable, but which incorporates a mobile payment element. What? Yes, seriously! Your coffee cup now pays for itself, well, sort of… The ‘clever cup’, which comes with a mobile app to run the whole thing, is part of a wider campaign by Costa to encourage customers to avoid single-use coffee cups. Essentially, the cup has a contactless chip embedded in its silicon base which screws off off so you can wash it – presumably without washing your money away! Mobile users can track their spending, top up their balance and block or cancel the contactless payment element using the dedicated app or online. This has to be 2018’s best example of the deployment of practical yet awesome mobile technology out in the wild. What a way to (almost) end what’s been another great mobile year! Let’s end off by issuing a challenge to the African mobile marketing community to come up with something equally outstanding.

Four immediate easy mobile wins to implement right away!

As we race towards the end of what we hope has been another successful year for the mobile marketing industry, it is perhaps a good idea to take stock of a few mobile fundamentals. Mobile’s the order of the day, that’s for sure. How often do any of us view email messages on a desktop computer any more? If your client’s strategic marketing plan for 2019 does not take mobile devices into consideration, their brand will start trailing competitors significantly. The good news is there a plenty of highly-effective, yet cost-effective, mobile-related tactics that can be quickly employed to get clients on the right side of the mobile revolution. We’ve listed below some of the top mobile marketing best practices to consider before year-end. Get these implemented by 2019 and you can kick the mobile new year off with the best of them! Optimise your web presence for mobile display, first and foremost. It’s no good for that swanky and uber-creative designer to come up with some award-winning work that looks incredible on a huge desktop screen – your online presence needs to display more effectively, and less creatively, across a range of mobile screens. Brevity is crucial. With less cyber real estate on which to make your point, because screens are smaller, you need to come up with really punchy, hard-hitting web copy. Also bear in mind those millennials that are said to be reading less and less… Think local. Mobile devices with their ability to know locations have been a real boon for local businesses. More and more people are using their handheld devices to ask questions like “where is the closest atm” and “what time does Clicks close?”. Keep this in mind and make sure to include location-specific content. Finally, you need to plan for errors because typing on smaller screens can be challenging. Current and potential customers are likely to make plenty of errors when searching for your online mobile presence – take this into account, especially when register domain names. Be sure to include commonly-misspelled words relating to your business in your campaigns and know which relevant keywords are prone to typos.

Who asks for the wifi code when visiting someone? A lot of us, apparently!

Have you noticed how it’s becoming more and more common for people to ask you for the wifi code when visiting your house? I’m sure many of us were quite taken aback when hearing this request for the first time – I mean, does your house look like a coffee shop, mine sure doesn’t – but now it’s mainstream, coming after ‘where can I put the meat?’. As a mobile marketer, I find this all very interesting and it bodes well for our particular marketing discipline. Most plaudits will say asking for a wifi code the moment you step into someone’s home is a symptom of our hyper-connected society, but it’s more than that. It speaks directly to the ubiquity of wireless. After all, the person asking for the code is not plugging in a copper wire, after they? They’re not asking for the code so they can run a cable from the car to your house! Aside from the fact that this simple request means wireless is now being taken for granted (does anyone know if the last dial-up users in SA have been disconnected?), it also assumes that the home being visited not only has wifi, but uncapped wireless connectivity, delivered via fibre. At last count, there were a couple hundred thousand households in South Africa that were part of the magical-sounding ‘fibrehoods’. These are the suburbs where those nice people with the spades and pickaxes come to dig up the pavements in pursuit of the laudable goal of super-speedy web access. The mobile marketer will, however, have noted the recent entrance of companies like Rain that promise high-speed broadband over mobile. We also have the incumbent operators like Telkom Mobile also coming up with high-speed and high-data cap wireless options. I think the sum effect of all of this is that many more consumers are becoming open to mobile marketing campaigns delivered over high-speed mobile. There are all sorts of wireless opportunities opening up, from free high-speed public wifi subsidised by advertising, to wireless push advertising on a grand scale. Next ever is going to get really hot in wireless and mobile marketers, and their clients brands, had better be there!

With three months to go to 2019, we’ve got three mobile strategy specifics for 2018

One of my favourite reads, Entrepreneur Magazine, says “Like any type of marketing, mobile marketing works best when you have a solid strategy behind it.” As we cruise towards the end of the year and marketing executives everywhere panic as they realise there are scarcely three months left to the 2018 we were all going to do so much in, let’s focus on three tangible strategic things we can do before year-end. If you’ve left things to the last, implementing these three items will ensure that you have the semblance of a mobile strategy before the corks pop and the streamers fly on January 31st. First, you must take the time and trouble to understand your market. When it comes to mobile, you need to know whether they are using smartphones or feature phones – most importantly. Which types of mobile marketing will work well with your audience depends on their devices. They may respond better to push notifications or SMS if they’re feature phone users, for example. Smartphone users, for their part, will no doubt be keen to engage via WhatsApp for Business. Next up, you need to know in which age segment they fit. This is key because the young ones, right now, are heavily into video with over 70 percent of them saying they watching three hours or more of online video each day. So YouTube, Periscope, Facebook Live, and Meerkat are likely to get traction. Next, you must decide what your mobile campaign is going to say and here you shouldn’t make the mistake of simply replicating the goals or your non-mobile strategy. This is because mobile marketing-related ad campaign goals can be way more specific, measurable and tangible. The nature of the technology allows for this and that’s why it is so awesome. When you draft mobile goals, drill right down into the specifics of what behavior change you want to bring about – because you can! Finally, pay attention to your own analytics because past behaviour gives insight into future consumer and target market priorities. As Entrepreneur Magazine suggests, to get this part of your mobile marketing strategy correct, you’ll want to get in touch with your customers. Ask them about what problems they’re trying to solve and how you can help with your unique brand offering, product or service. Good luck!

GREAT, BUT LIMITED, FUTURE FOR SMS

As regular readers of this blog would know, predictions are so common in mobile marketing, it’s almost as if our discipline runs on speculation of what may or may not happen in the future! That’s not a bad way to go – without our eyes fixed on the horizon we wouldn’t make any progress. Future fixation can’t be worse than living in the past or worse, living for the moment without any hint of some planning going on. This brings me to speculation about the health or otherwise of the mobile marketer’s erstwhile favourite cellular network bearer, SMS. The text message is probably responsible for the scary fast growth of GSM around the globe. Before consumers cottoned on to this low-cost network engineer testing tool, mobile was really just your home phone without copper wire. Seriously. That’s how people viewed cellphones: they were just souped-up car phones and the home phone remained telecom numero uno. It was SMS that really made us all think about the non-voice-based potential applications of mobile. But now after a massive flirtation with the short text message, those in the know have been predicting its demise for the better part of two to three years – at least – now. I tend to differ in this assertion. It’s clear the numbers do not favour SMS. But, what’s happening is that SMS is simply returning to its business-based role. SMS has a solid future as a reliable bearer of mostly once-off business-to-consumer communication. Who can deny that SMS is the OTP (one-time password) king? And there are dozens of good, solid SMS-based applications that are being well used out there. SMS will continue to be around for a very long time because of some simple truths. Consumers trust it, for one. These days, all manner of dodgy person or business seems to be attempting to add mobile consumers to their WhatsApp contacts. With SMS, an unwanted message is just that – an unwanted, once-off message to be easily deleted. With WhatsApp, for example, a similar attempted contact situation feels like an invasion of privacy. SMS is robust, it is credible and trusted by consumers. Text messages with valuable information sent to consumers by their banks, insurance firms, and others, are easily stored in inboxes for later action. SMS is a manual gearbox, its a revolver, your dad’s car, and real buttons instead of a glass screen. It’s good, solid, dependable. And set to be with us for a very long time.

SPOTTING THE NEXT BIG THING IN MOBILE – THAT’S HERE TO STAY

The topic of today’s blog is innovation. Simply put, innovation in mobile is going to be the biggest contribution to human development over the next fifty years. Big words, but how could it be any different is one considers that mobile is the most used of all digital devices, perhaps of all devices? Over 75% of time spent online is time spent on mobile – whether tablets, handsets, phablets, you name it. While the early adopter brands cottoned on to mobile years ago, we still have some key national and global brands only now recognising that mobile is the key to digital success. Mobile is changing the way consumers and brands interact and innovation is driving this sea change. Some may be asking whether innovation in mobile has reached its limits, after all, one can only do so much with the small screen. That’s crazy talk! It reminds me of that well-known quote we’ve all seen from the chief of the US patent office in the 19th century who infamously stated that everything has already been invented! If agencies, their clients and brands can come to a better understanding of how consumers are using their mobile devices then it will soon become clear that there are still so many gaps to be plugged – with innovation. My impression is that innovation in mobile advertising needs to catch up with innovation in mobile devices. In 2019, we need clever mobile marketers to come up with more ways to use this amazing mobile technology that has dropped down on the marketing world over the past two decades like manna from heaven. As we ask ourselves what the key trends are that will drive innovation in mobile near year, we need to distinguish between flimsy buzzwords and real, habit-changing innovations that will transform our lives. Spotting the next big one is what we all are trying to do, but it’s easier said than done. From AI, to IoT, wearables, bots and blockchain, you decide what’ll be here to stay next year in mobile.

Video & bots, that’s your mobile marketing 2019 in a nutshell!

As we settle firmly into the last quarter of 2018, many mobile marketers and their clients will be wondering what the mobile hot buttons will be for 2019. Interestingly, or perhaps predictably for those of us who believe in the power of consistency, there’ll be much of the same on the mobile front for next year. Don’t take my word for it – a quick scan of such leading mobile media platforms as Mobile Marketing Magazine, Adweek and Marketing Land reveals that video, for example, will continue to just grow and grow in importance. So there’s the first trend to keep your eye on in 2019. And it’s related to the second trio of trends for next year. But first, Video. Not only are the pundits saying that traditional video will account for 85% of all Internet traffic in 2019, but way more than half of mobile users already watch web and social media video on their cells. The message here is that mobile marketers seriously need to investigate video ads next year, if they haven’t already done so, because 65% of ad impressions – apparently – on Instagram this year have been the result of video content. So pencil in traditional video. And me using the term ‘traditional video’ here takes us to our next mobile hot button for 2019. Live video is making waves on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram right now and will continue to do so in 2019. We’re all watching more live video than we watched the year before and that’s an upwards trend the mobile marketer really needs to underline for next year. Do NOT let you brand be late on the live video bandwagon. Finally, you need to stay ahead of the curve and get your client, or your own firm or employer, to develop a chatbot. In 2019, the gurus are saying chatbots will become a normal thing. We’re seeing a lot of banks and insurance firms, in particular, using chatbots for CRM in South Africa, and next year the novelty will fade and consumers will simply expect to engage with their favourite brands in this manner. It used to be science fiction – now it’s science fact and bots will continue to grow in leaps and bounds in 2019.

WASPS BUILDING SOUTH AFRICA’S FUTURE MOBILE HERITAGE

The whole month of September is now traditionally regarded as Heritage Month in South Africa with the 24th of the month being the original Heritage ‘Day’. This millions of South Africans know as we gather around the braai this time of year with friends, family, colleagues and the odd stranger and marvel at the fact that we can even do this. Twenty years ago, things looked pretty bleak and topsy turvy here. I think we’ve all accepted that South Africa will always be a little off-centre, to say the least, but wow, what progress has been made! Now, now at last, we have a heritage we can all be proud of – and share. In no economic sector is this more true than in the country’s mobile industry. We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: South Africa, a country in 1994 of some 40 million souls, boasted a paltry 4 million telephones! Today, we have notched up a phenomenal 95 million GSM cellular connections. That is just incredible. We’ve also done it together. South Africans of all hues and backgrounds built the national mobile networks that a plethora of value-added services now run off. We didn’t outsource their building to legions of foreign firms and sell off what became our shared national mobile heritage, we did it ourselves. Alluded to above is the fact that value-added services run on top of our countrywide mobile infrastructure. These enable everything from mobile marketing campaigns to your child’s tablet-based quiet time. Central to the development of these rich cellular services that add complexity, interest and ultimate enjoyment to the mobile experience has been the wireless application service provider (WASP) industry, a sub-sector of the greater mobile industry. Dozens upon dozens of local WASPs have spent hundreds of thousands of hours conceptualising, building and rolling-out compelling mobile content and applications that are consumed by the country’s cellular customers. These WASPs and the talented developers that populate these firms are building on South Africa’s proud original GSM mobile network heritage. They’re taking us to the next level and deserve our continued support. Let’s remember our future mobile heritage and the WASPs that are enabling it as we celebrate Heritage Month.