So what is happening with the digital medium and where is it taking us? Wayne Bischoff unpacks some ideas after taking a look at the New Digital Economy report from PricewaterhouseCoopers that predicts what it calls “the reverse of the digital divide”.
The digital medium may have been planted and nurtured by the so-called First World, but it is in the Third World that it has really taken root and flourished.
The New Digital Economy report from PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts what it calls “the reverse of the digital divide”, where emerging nations take the lead in digital development, due to their willingness to adopt digital technologies. According to the report, two-thirds of executives in emerging markets believe that mobile devices will become the standard for web applications over the next five years, compared with only one-half of executives in advanced economies. And two-thirds of emerging market executives expect businesses to embrace social media and networking, against just one-third of their industrial-market counterparts.
This is closely aligned to another trend prediction from the same report – that of the emerging-market customers taking centre stage.
So, we have willing brands, and willing customers. And that’s a winning recipe.
While 2011 was characterised by heavy infrastructural development (in the form of undersea fibre optic cables and the upgrade of the data backbone), 2012 will see the nation begin to take advantage of digital media.
The fierce competition and resultant price wars have already begun, but expect them to intensify – with the consumer reaping the rewards in the form of increased accessability not only in terms of the necessary hardware to access the digital world, but also a sharp decrease in data costs.
Mobile has always been big in emerging nations, but it’s going to get bigger and better as the once-deep chasm between traditional online and mobile user experiences continues to close. Mobile applications will grow at unprecedented rates as business and brands accept that it has become the preferred medium not only of the masses, but also the elite mavens who lead the pack and cannot live without BlackBerrys, BBM or their iPads.
Trust in the mobile medium will also continue to grow, bringing with it the rise of the mobile virtual wallet such as the likes of mPesa in Kenya, where 50% of the population uses mobile banking. The take off of this phenomenon has been slightly slower in South Africa as the older generation still places more trust in physical premises. But statistics reveal that 21% of the 60% of South Africans who are aware of mobile e-commerce have made use of the service. Short-term insurance, for example, will soon be directly accessible via the mobile network.
Closely aligned to this is the growth of mobile couponing whereby a virtual coupon is sent to a user’s mobile phone and can be redeemed at various retail outlets simply by providing a unique six-digit sequence to the teller.
The benefits of mobile couponing are enormous – it can accurately target the burgeoning middle class that is notoriously difficult to reach in terms of mass market media options. It is also trackable – a marketer will know exactly which mobile consumer redeemed the coupon by date, time, and store location, thereby enriching their data profiling.
The social media trend will continue to dominate the digital space for the foreseeable future. The reality is that customers are using social networks to connect and talk about brands, whether or not these brands are active in the space. Those that are active are using the medium to conduct two-way conversations with their customers, in this way deepening their relationships with these customers.
In 2012, brands will begin to monetise the social medium. Research giant Gartner predicts that by 2015, half of all online sales will be generated through social media and mobile applications.
Location-based services are also expected to take off as brands begin to push personalised content to people with mobile devices who subscribe to services such as Facebook’s Check-In Deals, recently launched in South Africa by Habari Media.
As smartphones become more prevalent, so consumers will demand brands to produce experiences to match, and smart brands will respond. Mobi sites providing a good user experience will thrive.
The year 2012 will see more brands embracing online video as a powerful advertising medium. Video is a critical part of the digital solutions suite and highly effective at driving user engagement.
Last, but not least, keep an eye on Google+. It will be interesting to see if this recent addition to the social media landscape becomes a mainstream route for customer engagement. The key attraction for business and brands is the link with the Google search function, by including Google+ pages in search results.
Also watch the growth of Direct Connect, which enables people to find a brand’s Google+ page, and follow that brand if so desired by simply typing a + before the brand name into search results.
Social media is only going to become more powerful and is expected to become more so than all traditional media combined. So we clearly in for an interesting online year.
Wayne Bischoff is MD of Habari Media.
This story was first published in The Media magazine.