“It is critical for every brand in Africa to have a digital strategy beyond the Internet. Think small screen and 900 million connected consumers and not Apple Mac.”
Sales people will have less opportunity to influence a purchase
Consumers want to have conversations with a brand 24/7 and this can be quite intimidating when you are a brand. Until recently advertisers could communicate with consumers at their own pace and provide a toll free call centre to ‘capture’ a sales prospect. Sales prospects where funneled down a purchase journey via this call centre, which was often mechanised… “for refunds press 1 now.”. By that stage you’ve lost over 98% of your potential customers. Think of all the frustrated consumers out there trying to have a conversation with you or even worse buy a brand.
Now you are thinking “thank goodness I rely on my own retail space to drive sales and don’t need a sales funnel like a call centre”. Think again! Right now I can compare prices and review a product in SA from my phone. This means sales people have less and less opportunity to influence a purchase decision. It also means that I may never enter your retail space or give the sales person an opportunity to up sell or accessorise me.
Peer review or specialist recommendation will now influence buyers
How are these decisions being made? Much the same way they always have, via peer review or specialist recommendation. The only difference is that they are recorded digitally and shared faster than ever before. Brands want consumers to covert them, talk about them and ultimately think enough of them to buy them. But, they now want to engage with them at many different levels.
An energy drink can now engage with consumers on every subject except how you gain more energy or why you need more energy. That bit is obvious and frankly rather boring. I’d much rather find out more about the woman who skydives from the edge of space and so would my friends over drinks late at night. Brands will need to have powerful content strategy. So, where do I find myself a ‘brand editor’? Add to the CV of the potential hire that they will need to able to manage your online reputation 24 /7. And be sure to brief them well on when your traditional campaign runs, that traffic will increase and consumers will begin to search for your brand or brand category.
Consumers are the experts now!
Enter the consumer expert… This usually means a consumer review, which may not be favourable. The difference today is that consumers can now spread the word overnight, as opposed to over a few months at social gatherings. Good news travels fast but bad news travels faster. How can a brand manage this? Good strategic PR!
There seems to be a great deal of pressure on communication budgets these days which goes beyond media inflation. How can we manage all these consumer needs during the communication process which will result in a sale?
Their time not yours!
Over the last five years many agencies, media and creative, have created specialist agencies to ensure that consumers are communicated with at the right time and in the most compelling fashion. The point is that the ‘right time’ is now ‘all the time’ and the most ‘compelling fashion’ is more about ‘my personal preferences as opposed to a target group’.
Low tech means easier reach
Let’s start with what Google are doing in Africa. They are going ‘low tech’ on mobile and soon 98% of Africa’s mobile phones will be able to get information and mail on a non smart phone. The significance of this is that almost everyone in Africa will be able to communicate faster and cheaper than ever before. The future for communication agencies is for us to assist brands to use technology, communication and creativity in combination to drive sales.
From a media perspective we are already seeing some brands rivaling traditional media owners in Africa on mobile engagement platforms. This means that in some markets brands will have a stronger and more valuable communication channels than the traditional media. More and more clients are investing in their owned media assets, than they do in bought media. In many markets clients are investing more on Search than they do on TV.
Why would you do this in Africa if internet penetration is low? Now think about Google’s move into low-tech phones and you’ll start to see the value of digital media in Africa’s future.
Dawn Rowlands is CEO Aegis Media, Sub-Saharan Africa – Africa’s largest communications network – that includes Aegis Media, Posterscope, Trigger Isobar, Cara, Vizeum, iProspect and Full Circle Media.