Kantar TNS and Google South Africa’s latest Connected Consumer Study shows mobile continues to reign supreme in South Africa; 69% of respondents say they access the internet primarily through a mobile device, more than double the global rate of 30%.
This was one of the few [unsurprising] trends revealed in the research, which explores consumer trends in online behaviour. TV and video online consumption habits, how mobile usage has evolved and what the future of technology holds were the main themes explored in the study.
Smartphone usage has significantly grown as well, coming in at 60% today compared with only 47% in 2014, though basic mobile phone usage has been on the decline over the years.
South Africa’s internet penetration
Sixty-five percent of South Africans, aged 16+, are online, up from 63% in 2016. The country is slightly ahead of Nigeria and Kenya, with the former coming in at 63% and the latter at 53%. Comparing South Africa’s 65%, the global average is 82%. Twenty-five million South Africans, aged 16+, utilise the internet for private purposes.
Mich Atagana, head of communications for Google South Africa, says the internet penetration number could increase if access issues are sorted out. “Access comes in threefold. Data costs, device costs, and level of education in terms of how useful digital can be,” she explains.
“You may find a lot of smartphones, but people are not using them as smartphones because they can’t afford that data. Or they don’t even know what interesting things they can do on their device in terms of connection and being able to use that device as a tool for business and entrepreneurship. The more the data and device costs come down, chances are the penetration number will increase,” Atagana adds.
While online is seen by many as the playground of the youth, the research showed that it is very hard to define who an ‘onliner’ is. Since the medium has such an immense reach, every age group can be found utilising the internet. Making up a third of the online population are consumers aged 25-34 years old. The 35-44 age group has a 17% share, 20-24 and 55+ each have 15%, 16-19 comes in at 12% and 45-54 has the lowest penetration at 10%.
SA’s online population is split 50:50 men and women, similar to global distribution.
Sixty-five percent of South Africans say they access the internet on a daily basis, compared to global daily access of 87%. Surprisingly, the 55+ use the internet frequently with 85% reporting they access the internet daily. “I’m surprised by the amount of time people over the age of 55 spend online,” comments Atagana. “People always go ‘oh technology, millennials’, but it’s everybody looking for information and connecting with other people.”
What South Africans do online
Unsurprisingly, visiting social networks is the number one activity South Africans do online. Coming in second is search engine usage, followed by watching online videos. Looking for product information comes in at number four.
The growing popularity of online shopping
While still a minor activity in South Africa (10% versus 59% globally), online shopping is growing with 2.5 million South Africans taking part in it.
TV still rules, but challenges coming
Though traditional television usage is still at the top of the pile, new challenges are coming, including smart TVs and wearables, which are starting to penetrate the market. The known trend of screen stacking (multi-screening) is still prominent, with people going online on their mobile while watching traditional television. Thirty percent of onliners report they use TV as the only device to consume video. The rest access videos on both online and on TV.
The future of technology
A growth in connected devices will see the connected ecosystem continue to grow. Globally the number of connected devices per person is 2.9. In South Africa, this is 1.4. In 2014 this figure was 0.8. New technology such as wearables, smart speakers, VR headsets or apps on smart TVs now enrich the device ecosystem and start to penetrate the market.
The Connected Consumer Study polled consumer 16 years and older across 63 countries in Q2 2017. In SA, people from all nine provinces were interviewed, face to face, 60% in urban areas and 40% in rural areas. Explaining the reason for Google South Africa’s involvement in the research Atagana says, “It makes sense for us to understand the market. If we are going to create products that the market’s going to use, we need to know what it is they want. We need to do what they are doing online, we need to have enough locally relevant information”.
The full results of the study can be found here.
Michael Bratt is a multimedia journalist at Wag the Dog Publishers. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelBratt8