The hype and excitement around mobile in the past year has seen a land rush in brands wanting to find out how to etch their mark on the mobile landscape. Every digital agency in SA has scrambled to become a mobile 'expert' overnight, creating campaigns and deployments of dubious quality and mixed results.
These agencies and the brands they service are now realising that there is much more to being a mobile expert than simply adding 'Mobile' to their list of services. After all, by purchasing a set of golf clubs and then hacking around a course, by definition you can claim to be a 'golfer'. But are you really in a position to be going head to head with Tiger?
Mobile isn't any different- it has its own set of unique challenges. Having all the skills, experience and knowledge to create an unparalleled user experience on a large range of mobile phones at the bottom tip of Africa is a lot more complicated than some might think, but it can be done. And great 'Mobi' can rival applications in form and function whilst providing an instantly accessible 'always on' channel to the masses, if you get the ingredients right.But surely everyone has a Smartphone by now?
The huge range of handset types within a predominantly 'hand-me-down' and 'pay-as-you-go' mobile society in Africa means that launching your brand to the mobile masses requires much more than just a smaller version of your website or an iPhone app. It will require some good targeted research. Mistake number one is made when you start using global stats. A simple rule of thumb is to take those stats, turn them upside-down, and you will then have a representative view on the South Africa mobile space.
We have approximately 50 million cellphones here in SA. Nearly two thirds of them are mobile web capable (making mobi the first port of call for any brand), and 70% of them are made by either Nokia or Samsung. Only 12% of all of these phones are Smartphones (capable of running rich apps) and the most important 'Smart' device - representing half of that number - is Blackberry! The iPhone is almost the least significant Smartphone platform with approximately 0.5% market share. To put this into perspective, there are more of the basic but 'mobi'-capable Samsung E250s in SA than there are all makes and models of Smartphones!
According to Admob, Nielssens and the MMA, mobile web usage (mobi) has risen to nearly 14 million unique users in South Africa, so a 'Mobi-First' strategy certainly is the correct approach for most brands, but there are many factors in getting it right.The challenging side of mobi
Creating a great brand user experience on any digital platform involves serious analysis and understanding of a brand's target market in order to enable comprehensive delivery of contextual experience, relevance, reward and ongoing engagement. These rules stay the same in mobile but over and above this there are some important fundamentals that must also be considered when moving your brand into the mobile space.
Unlike online, mobile developers are faced with an extra set of physical challenges: Over 6000 devices with a large variety of small screen sizes, a myriad of platforms and browsers, slower connection speeds and varying types of input controls. Despite these challenges, the user's expectations are still high and they demand to interact and engage richly and effortlessly with any device whenever they want to, whilst the objectives and the CI of the brand still need to be fulfilled flawlessly.
So, how do you ensure your brand's journey into mobile delivers the optimal user experience onto every one of your target market's handsets?
In Africa, Handset Content Adaptation (HCA) is possibly the most important attribute for any self-respecting mobi site, and it goes a long way in ensuring a slick user experience regardless of handset. HCA technology has the ability to detect automatically which cellphone is being used, and then immediately adapts the mobi site in question to suit the user's phone. Within milliseconds of accessing a mobi site, HCA determines screen size and resolution, ascertains optimal page sizes, audio or video formats, and the varied types of image formats supported. It also detects a host of other information, automatically enabling the mobi site to make use of the phone's enhancements such as GPS hardware and touch features.
What buttons does the phone have? For the mass market: up, down, left and right buttons may be all we have to work with but, then there are also touch phones to cater for. One has to take into account that when browsing with a touch device your mobi site needs to adapt itself automatically to ensure the user has enough space in between menu items to click easily with their fingers. Those without the benefit of touch need as few clicks as possible to get to the content they want. Whether your customer is surfing with the most basic of handsets, or the latest generation Smartphone, their experience of your brand should always be a great one.
Future proofing your mobi sites is also imperative. New phones, tablets, devices and browsers are released every day and it is essential that your mobi site is built in a way that it automatically recognises these new devices and has the ability to display the content effectively and prompts interaction correctly. Proper use of HCA, a solid technical infrastructure and an eye on a potential 'App' strategy (which should be built from your central mobi deployment) will avoid expensive rebuilds, costly maintenance and upgrades which are the penalty for not planning your foray into mobile properly. Rands and cents
It is important to remember that mobile interaction costs the user visible rands and cents in our 'Pay as you Go' society, so it is critical to consider the impact of these costs when determining your mobile strategy. A key ingredient of a good user experience is one that the user does not feel in their pocket
Through good planning, coding and HCA, beautiful and feature-rich mobi sites can be built and enjoyed with minimal impact on the user's cellphone bill whilst delivering a quick, enagaging and time saving experience.
There is however a myth that mobile data is expensive that is worth detailing. Under the new CPA rules, a brand can run a simple SMS competition at a cost to the user of R1.50 and this they do without thinking twice. For this same amount (at the highest data billing rate of R2/Mb), a user can interact with over 30 image-rich, interactive and branded mobi site pages where so much more value can be given to the user whilst enhancing brand engagement.The human factor - remember them?
Humans play a critical part in creating your first-rate mobile user experience, where a real person with two large thumbs at the other end of the mobile device must be the biggest point of focus (and remember that this could be you!). It is important to understand the lack of experience that some of these individuals may have in accessing the internet through this new channel. For some, it may well be their only point of access to you as a brand and being 'mobile', they are also most likely to be on the move and in a hurry.
To determine our approach to mobi we need to ask key questions about the potential user: why would they want to interact with your brand when 'out and about'? When they do, what might be the most important reason they are there? How can we tailor that experience to make it seamless and enjoyable and give the information, reward and interaction they really want?
This leads to the most important human consideration when mobilising: CONTEXT! Context is king in mobile and always determines what you then deliver as content. Context describes the user's situation. Firstly we can assume that he or she is not sat at the comfort of their desk in front of their PC and they are 'mobile' away from the office or at least away from the chains of a laptop or traditional internet environment. With geolocation, we can determine location which is quite often the first point of relevance for a mobile user. We can then deliver content related to where they are (such as showing their nearest cinema first), but we cannot be sure what they are doing.
So ask yourself where you are and what you are up to when using your mobile. You might be stuck in a queue, wanting to find out if something is a good deal or not, sat on the loo escaping the kids, lost and needing to know where the restaurant is, interacting with your favourite TV show from your couch, needing to know what Kylie's first hit was, checking on the latest scores or commenting on your team's latest signing, buying your front row concert or cinema tickets, or simply enjoying your phone as a convenient medium to interact with the brands that make interacting easy.
Or, as for many people in South Africa, using their phone as their primary access point into the digital world of information and brands.
By understanding the context of the user when using their mobile, i.e., where they are, and the everyday situations that life finds them in, we can then determine the most convenient, pertinent and relevant content to deliver through this very 'personal' and instantly accessible mobile channel.The importance of a solid 'go to market' strategy
The mobile web has rapidly become the access point of choice for the mass consumer market across Africa. In order to take advantage of this ever growing opportunity, treat your approach to mobi(le) with the importance and the budget it deserves and make sure to get good advice. When all of the technical, functional, contextual and design ingredients are successfully brought together to create functional, engaging and sustainable mobile deployments you will be well on your way to a solid mobile strategy and a new mobile success story.
Nine times out of ten, mobi will always be first in Africa, with Apps layered above for enhancement and distribution and USSD channels underneath for more basic interaction whilst reaching 100% of the handset population. Just be sure to play where you customers play... and play nicely!
|Article first published in Marketing Mix July/August 2011 edition.|