In Europe and North America, mobile marketing relies on an even-handed mixture of text messaging, mobile-optimized websites, apps, push notifications and targeted advertising. In the U.S., where smartphones comprise 70% of the mobile market and tens of thousands of new apps are launched each month, constant change is the name of the game.
Not so in South Africa. An estimated 70.6% of the population use feature phones. Devising a mobile marketing campaign capable of reaching the masses requires a heavy reliance on SMS messaging, with less attention paid to the latest digital advertising buzzwords getting American execs in a tizzy.
The beauty of text message marketing is you don’t have to worry about differentials between operating systems. It doesn’t discriminate by device. Ads necessarily have to follow the same format: concise messages with small images (or none at all). In developing economies like South Africa, mobile marketers must be as cost-sensitive as their audience if they want to synchronize.
Despite the proliferation of feature phones - which have limited internet capabilities and can’t support apps - voice usage is declining in South Africa as much as everywhere else. Mobility 2014, a study conducted in association with the First National Bank, little more than half the money spent on mobile by Millennials goes towards voice (down from 66% in 2012). Data spend, however, has increased from 17% to 24% - an impressive rate of growth for a country with notoriously expensive data packages.
Although it’s currently a supporting player, smartphone usage is growing in the region. According to the South African Social Media Landscape 2015 study, YouTube’s South African audience grew by a staggering 53% between 2013 and 2014. This audience will continue to grow as data costs become proportionate to the rest of the world.
Mobile evolution might be moving more slowly in South Africa, but it is moving. A forward-thinking mobile marketing campaign will cover both bases. It will recognize that diverse countries require diverse strategies. For most businesses, SMS messaging will be the fulcrum of a good mobile marketing campaign.
That’s not to say that a text message marketing campaign in South Africa is a picnic. With 11 official languages and a wide social strata covering everyone from rural farmers to globally successful entrepreneurs (Elon Musk is a Pretoria native), mobile marketing in South Africa demands a wide-ranging approach. Keep one eye on the dominant feature phone and the other on the growing data economy and you won’t go far wrong.