Featured Story: Mobile Marketing in South Africa


Mobile phones have brought about a world of convenience and unmatched efficiency to a lot of the things we do on a daily basis. From voice calls, instant messaging, browsing the web, interacting with an app or sharing info online, mobile has become a quick and easy fix for getting many tasks done. The same rings true for marketing, and with the rapid adoption and technological advances of the mobile platform, mobile marketing is gaining considerable momentum throughout the world. South Africa is no exception to this and mobile marketing is starting to become somewhat of a holy-grail solution for marketers to connect with South African consumers.South-Africa-mobile

Last week, I was glad to receive an email from Silverstone and the Mobile Marketing Association of South Africa (MMA), containing a release of a recent mobile marketing report, #MobileRocks, which you can view in full here on Slideshare: Part 1, Part 2. This report is packed with loads of interesting insights and infographics and helped me to gain an understanding of the importance of mobile marketing in SA. Today, with the help of this report, I’m going to unpack some of the key findings and implications of mobile marketing in SA. So let’s find out why mobile is the closest marketers can get to consumers in SA!

Are South Africans Mobi-Active?

First up, let’s take a look at mobile penetration in SA. The Silverstone / MMA report shows that mobile allows 97% reach of SA adult consumers, with an average of 2.4 cell phones per household. This means that marketers have the potential to reach an audience of some 36 million mobi-active South Africans, making up 97% of the SA population. The extent of mobile penetration in SA has exceeded any other media channel since around 2009 – including TV, radio and out-of-home advertising. This growth and extensive penetration can be seen in the graph below, and goes to show just how mobi-active SA consumers have become!

Mobile Compared to Other Mass Media Channels (via Silverstone & MMA SA).

Mobile Compared to Other Mass Media Channels (via Silverstone & MMA SA).










How Are These Mobi-Active South Africans Connected?

The next point to consider, is what sort of mobile devices and connections are these mobi-active South Africans using? The first part of this question is summed up in the infographic below, where we see a breakdown of South African consumers on different types of mobile and online platforms.

Mobile Audience Profiles (via Silverstone & MMA SA).

Mobile Audience Profiles (via Silverstone & MMA SA).

To expand on this idea, with specific focus on cellphones, the report breaks mobile users into 2 easy to understand groups. The first group (in blue below) uses a mobile phone with voice, SMS, USSD and mobile data capabilities, consisting of 17.7 million consumers. This sort of phone ranges from an old Nokia with an internet browser, to the newest of iOS or Android smartphones. The second group (in orange below) uses a basic mobile phone with only voice, SMS and USSD capabilities (think of a Nokia 3310 and the likes), consisting of 14.6 million consumers. As you can see, the main point to consider here is whether the cellphone has access to data or not, which becomes important for marketers in the options available for connecting with each type of consumer. Below is a closer look at the profiles that make up these 2 groups.

Mobile Data Cellphone Penetration vs Basic Cellphone Penetration (via Silverstone & MMA SA).

Mobile Data Cellphone Penetration vs Basic Cellphone Penetration (via Silverstone & MMA SA).

Who Makes Up The SA Mobile Audience?

Part 2 of the #MobileRocks South Africa 2014 report looks at South Africa’s mobile audience. With the help of the infographic below, we can start to build a profile about who the typical South African mobile users are. Accordingly, we see the profile tending towards an audience mostly under 35 years old, near-equally male and female, mostly black and African language speaking, mostly urban consumers who fall between LSM groups 5-7.

Cellphone Owner Core Profile (via Silverstone & MMA SA).

Cellphone Owner Core Profile (via Silverstone & MMA SA).

Why is Mobile Useful to Marketers?

Now that we know that SA consumers are mobi-active, how they’re connected and who they are, let’s consider why the mobile platform is valuable to marketers. Below are 9 reasons why mobile is the way to go for SA marketers.

1. Reach






In a sheer numbers game, other media platforms cannot compete with the reach of mobile marketing. With 97% of South African adults accessible through the mobile platform, this medium trumps the reach of TV, radio, out-of-home, print and more!

2. Cost






With easily accessible infrastructure and relatively low network costs on a large scale, mobile competes with traditional media channels on cost. It’s a great way for marketers to get a lot more with a lot less!

3. Targeting






Each SA consumer has a unique mobile number. By attaining basic information and monitoring activity, marketers can pair this info with each consumer’s mobile number to gradually build a profile of the consumer type and target their communication with different consumer groups in the future.

4. Personal Platform






Linked to the above idea, mobile phones are a unique media channel because of their personal nature. Cellphones become part of our everyday lives, are carried with us at all times and are rarely switched off. While this requires an understanding and respect of privacy for marketers, it also opens up massive opportunity for connecting with consumers instantly, on a personal level.

5. Tracking & Measurability






The interactive nature and 2-way communication aspect of the mobile channel makes it a responsive medium that offers trackable and measurable data. As a result, marketers are able to monitor their communications and subsequent consumer responses, as well as optimize their future communications based on the insights from the data.

6. Built In Payment






The SIM card in our cellphones serve as a built in payment method. Through a contract or pay-as-you-go service, users can instantly make transactions that are billed through their network provider to be billed at the end of the month or deducted from the user’s airtime balance.

7. mCommerce






The above idea is taken a step further when a user links a credit card to their phone or has access to online banking or third party money transfers. Once this infrastructure is set up, users can make purchases for apps, media, products and services from the palm of their hand.

8. Creativity and Sharing






With all of the apps and tools available at a user’s disposal, users can create and share content on impulse, such as taking photos and videos and sharing to social media with a specific hashtag. Marketers can use this idea to their advantage, in compiling user generated content for competitions or building a brand community.

9. Multiscreen






Many mobile users have access to more than one device, sometimes even using multiple devices at a time! If a user is sitting in front of their TV with a laptop in their lap, a smartphone in one hand and a tablet in the other; marketers can tailor and integrate their communications between multiple devices.

What Are The Opportunities for Marketers? 

Additionally, the following 3 slides from part 2 of the #MobileRocks report, serves as a guide for marketers to connect with South African users on basic cellphones, data enabled cellphones and tablets, respectively.

Opportunity Guide for Basic Cellphone Users (via Silverstone & MMA SA).

Opportunity Guide for Basic Cellphone Users (via Silverstone & MMA SA).

Opportunity Guide for Mobile Data Users (via Silverstone & MMA SA).

Opportunity Guide for Mobile Data Users (via Silverstone & MMA SA)

Opportunity Guide for Tablet Users (via Silverstone & MMA SA).

Opportunity Guide for Tablet Users (via Silverstone & MMA SA).



Thanks for reading and a special thanks to Silverstone and MMA for allowing me to feature infographics and insights from their mobile report. I hope this has helped you to gain understanding into mobile marketing in SA and that you can now see why “mobile is the dominating advertising and marketing medium in South Africa.”





Meet Tim - a digital dreamer. Current 4th year Business Science Marketing Honours Student at UCT, e-Marketing Tutor at UCT, Digital Marketing Student at Red & Yellow and former intern at Made Digital Agency. Keep an eye on his blog for some great content on digital marketing and tech. thedigitaldaydream.co.za

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