Its been roughly 3 months since I joined InMobi as Sales Director for Africa. InMobi is the leading independent mobile ad network in the world with a reach of 0.5 billion users per month and close to 100 billion ad impressions via 12,000+ mobile web sites and mobile apps. I have to say that even though I have worked in Africa’s Internet services space for over fifteen years, the last 3 months have been HUGE in terms of learning a whole new sub-sector of digital marketing – that of mobile marketing.
In the broader context of what is happening in mobile marketing globally, Google just did its latest financial disclosures and their prediction is that they expect their mobile ads business to eventually outpace their desktop ads business at current growth rates. Its fairly obvious that the rapid uptake of of smartphones, tablets and advanced phones is leading to a whole new market for advertising services, especially via the mobile web and mobile apps. This trend is also being felt in Africa which is by far the fastest growing market for mobile in the world with currently 600+ million active mobile users – and its getting bigger everyday. In Kenya alone we have over 28 million mobile subscribers and over 7 million mobile internet users.
All of the above brings me to to the topic of this blog post. The reality is that with mobile becoming so widespread across Africa, why is advertising spend not following suit? True, traditional media channels DO have their place in a continent where the majority may still do not own mobile phones but clearly there is a need to address the mobile marketing opportunity in a far more aggressive manner. Whilst Internet adoption is also still growing in Africa and the majority of mobile users are not online, the reality is that in most African markets the mobile is often the first and only Internet capable device that users have access to. However, the mobile device is an entry point to other mobile marketing sub-channels as well. To elaborate further, the following are the 4 mobile sub-channels that one can use to market via mobile in Kenya:
- USSD is the menu-based service that many of us are familiar with when using mobile banking or services like mobile money in Kenya. A brand or company could effectively create a mobile USSD site which could be used as a way of interacting with customers and prospects. This has NOT yet really taken off in Kenya or Africa at large but is increasingly being used in markets such as South Africa. The key thing to note is that most phones CAN use USSD even if they do not have access to mobile Internet. In addition, one can embed marketing messages as “sponsors” of USSD channels for banks, mobile networks and other service providers as a way of them subsidizing the costs of running them.
- SMS is a service that pretty much ALL mobile subscribers in Africa use for communication. SMS is inexpensive, ubiquitous, and ALL mobile devices can use it. However, from a marketing perspective, SMS has caught lots of flak in recent years for being used to send unsolicited marketing messages, also known as SPAM. However, SMS marketing to customer databases is one of the most effective ways for running promotions and reaches a large audience at minimum cost with high response rates. SMS can also be combined with other mobile sub-channels such as the mobile web and mobile apps to send messages with embedded hyperlinks that can be used to drive interaction and engagement.
- IVR is hardly used these days as a mobile marketing sub-channel but is highly effective especially for users who may prefer to navigate marketing messages via voice instead of text or graphically driven messages. As a marketing channel, IVR still has its place in the mobile marketing mix, so to speak. IVR is still used largely by the mobile networks but brands could certainly take advantage of the same so as to maximize reach.
- The Mobile Web which refers to mobile marketing via mobile web sites and mobile apps is probably the fastest growing of the mobile sub-channels for marketing in Africa. However, its still early days and the mobile web requires users to be online to see advertising messages and it is growing in tandem with the rapid adoption of the mobile Internet in Africa. One of the major caveats of running mobile marketing campaigns is ensuring that a mobile web compatible web site or landing page is developed prior. This is key since the campaign performance will be largely determined by the same.
In keeping with the above mobile marketing sub-channels, recent research from InMobi shows that mobile as a media has actually overtaken most traditional medias in terms of consumption in Kenya. This suggests that marketers need to start using mobile as a key media so as to leverage cost-effective marketing reach and targeting at scale on a Pan-African basis. More details on the Kenya research can be downloaded here: