The Future of mobile commerce in Africa

Posted on February 15, 2015 12:46 am

Half a decade ago, E-commerce started a disruption in retail by allowing African consumers to connect to products in the comfort of their homes.Five years later, the situation has been reversed with the rapid spread of Internet access.Think of mobile based payments made across Africa or websites visited before and during the Valentine day that was celebrated yesterday all over the world.In South Africa and Nigeria, E-commerce vendors now show fewer products to consumers by optimizing for smartphone viewing, underscoring mobile’s disruption of e-commerce. Just like traditional merchandising, there is a need for retailers to build merchandise in a way that speaks to the customer, the way a shopkeeper does in a physical store. Africa is projected to lead mobile-commerce sales in the next five years, according to eMarketer.

With more than 700 million mobile phone users in 2014, it comes as no surprise that Africa consumers are more likely to purchase goods and services through mobile devices than the global average.This makes mobile a crucially important channel for business and brands to connect with people in Africa. As more consumers go mobile-first, retailers need to develop strategies built on personalized marketing, the social experience of shopping, and re-targeting and re-marketing. Mobile, for instance, offers marketers the opportunity to personalize content at the group, or individual level.The smartphone is now the go-to device for adults across Africa, at least 50 per cent are using it for communication and social activity while on the go, and more than 30 per cent own more than one mobile device.Africans are increasingly switching between their devices, with the same study showing at least 25 per cent of adults starting an activity on one device, but finishing it on another.

As such, it’s imperative that we think about how all types of marketers can reach their customers in ways that resonate and are integrated into the overall mobile experience. Fifty per cent of online purchases are made without prior intent to buy that product. Offline, this discovery is known as “merchandising”, and its importance is understood by retailers.Online, however, this discovery is constant and they are the future of merchandising. For marketers, the challenge is to appear in the right feed to the right person, with the right product at the right time. In Kenya, Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa, effective marketing and sales boil down to good targeting. Marketers need to be able to predict what each customer is going to find interesting, then target these predictions at them. With Big Data, businesses can now create really small segments of customers, and they’ll discover what matters to them.Since Africans now live in a multi-device society, it is vital for brands to understand the impact of their marketing strategies in order to optimize, evaluate and measure them.

Contador Harrison