The state of mobile marketing in South Africa: Where are the case studies?

South Africa is well-known as a global leader in the mobile space — within our borders in any case – and we have been credited with a number of world-wide firsts including pre-paid mobile accounts, and SMS banking alerts. Indeed, some of our best-known, local-global success stories are mobile related — think Fundamo, MXit and Clickatell.

Unfortunately, I’d argue, we aren’t always the best at shouting our successes from the rooftops, and I am concerned that I am seeing the same thing happen in the mobile marketing space. By rights, we should be setting the standard for real results-orientated, broad-based mobile marketing campaigns. Let’s ignore, for the minute, the fact that headline writers all to often favour the sexy, yet very niche iPhone, over more bread ‘n butter stuff that is actually reaching a target audience in a highly effective way. I’m still not seeing awesome case studies coming from South African companies and agencies, with real results and ROI data attached to them.

I did a brief round up of how others in the industry would summarise the state of mobile marketing in South Africa today:

BulkSMS’s Pieter Streicher reminds us that permission-based marketing is here to stay, especially when it comes to mobile marketing:

By now, most companies should have woken up to the fact that if they want to stay in business for any length of time, permission-based marketing is the order of the day. In other words, get permission from customers and potential customers before marketing to them. What companies might not yet realise, is that SMS can be key to gaining this permission.

But, all too often the ball is dropped after the first engagement, making the customer database worthless. Once a company has started an SMS conversation with a customer – whether via an in-store promotion, on-package competition, TV ad or at an event – the engagement needs to be extended via a subscription to a VIP club, offer discounts and vouchers, provision of useful information or any number of other value-based offerings via a range of communication channels, including SMS.

An upbeat Mike Stopforth from Cerebra says:

It’s been an extremely exciting second-half of 2011 so far for mobile marketing. The sale of MXit to World of Avatar promises the continued growth and development of the mammoth instant messaging platform, while other homegrown applications like continue to achieve maturity and attract key clients and brands. The days of mobile marketing being limited to an SMS campaign and a mobisite are long gone, with agencies and clients alike looking to integrate mobile into marketing campaigns and online community management. In some cases we’re even seeing mobile lead marketing efforts. It’s an exciting time to be in mobile and I look forward to what 2012 will reveal!

Speaking of MXit, the mobile messaging company’s new owner and boss, Alan Knott-Craig feels we’re only at the beginning of what is to come:

Brands are only now awaking to the marketing opportunities presented by mobile phones…. Vodacom sends over 20 million Please Call Me’s every day. Each message ends with a short paid-for advert. They are sold out months in advance! At MXit we have over R1 billion of advertising inventory this year. Ten million people engage with MXit on a daily basis, spending an average of 45 hours a month on the platform. Show me another property like that and I’ll eat my hat.

Google’s head of mobile for SA, Brett St Clair pinpoints 2012 as the year of the smartphone in SA, as well as the opportunity that exists for shopping and mobile. He also points out that perhaps I haven’t been paying attention, with SA agencies winning international mobile marketing awards:

South Africa lead the way early in 2009 with Mobile Web Marketing, ranking in top 3 countries in the world for traffic volumes. Things have evolved and with around 6.7 million smartphones in the Market and this is on a rapid growth path as low cost Android handsets enter the market so we are seeing South Africa top the charts once again with mobile marketing audience engagement. This time consumers are engaging with search on mobile smartphones, using apps and HTML5.

Already 1 in 3 searches have a location element in them, consumers are using their phones as shopping companions on the go. 2012 will definitely be the year of the smartphone in South Africa, this will allow marketers to engage with audiences using rich media, contextually relevant targeting features and complete end to end tracking on phones. It is great to be working in one of the most innovating countries in the world when it comes to Mobile Marketing, last year South African marketing agencies won 3 out of the 5 international MMA Awards (Mobile Marketing Association), I am looking forward to this year’s event.

While all of these are great points, notice what’s missing from the industry at large? Real-life examples of effective campaigns, whether stand alone or as part of a multi-channel campaign, with actual results and outcomes. Instead, unfortunately, we are being fed and/or are resorting to case studies from abroad, typically more suited to a US or European, iPhone-wielding market.

First published on Vomo.