Mobile is the way to go to reach customers
Written by Prakash Patel, Chief Executive Officer of Cape Town-based digital marketing agency Prezence
I have something of a shocker for you. 2013 hasn’t been a sea-change in the marketing and digital industry. Rather, 2013 has been a year in which the developments of the past few years have started moving from the arena of “trends to watch for” into actual implementation in campaigns.
Being a digital evangelist, actually seeing these trends in action has made 2013 an incredible year to have been in this industry.
By and far, the most intrinsic development I’ve noted in the past year has been how marketers are being smarter in the allocation of their budgets. It’s no longer a matter of “try this, try that, and see what happens”.
Instead, thanks to a growing knowledge of how digital products and assets can be best deployed to communicate with consumers, marketers are now finally being strategic in how they harness the power of digital.
But that’s been 2013. The one thing that can be said of the digital marketing industry is that the moment you start to feel that things are settling down, something will come along to change everything. So then, what can we expect of 2014?
The Big Data vs Small Data Debate
Big Data is without doubt the one topic that has most entranced the industry in 2013. With very little understanding of how it can or should be used, it has been proclaimed as the new shiny tool that no company can do without. Whether it was social media or QR codes – to name previous forecasted ground-breakers that have proved to be correct and incorrect – anyone who watches the industry has seen this happen before.
Sure, in 2014 we’re still going to see Big Data grabbing the headlines. However, the real trend is going to be an increased realisation that it’s Small Data that’s going to be shifting the ways in which we communicate with consumers.
Data is an incredibly powerful tool for extrapolating insights into your consumers’ habits. However, it has to be the right kind of data.
Taking it back to my view that marketers are increasingly being more strategic, I see them applying this thinking to the Data question. As opposed to overwhelming ourselves with all the data available, I expect we’re going to be smarter in the data we choose to use.
Small Data, with fewer insights more targeted to your needs, is far more likely to assist you in communicating with your consumers.
To App or Not To App
2013 has seen a number of brands trying their hands at the app game. Again, I expect that in 2014 we’re going to see marketers being more strategic in how they go about this.
There are countless apps, some from major brands with thousands of dollars of precious spend to their name, which have ended up in the apps graveyard. This knowledge will finally consign the “develop an app and wait and see if it works” mentality to the history books of marketing.
Apps will increasingly be benchmarked against KPIs. These KPIs may be reaching a certain number of downloads to increase awareness of your business, or seeing a set number of transactions going through in a month. Regardless what they are, like any other business action, apps will be judged on their ROI.
Additionally, in 2014 I expect brands will actually be considering whether or not apps are the correct channel for them. Brands will check whether an app-first mobile strategy is right for their efforts in communicating with consumers when trying to capture the power of mobile in their communications.
With marketers trying to serve consumers across an increasingly fragmentednumber of screens such as tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices in 2013, Responsive Design’s been touted as the silver bullet.
Responsive Design, seeking to rectify this fragmentation, is based on the principle of a single front-end codebase. This means the site gets resized to suit the viewing device’s screen dimensions. So whether you view the site on a smartphone, desktop computer, plasma TV or tablet, you get the same basic experience across all devices.
In 2014, I expect that marketers will be more critical of the idea that Responsive is the answer to all their needs. They’ll correctly ask whether Responsive is best suited to their brands’ needs.
As is proven again and again, there are no silver bullets in marketing. Just as Big Data is great, Responsive Design is great, but may not be the right fit for your particular brand. For instance, a strategy that sees a brand developing a dedicated mobisite may be the best bet.
mCommerce on the verge of explosion
Globally, the projections on just how big mCommerce will actually prove to be in 2013 go as high as saying that it may top US$25 billion. Much of this however, must be attributed to developed markets.
In our markets most consumers are using their mobile devices for practical purposes. But we all know that the one item most people carry with them 24/7 and ‘use’ for multiple purposes is a mobile phone.
Increasingly, thanks in large parts to mobile trends such as decreasing smartphone and data costs, we will see mCommerce gaining more traction in developing markets such as South Africa.
In a report on VentureBurn.com, a site focused on startup news and technology trends in emerging markets, we were pleased to see two projects that Prezence worked on featured in a list of “First Movers”. These First Movers were described as “a few innovative companies in South Africa who have taken the first steps towards capitalising on this huge dormant opportunity”.
These were the mCommerce-capable apps we developed for BidorBuy.co.za and Ster-Kinekor. Since these, we have also built one for Leisure Books.
As that article predicts, I see a lot more brands following their steps into the mCommerce market.
Technology keeps driving change across all industries, and globally the steep upward trend in using new media in communicating with consumers is not being ignored. Marketers are at the forefront of this change.
The future, as has been said before, will be for digital to sit at the heart of the communications mix, seamlessly integrated into the wider marketing ecosystem. However, the one key trend I expect to see in 2014 is that increasingly, mobile will be the arteries and veins which connects digital to the wider marketing ecosystem.
Mobile is the one medium that in 2014 cannot be ignored. What mobile will represent is fundamentally the most important opportunity for any business to connect with its consumers.
Mobile allows for genuine and relevant connections with far deeper and personalised engagement. It is the most significant digital channel that in 2014 must run through the core of your marketing strategy and seamlessly across every touch point. It is arguably the most important DNA in the digital eco-system, and in 2014 any brand which fails to recognise this will be doing so at its own peril.
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”