Digital technologies connect consumers

Cape Town – Prakash Patel, chief executive officer of Prezence Digital spoke to News24 about the latest wave of digital technologies that can connect brands with businesses and consumers.

According to Patel, digital now includes more techniques then arguably any other medium and it's not just about websites and banners.

"It now includes fundamental consumer touch-points like the mobile channel, social media, apps, geo-location tagging, AR and eCRM – all driven by connecting with consumers on a personal level with instant dialogues and relationship building opportunities.

"That said, it is also unfair to some extent to keep comparing South Africa to rest of the world. As we know we have been far behind with regard to digital accessibility, affordability, broadband technological advances, and privatisation. But as a country, we are embracing the opportunities and made huge strides into driving digital marketing."

News24: Has marketing on the internet come of age in South Africa?
Prakash Patel:
Based on stats we can confidently say there has been a substantial growth in digital marketing from only three years ago within South Africa, but substantially lower than other African countries like Nigeria.

However, if we talk about coming of age, then unfortunately I would have to say no, as we are still in the infancy and adoption phase. Having said that, there are some brands that are streaks ahead, whilst others are still tip toeing into digital. This is made all the more difficult with the lack of experienced digital experts, not gurus.

News24: How will mobile influence decisions on marketing?
Patel: The latest stats from the International Data Corporation (IDC) show that smartphones, thanks to falling prices, lower-cost devices and more 4G wireless networks along with strong demand in the BRIC nations - for the first time have overtaken feature phones.

Key drivers are the fact that phones are no longer there just to make calls. They’re there for us to surf the web, access emails, act as GPS devices, make payments, book seats to movies in real-time, and share our lives with one another through social media sites.

In short, if mobile is not part of your marketing strategy, then maybe you are not marketing to today’s consumers. Mobile channels are fundamental and a game changer for any business; small, medium, or large.

News24: How have these four types of marketing techniques been deployed in marketing brands in South Africa?
Patel: E-marketing in South Africa is utilised in a host of different ways by brands looking to communicate with their audience. Mobile marketing has really taken off in South Africa. We’re seeing it deployed in a number of innovative ways for various purposes.

While augmented reality is still finding its feet in South Africa's digital marketing mix – but there are huge innovative opportunities in this space across industry sectors like retail, automotive and financial.

News24: Do brands/businesses in South Africa make use of all four types of marketing techniques?
Patel: Brands are aware of the availability of these technologies, but too often are too afraid to venture beyond what they know.

The role of the digitalists in South Africa has now evolved to go beyond merely converting the traditionalist to realising that digital marketing is here to stay, but also to evangelise for the adoption of the newer, more innovative digital marketing tools.

News24: Why are these types of marketing important for brands and businesses?
Patel: They’re important because as a brand or a business, you need to play where your customer plays. Presently, approximately six million South Africans access the web from their desktops and 13 million via their mobile phones – with a three million crossover.

It is has been estimated this will climb steadily to at least eight million (via PC) and at least 15 to 18 million (via mobile) by 2015.

News24: What are the challenges brands/businesses face when it comes to these types of marketing techniques?
Patel: The greatest challenge, without a doubt, is for the decision-makers for brands and businesses to realise that digital is crucial in today’s digitally connected world.

However, even once that fact has been locked into place in their minds, there are a host of other challenges brands and businesses need to overcome in creating a winning digital marketing strategy.

News24: Must brands/businesses do a lot of research to see which marketing technique will suit a specific consumer and how they respond to it?
Patel: The digital terrain is littered with countless examples of major brand campaigns who literally poured hundreds and thousands of rand into their conceptualisation and development just to see it fail resonating with the consumer.

News24: Is there a specific marketing technique which consumers prefer?
Patel: Yes. What that technique is, depends on each single consumer. This is why researching, or contracting with an expert partner before embarking on a digital marketing campaign is imperative and I am sure the mobile channel is one of those.

News24: How do consumers respond to the different techniques?
Patel: Different consumers react differently to different campaigns. Statistics show that, overall, engagement levels - essentially ROI - on digital marketing channels far outstrip traditional marketing initiatives.

However, this is by no means a blanket statement that traditional is something of the past. In most cases, brands and businesses need to adopt an integrated marketing strategy which engages both traditional and digital marketing channels and tools.

News24: How can brands/businesses ensure that their marketing is interesting and appealing to consumers without it being regarded as spam?
Patel:
Here we are only talking about eMarketing and Mobile Marketing – it is like the traditional counter-part - Direct Mail. You need to make it relevant, targeted, and personal.

Unfortunately, some brands will go for that easy blank mail which will be certain to attain that 1% conversion rate. We need to get smarter, more innovative, and use insight and data correctly to drive more impactful and targeted communication regardless if it is online or offline.
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