Updated October 2018.
There are now 5 billion unique mobile phone subscribers in the world, with 440 million of those in Africa (GSMA). In addition, an incredible 97% of the continent’s 453 million internet users browse the internet via mobile device (phone or tablet).
The good news from this is that the most affluent third of the continent (who can really afford your goods and services), can now all be reached by you, directly, online. The bad news however is that, for every 20 prospects that your advert budget manages to catch their interest in this noisy and competitive market, a whopping 19 of them will only be able to evaluate and do business with you via mobile phone.
Even worse, 80% of shoppers now research via mobile (product reviews, compare prices or find alternative shops), even while already in a shop, before buying offline, so even your physical shop is not spared this impact.
In other words, if your business is not consciously built to engage and delight mobile users first, then you might be turning away 10 to 20 times your current online revenue right at your doorstep! (continues below... )
So how well are Africa’s businesses riding the mobile wave?
First of all, it’s commendable that the number of African private and public enterprises with websites have been on the rise in recent years. The utility of these websites though, in terms of how well they’re built for easy discovery by internet searchers, how well they present the quality, reliability and trust needed to encourage customer patronage, and how much ROI they bring their owners, still leaves much to be desired.
And on the mobile front, only a tiny fraction of Africa’s websites seem to recognise that mobile is where the action is, and the few who do mostly belong - again - to big brands, mostly with international backing, leaving the bulk of the entrepreneurial population, with a shrinking market, as consumer buying keeps shifting from the streets, to mobile-savvy multinationals with their addictive user experiences, instant services, and responsive support.
So if you're reading this and you own a website, or are planning to get one, here are two things you can check to be sure you are on the right side of this wave:
1. Website accessibility:
Have you checked how easy is it to browse your website, with your phone?
How quickly does it load (for every second above 4 seconds you lose 7% of your audience).
Does it adjust to mobile screens (i.e. mobile responsive) such that everything on it be done with one thumb (while climbing a ladder :) ), without scrolling sideways or zooming, and fonts are legible?
Does it load and function normally in bandwidth-saving browsers like opera mini?
Does it perform reasonably with a slow internet access (below 100kbps)?
2. Turning mobile into strength:
Mobile introduces new ways to stay connected with your audience while they’re on the go, or in near real-time, that no other medium can match. These include mobile web, SMS, Whatsapp, Facebook messenger, programmable voice, interactive video calls, etc - All of which can be leveraged by a good e-commerce consultant, to create novel solutions capable of dominating your market in ways never seen before.
Do you have an active strategy to integrate these new media, in a results-oriented way?
If you scored yes on all these tests, then congrats. You're one of a few! If not, well you should know now, that you can almost instantly multiply your business results, with the same advertising spend you’re already making, by simply stepping your website into the mobile-first era.
And it all starts with talking with the right partners.