Last year, budget allocations and ad spending on online marketing surpassed that of the traditional media in the US. This is the direction our region is taking; but at a much faster rate than the West did. Just two years ago, over 60% of the activities carried online in Kenya would only have been considered a myth. The push for online activities have driven the priced for modems and broadband connections drastically down.
Next came the main technological tools meant for Africa; mobile phones. The cost of smart phones and tablets has reduced. The rise in mobile browsers and locally developed applications for Internet-enabled phones provided the needed kick for this sector to grow. Android has a special mention in this sector. Similar to the success Android has had globally in the smart phone market, this operating system has been the leading smart phone OS in the Kenyan market. The affordable IDEOS from Huawei has been quite successful in Kenya.
As a result, local developers have stepped into this new avenue, creating local solutions to local problems in all sectors including agriculture, health, education etc. Locally developed apps and sites provide an invaluable portfolio for brands to showcase and grow markets – reaching a target audience within this region.
The new order in marketing is that of brands following the masses. The power of numbers cannot be better displayed than through the growth of social networks and social media marketing. The Facebook phenomenon has shaped governments and institutions in Africa. The Arab spring that saw the ouster of leaders in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya is a powerful testament to the power of social media. This is the epitome of online communities reaching their maturity, shifting from a “fun and hanging out” platform to a more decisive and impact oriented gatherings. The same decision making and discussions have extended from the politically oriented conversations to products, services and brands. Budgets for online PR and monitoring are slowly increasing now that executives open up to the fact that these conversations are growing. This provides an avenue for brands to lead conversations and threaten their markets.
Traditional media has become congested and thus more expensive. Companies are now looking for a cheaper, more effective option of reaching out to a highly segmented audience. The low entry barriers for marketing online coupled with intensive tracking and analytic tools have proved to be most resourceful for selling brands online. This is especially true for SMEs and start-ups that have to muscle their way to the top using the most cost-effective means. The audience has also become more segmented through specific platforms and communities based on age, geographic location and interests.
Some leading global Internet brands have set up shop in Kenya with the country pegged as a leader in ICT across the African continent. Internet search and marketing giant Google has its Africa headquarters in Nairobi and held the GKenya conference earlier in September 2011 for the second time running. A key strategy for the company is to grow the number of businesses going online and eventually using their products.
The final blow is the youth. In search of income while studying, college kids nowadays spend time online to find research writing jobs thus end up creating mini-BPOs in their rooms. Upon graduation, these youths have gained an understanding of how the online scene works. This means they graduate into other money-making ventures by starting e-commerce sites or running community-based platforms. Both of these require highly developed skills in interacting with people online. It is this naturally acquired skill and experience that companies are now tapping into to execute online marketing campaigns and grow their brands.
We are therefore witnessing a positive growth of internet marketing in Africa. With 25% of the population with access to the Internet both through PC and mobile devices, we are optimistic about the growth of the industry.