Kim MacIlwaine James Eberhard Issue: Africa and the Middle East 2015
Article no.: 8
Topic: Leveraging the power of connectivity
Author: Kim MacIlwaine, & James Eberhard
Title: CEO, TNS Africa, Mediterranean & Middle East/ Founder & CEO Mobile Accord, Inc
Organisation: TNS Africa
PDF size: 228KB

About author

Kim MacIlwaine was appointed as CEO, TNS Africa, Mediterranean & Middle East on the 1st January 2011, and in that role took up a position on the Global Executive Committee of the worldwide TNS. As of January 2014, Kim now chairs the TNS Global Markets Board & sits on the Global Transformation Board.

Prior to joining the TNS business Kim’s extensive career with Unilever started in July 1979 in the United Kingdom and he has occupied a variety of positions over the years, in a number of different countries such as Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and South Africa. Kim spent 25 years working for the Unilever Group, latterly as Managing Director and Chairman of the Unilever Foods business in South Africa from 1996 to 2004.

From 2009-2012 Kim served as Independent Non-Executive Director of AngloVaal Industries (AVI) Ltd, a large, diversified, JSE-listed South African consumer brands business.

Kim ran his own consulting business from 2005 to 2010 with two key focus areas: strategic planning and leadership.
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James Eberhard, CEO and Founder of Mobile Accord, has established himself as a visionary within the global mobile community. As Founder and CEO of Mobile Accord, Inc., Eberhard directs and oversees the vision for Mobile Accord’s business operations, including its core business line GeoPoll, the world’s largest mobile survey platform. Mobile Accord provides widespread access to the mobile marketplace with innovative turnkey mobile business solutions.

Prior to founding Mobile Accord, Eberhard founded and created 9 Squared, Inc., a mobile content and services company that launched one of the first multi-platform mobile content delivery systems in the United States. Under his leadership, and with less than US$50,000.00 in start-up capital, 9 Squared quickly evolved into a leading mobile content and services business. In 2004, 9 Squared was acquired by Monstermob Group plc.

Article abstract

The evolving digital ecosystem in Africa and the Middle East is predominantly mobile-centric. This has implications for those working to bring broadband to the region, as well as marketers and brands looking to connect more quickly with consumers. The digital revolution has bypassed the PC almost entirely which suggests that brand strategies should do the same, focusing on mobile. In this context, marketers can be creative in how they conquer barriers to use, particularly data costs. For example, more online content consumption can be encouraged through data incentives.  

Full Article

There is no doubt that increased connectivity throughout Africa and Middle East will transform the lives of many and improve country economies. Access to data connections gives individuals the ability to find jobs, educate themselves, and connect to the rest of the world. Conversely, a better connection to Africa and the Middle East gives global brands and researchers an easy way to reach those who have never been accessible before in countries like Nigeria and Kenya, where the middle class is growing quickly, buying more, and becoming increasingly savvy as a consumer group.

In many ways, the broadband revolution which is taking place in Africa mirrors the mobile revolution which has already happened. However, as the scale of infrastructure required to bring reliable fixed broadband to Africa is huge, it will undoubtedly take years to deliver reliable broadband internet to the entire continent. As new undersea cables have recently come to the continent, local Telecom companies must now invest in bringing connections from the coasts into the cities of each African country. When this happens, it will bring lower cost and faster internet and, as the infrastructure is extended, provide many job opportunities. For marketers and market researchers alike, higher-speed, more affordable internet will mean increased use of mobile internet and mobile applications to better understand and engage with people. We cannot predict exactly how a more connected Africa and Middle East will impact citizens in the region, but we can learn from what we already know regarding connectivity.

The evolving digital ecosystem in Africa and the Middle East is predominantly mobile-centric. This has implications for those working to bring broadband to the region, as well as marketers and brands looking to connect more quickly with consumers. The digital revolution has bypassed the PC almost entirely which suggests that brand strategies should do the same, focusing on mobile. In this context, marketers can be creative in how they conquer barriers to use, particularly data costs. For example, more online content consumption can be encouraged through data incentives.

In this environment, social engagement is king. Mobile, and specifically access to mobile internet, has unlocked a wide range of activities and services for much of Africa and the Middle East, where social interaction and communication remain the main activities. This means that users are best reached via social networks and instant messaging platforms.

Our companies – TNS and GeoPoll – have recently partnered in an effort to radically expand mobile research in Africa.

The Connected Life 2014 project conducted by TNS across 50 markets globally found that in the UAE, people are most reachable through social networking sites, with 86% accessing social sites on a weekly basis. Similarly, the study revealed that Nigerians are online socialites above anything else, with 80% of people accessing social sites on a weekly basis to share their lives on social networks at all times of the day. In South Africa too, 87% of people access social sites on a weekly basis, meaning that internet users would be best reached through social networks and messaging platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp.

Social networking platforms and instant messaging should therefore be a focal point for any media strategy seeking the strongest and most consistent reach.

Successful brands will see the currently limited digital ecosystem as a challenge to innovate and expand the activities available to people online. For instance, marketers can look at ways to make brand engagement through these channels rewarding by providing a means for people to save time and to make their lives easier, whilst also being fun, socially engaged and entertaining. From a retail perspective, offering free wi-fi to encourage data usage is one way to encourage greater utilisation of mobile phones as a shopping tool. However, one must always keep the context in mind and ensure that content is accessible to lower-end devices and is succinct enough to have immediate impact where slow network speeds will struggle with richer multi-media content.

The same digital ecosystem described here supports new opportunities for market researchers. Mobile research now allows us to get much closer to key decision-making moments in people’s lives, capturing their behaviour and thoughts in that specific moment and helping us to understand human behaviour in context. By asking people to complete surveys on their mobile phones very shortly after they make decisions, we get more accurate answers by ‘catching the moment’. This largely negates the downsides of memory recall, since we are so much closer to tapping into the subconscious and emotional parts of the brain and generating richer and more accurate data than ever before.

Since many people consider their mobile phone to be an extension of themselves and have it with them most of the time, it is an ideal way to ask people questions such as what they bought that day, what they ate in the past two hours, or why they did not buy an intended product or service. It can also be used to assess the pulse of a nation by getting a quick read of the general public sentiment after an important national event, such as a speech, an election or a national disaster.

Mobile allows us to leapfrog the typical gap between the moment of experience and the survey and can be used to dramatically shorten the time taken for data collection.

As a research methodology, mobile also helps to connect researchers with hard-to-reach segments of the population, a common problem in Africa and the Middle East, due to the vast distances, limited infrastructure, poor communications and even safety and security concerns. Researchers can now reach and therefore truly represent the full footprint of a brand. Mobile also makes it easier in countries where face to face research is expensive or near-impossible, for instance in war-torn countries, or regions where disease is a threat. Without putting interviewers’ lives at risk, mobile research can give people in these areas a voice.

Research that can unlock such insights is relevant to marketers as it builds a better understanding of people, and enables marketers to make data-driven decisions to improve the relevance of their brands to people in the market place. It is equally relevant to governments and non-profit organisations by providing vital information on conflict situations, food availability, and infrastructure problems.

By recognising the unique realities of the markets we work in – and understanding that clients need us to deliver better research and to capture data which is more accurate and representative – mobile is the mode of research that captures the moment in a manner that was previously impossible.

Thus far, we have only scratched the surface of the potential that mobile research now offers us. There is a tremendous opportunity for market research to expand in Africa and the Middle East. At the time of writing, an average of just US$0.47 per person is spent on market research in Africa, compared to US$23.45 in North America and US$17.87 in Europe. This suggests that the potential for increasing the investment in research and gaining a better understanding of the African consumer is significant.

With this in mind, while it is important for telecoms to continue their work to bring broadband to Africa, it is equally important for companies to continue to develop systems using the current solutions in place for research, such as SMS, voice and limited data access.

Whilst looking ahead to other solutions, such as mobile web surveys, which will ultimately become more prevalent with increased internet access, we are still able to achieve remarkable results with creative and innovative approaches that allow for responses from all types of mobile phones in the current system constraints. For an example, we were able to collect data on perceptions of President Zuma’s State of the Nation Address just a day after the address took place. Using SMS, a basic mobile phone service, to send surveys remotely to people’s phones, findings showed that 85% of digitally engaged people reported watching or following the speech as it was ongoing, but opinions were split on the speech itself, with roughly half (52%) feeling satisfied that the State of the Nation Address was “good” or “very good”. The ability to collect this data so quickly would have been unthinkable in Africa just a decade ago, but basic mobile phone services such as SMS have given us the ability to send surveys remotely through the mobile phone, increasing knowledge on the perceptions of everyday Africans on key issues.

While the digital ecosystem is sure to evolve, by leveraging the technology and connectivity available to us right now, we are striving to ensure that both brand and policy decision makers are able to access accurate data, to build a better understanding of the needs and daily lives of those in Africa and the Middle East.