When trying to understand the role of digital locally, the best starting point is to look at how marketers relate to their audiences. Today all things digital are in their infancy for the majority of local brands. The focus is still squarely on the use of traditional media to deliver our propositions through:

  1. Print
  2. Television
  3. Radio
  4. Out of Home advertising

Traditional or Digital, Which one and Why?

It is common knowledge that traditional methods are particularly costly, yet we cannot accurately say how they contribute to the bottom line. Placing an ad in a local paper will set you back between US$ 753/day and USD 4326/day. Billboard installation starts at US$ 590, whilst monthly rentals typically cost north of US$500. In our constrained cash environment Marketing departments are at ends justifying their expenditure, whilst smaller enterprises are in no position to compete with corporate budgets. This is the point at which Digital Marketing comes onto the scene.

Digital spend radically undercuts the amounts poured into traditional media.

Pay Per Click (PPC) enables ads to appear on the Google Search and Display networks, effectively performing the same function as print and outdoor advertising.

The two key features digital enables are the ability to run data driven campaigns, and the chance to engage with a receptive audience.

Social Media with a Human Face

Social media being the starting point for most local digital effort; this becomes the first contact point where brands are experienced online. So whilst most prominent brands have a social media presence, not all are creating a user experience that is consistent with their customer service ethos.

All too often when one visits a social media page of a prominent brand, there tends to be a lot of negative sentiment from users who don’t receive a response, or are met dismissively without a solution to their query.

In all honesty, receiving negative feedback is never pleasant; however the true nature of social is geared towards engagement. Where negative feedback is dealt with in a timely,courteous and effective manner, it is very possible to turn a detractor into a positive review or brand advocate.

Social also allows automation of certain functions whilst maintaining the human touch.

A good example locally is the introduction of Batsi by Steward Bank. Batsi is a Facebook Messenger bot that’s programmed to respond to frequently answered questions immediately. This has allowed basic customer queries to be addressed instantly and around the clock.  Long and Short, Social allows businesses the chance to engage organically with their audiences, whilst enhancing customer service in real time.

Steward Bank’s Batsi. Image courtesy of Steward Bank

With mobile penetration sitting at 49.5% in 2017,  mobile remains the primary method for internet access. This presents a tremendous gap for agile brands to create content that resonates with selected targeted audiences.

We all spend our fair share of bundles on Facebook and Twitter, but I’m sure that you’re not sure how much you spend watching those Whatsapp status clips and images. Once solely for instant messaging, the continued evolution of Whatsapp remains an unexplored frontier for tech savvy marketers.

The status feature, and Whatsapp Business present excellent opportunities for enhanced customer relations and content distribution. Bear in mind when most Zimbabweans speak of being online, their first touch point is typically Whatsapp on the feature smartphones that have flooded our local markets. We like to think in terms of eyeballs in marketing, imagine the millions of eyeballs your product could be in front of!

The uptake of PPC (Pay-per-Click) has been poor locally. This down to the difficulties in sourcing foreign currency. For those in a position to utilise it, PPC is the lowest hanging fruit that is ripe for the taking.

Currently CPC (Cost per Click) and CPM (Cost per Thousand) bids in finance, insurance, telecoms and retail are not yet competitive. In the insurance sector, the CPC bid level on certain keywords is still below US$1. Basically one could place an ad for an insurance package valued at US$30 on the Google Search or display network for about US$0.65 and only pay if your advert appears in a search and is clicked on. BOOM!

Basically, you only pay when your advert appears and is clicked on. This guarantees your ad will appear when someone searches using related keywords, and appears at the top of search results for similar products on Google.

So…

While the digital opportunity is vast, we are still more than a decade off global best practice. In the meantime, the least we can do is get the basics right.

This is more feasible than trying to make the quantum leap to full digital, instead we should integrate digital elements into our marketing campaigns, the right way. This will require marketers to make the paradigm shift from traditional, to a place somewhere in the middle and closer to digital. Very simply we shall not treat traditional and digital the same.

Where traditional allows your message to be presented to a mass non differentiated audience, digital requires creation of content that resonates with customers and establishes a relationship.