How To Optimize Your Marketing Mix in Africa’s Mobile-First Economy


Africa is increasingly becoming a mobile-first region with subscriptions forecast to grow. With most people’s access to the internet often through their mobile devices, there is a vast opportunity to engage with users through many of the apps that are downloaded daily. But what is the best approach to optimizing your mobile marketing mix for real success in this region? Daniel Junowicz, managing director of LATAM & Africa at AppsFlyer answers this question.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the fastest-growing mobile market in the world, with mobile usage across the region expected to hit 600 million by 2025. This represents a vast opportunity for companies to access millions of new users in an increasingly mobile-first region. Africa also has one of the world’s youngest populations (with a median age of 20) who tend to engage heavily with mobile sites, and improved data connectivity is opening new possibilities in digital media across a range of industries.

With mobile often being the most accessible way to get online for many on the continent, mobile marketing in Africa plays a huge role in engaging customers, particularly as COVID-19 has forced businesses online. As the continent steadily gets used to engaging more digitally with customers, a data-driven, insight-led approach to marketing will be key to success for companies across the board.

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The App Market in Sub-Saharan Africa

The mobile ecosystem in Sub-Saharan Africa contributes over $100 billion in economic value to its GDP (almost 10%), and this is forecast to grow. While smartphone penetration has been modest to date, the prevalence of basic smartphones and access to the most popular social media and mobile messaging apps has enabled the app market to grow. The adoption of mobile money, in particular, appears to be driving mobile user engagement as hundreds of millions of Africans use mobile wallets in response to the often complex process of accessing financial services. The challenges for mobile marketers, however, remain the high data costs and quality of connectivity for mobile customers. With the opportunity to engage with millions of new users, a clearer picture of the user journey and the challenges they may face is essential to optimizing marketing performance.

With physical movements restricted across the world, many businesses have had to pivot and adjust their marketing at an unprecedented speed to maintain customer engagement. Further, due to physical and social distancing laws, mobile phone is now more important than ever if businesses are to stay connected to their customers. Likewise, the demand from customers to access services they can no longer reach physically has seen a surge in new segments downloading apps. From digital money and health services to social media, e-learning, and ecommerce, consumers have relied on their phones to live their lives with some degree of normality.

Telecom companies across Sub-Saharan Africa have seen data usage increase as traditional offline businesses move online, including an increase in users on video on demand platforms and streaming services. This shift towards an online marketplace requires mobile marketing teams to have a good understanding of customers’ online behavior to serve their needs effectively.

In any app marketplace, prioritizing the user experience for app users can ensure better retention rates. On the continent, this is doubly important as many of the handsets are often basic, and users face some of the highest data charges in the world. For many mobile app users in Africa, file size and user experience directly affect app install and uninstall. If an app takes up too much space on a users’ phone, impacting their ability to enjoy other experiences, it will most likely be deleted to make room for more space-efficient apps.

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Optimizing Mobile Marketing and Analytics

Mobile marketers across Africa are finding that while it’s important to drive app installs, they need to focus efforts on post-install measurement to get the whole picture on the customer journey. Maximizing their revenue potential, for example, requires measuring events that span the full conversion cycle and all key moments in the customer journey, allowing marketers to identify gaps and optimize accordingly. The insights that can be drawn from this data are vast and can help maximize user lifetime value by informing smarter acquisition and re-engagement decisions.
Mobile marketers in Africa can also serve customers better by looking at the return on ad spends. Return on ad spend equates to a campaign’s marketing performance and can be invaluable for analyzing the revenue at the user-level.

User-level revenue data enables a better understanding of which user acquisition source is generating the most revenue for a business and from which user acquisition campaign. Once businesses understand their top-performing user acquisition sources, they can build robust predictive revenue models with granular raw data at their fingertips. They can also identify important trends in user behavior, optimize their ad formats, ad timing, and model future trends.

Navigating a Complex and Fragmented Market

Marketers can also look at some of the best performing apps on the continent to see what they can learn. WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app across Africa, and there’s a lot to learn from its success on the continent. Its ease and flexibility of use have ensured its place as the top app for the third year in a row. The app is used by 73% of internet users in Kenya, 53% of internet users in Nigeria, and 49% of internet users in South Africa. In 2018, WhatsApp accounted for almost half of all mobile data used in Zimbabwe.

WhatsApp is able to maintain this level of success because it is able to work with the unreliable internet supply that plagues many parts of the continent. It also works with some of the most basic phones and its multitude of different uses, including making phone calls, transferring documents (compressed to minimize data usage), and sending messages make it a must-have app. Being free and simple to use (all you need is a contact’s mobile phone number to get started), combined with its must-have features, has made WhatsApp a perfect match for mobile internet users across the continent.

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Opportunities for Growth in a Mobile-First Region

There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to marketing an app in Africa. There has been heavy investment by tech companies to support the continent’s push for better connectivity, and innovation abounds across all sectors. For anyone that is entering this market for the first time, you may have to explore a few of the options outlined in this article on the most optimal way to engage with mobile users in the African market. As in any other market, it is often about trial and error to find what works best for your product and industry. However, by doing your research, looking at what successful entrepreneurs in the market have done, and keeping your customers at the heart of everything you do, you will be able to position yourself for success in this fast-growing emerging market.