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EDITORIAL Mobile commerce dominates developed markets – is Africa set to follow suit?

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The mobile commerce boom seen across the pandemic shows no signs of abating, with two separate studies showing that it has had a bumper year in 2021 (so far!), while the app economy goes from strength to strength.

According to research by App Annie, UK shoppers are currently on track to spend over 145 million hours in shopping apps this season — compared to 138 million hours last year.

Even as stores open up, the research predicts that mobile is still going to play a crucial role in the shopping process. This switch to mobile is also playing out in how people pay when in stores, with Juniper Research finding that transaction volumes for mobile payments will grow from 26 billion in 2021 to 49 billion in 2023; representing a growth of 92%.

As a result, App Annie says that there is likely to be a 45% uptick in time spend in shopping apps in Q4 of 2021 – further boosting the bumper year that mcommerce has seen.

This is backed up in a separate analysis by mobile marketing analytics platform Adjust, which finds that, globally, sweeping growth in the app ecosystem continues, with mobile poised to make up 75% of total digital ad spend this year – food delivery, social media and gaming lead the way.

However, what drives mobile commerce is different in different regions and the opportunities that it delivers are different as a result.

According to Adjust’s research, APAC’s growth is still spurred by mobile gaming, while Turkey is largely driven by non-gaming verticals, such as health and fitness, and education. Facebook, Google, AppLovin and Unity dominate all verticals in Turkey. In APAC, Facebook and Google Ads top the charts in terms of ad spend across most verticals and markets, but regional networks are gaining traction.

At the nexus of mcommerce and the app economy are food delivery apps. These continue to thrive following huge pandemic-driven growth. Adjust’s data indicates that growth for food and drink has been a consistent upward trend, even in markets no longer in lockdown.

Global installs in 2020 increased 19% YoY, and have grown another 20% so far in 2021. Sessions growth is even more impressive, already up by another 34% in 2021 compared with 71% in 2020.

Google Ads, Facebook and Apple Search Ads are the top networks driving growth — though Snap and TikTok have entered the top five, followed by AppLovin, Headway and Digital Turbine.

While there are heavy opportunities in these regions around mcommerce, the real opportunity may yet to be realised. Africa features a vast swathe of potential mobile consumers that live out in extremely rural areas with little or no connectivity.

A plan by Avanti to use satellites to offer MNOs across the continent the chance to offer affordable 2, 3 and even 4G services to around 100 million of these people, could at a stroke build a whole new market for all things mobile and commerce.

While Elon Musk’s Starlink is looking to do similar, Avanti’s offering is likely to be on stream first and, by working with the traditional MNOs in the region could deliver the service quickly and efficiently.

And from this connectivity will rapidly spring an entire ecosystem. While many of these location are too remote for food delivery – though I am happy to be proved wrong – all the other tropes of mcommerce are likely to apply: gaming, social media and shopping are all likely to take off to some degree. And 100 million new shoppers and players is not to be sniffed at.

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