How mobile marketing converts: the story of Vodacom South Africa

Big stars also have a dark side. In this case we are talking about mobile. Although it is the most popular device for web browsing and everyone is using it and investing a lot in it, it seems to have fewer conversions compared to other devices. How is this possible?

The use of smartphones and tablets is growing day by day, in terms of number of users and time spent on it: in 2016 mobile owners reached 2 billion, more than a quarter of the world's population. Most of them (16-24 year olds) spend more than 3 hours per day on their smartphone, while 35-44 year olds spend less than two hours on it.

People use their smartphones to search for information, access social media, look up some products, and in theory buy them.

True, but only in theory, because data seem to prove otherwise. Purchases made on mobile devices account for only 20% of online purchases while desktop has a 70% share. That’s a considerably lower conversion rate.

Why does mobile have lower conversion rates?

To understand these data, you need to know how mobile is used. It is a very different device than the traditional ones where web browsing originated. It is a highly personal instrument, constantly synchronized with our lives and used in very different contexts: at home, at work, and while traveling. Mobile is perfect to keep us updated, give us real-time response, entertain us, and make us discover new products. So why don’t we buy them? Here are some of the most common theories:

- Context: People use mobile while they are on the move or engaged in other activities. This lack of a moment of tranquility and concentration can impede converting the search into a purchase. Shopping online requires people to make a careful comparison before choosing the product, they have to enter sensitive data and it is a transaction that may involve a considerable sum of money.

- Optimization: Despite it being a need felt by 72% of consumers, many sites are still not fully optimized for mobile. People find it hard reading information on certain websites, as well as viewing images and entering data to complete their purchase. In particular, the path to purchase is not designed for mobile and the checkout process is not shortened. This is a risky fact when you consider that it should only take 5-7 seconds to convince your potential customers that they are on the right page and convert their interest into action. After this time, you will lose any possible conversion.

- Tracking: Online shopping process used to be simple. People would discover a product, go to the site, check its characteristics, and if it met their expectations, they would proceed to buy it. With mobile things have become more complex: searching for a product often starts on smartphones, continues on tablets and completed on desktop. Metrics that are being tracked attribute the conversion only to the latter device, although the purchase path initially took place on mobile. Perhaps conversions on mobile are scarce partly because the current metrics are not able to give it credits.


A mobile-story that converts any theory: Vodacom South Africa

Although data on mobile conversions are not that great, we should keep in mind that statistics are made up of myriad different situations. It is true that on the one hand there are unsuccessful mobile strategies, due to a non-optimized site, lacking in advanced tracking and metrics system, and personalization of mobile campaigns. But on the other hand there are also cases that work and show that, if used in the right way, mobile can convince and convert. This is the story of Vodacom South Africa. After reading the post, tell us if it has inspired you and if you have come up with ideas for your next mobile strategy.


The starting point: the failure of a campaign

Vodacom South Africa is an important mobile phone company. Like many of its competitors, its biggest problem in recent years has been to convert prepaid card users to those on contract. Campaigns encouraging customers with prepaid card to upgrade their contract were a total failure, although better conditions were being offered in terms of cost and services.

The obstacles were mainly two: on the one hand many users did not seem interested in getting an upgrade, on the other, those who decided to upgrade were forced to wait in long queues in the stores or wait on the line to speak to a call center agent. They eventually gave up on the promotion.


Intuition: Think mobile

Sometimes it is hard to achieve a goal not because it is impossible, but because we are trying to achieve it the wrong way. At some point, Vodacom changed its strategy. As users were not upgrading their contract, it decided to reach users on the device that they use more: their smartphones. Vodacom implemented a portal specifically designed for mobile, making it known through a multi-channel advertising campaign: TV, radio, print, MMS, mobile banner.

Its message clearly explained that, thanks to the portal, it was possible to upgrade the contract, obtaining better conditions and avoiding queues.



Results: over 10,000 conversions

The digital approach of Vodacom South Africa made it possible to transform an unlucky promotion into a successful campaign. Before the new campaign, there was no immediacy between communication and action (visit the store or contact the call center) so many customers were lost on the way. They simply forgot the offer or they deemed that it was not worth their time. The keystone was to change its point of view. The path from information to possible conversion was not just shortened: a new one was created. Thanks to the mobile portal, customers of Vodacom South Africa were able to immediately take advantage of a beneficial promotion: the MMS have in fact informed each client of the possibility to upgrade, providing a link to activate it immediately. Those who were interested could complete the upgrade by themselves in just a few clicks. In this way customers were truly placed at the center of this campaign and they were able to take an active role in improving the conditions of their contract.

During the campaign, the site got 90,331 hits and the pages were viewed 1,028,398 times. And what about the conversions? 10,031 customers requested an upgrade.

The campaign had such a great success that the same procedure was applied to Vodacom Business plans. High-end users with large contract spend and low uptake on upgrades were the protagonists of a specific campaign, similar to the B2C one. After only one month, upgrades rose by 600%. If personal time is important then a businessman’s time is even more so.


3 things you can learn from this story

#1 Take advantage of the moment

Vodacom campaign worked because it was contextualized: mobile was the object of the promotion and much of the campaign was carried out through it. Users could easily convert in just a few seconds: mobile’s instantaneity always rewards.


#2 Add mobile to your marketing mix

Vodacom needed to reach as many people as possible, so it used a multi-channel strategy, combining traditional and new media. Carefully assess how to allocate your advertising investments among different channels. There are more people who have a smartphone compared to those who have a TV. Mobile is one of the easiest ways to reach a large number of individuals. Don’t you think it deserves to be added to your brand’s marketing mix and have a fair share of your budget?


#3 Offer simplicity to your customers

Many people complain about not having enough time and they certainly do not like waiting. Through the creation of a mobile portal enabling its customers to immediately activate the offer, Vodacom managed to eliminate all difficulties. No need to go to the store and waste your time, it only required a few minutes on mobile to get better service. At this point, it becomes really easy to say yes to any promotion. Think about what is important to your customers, going beyond the material values that your product can offer. You will see that your next mobile strategy will have better conversion rates.