Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Data is not simply a trend for 2018, but the very core of all things digital and online both for this year and in the years ahead. Estimates have suggested that approximately 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are generated every day.  Each year more people get online, with online devices becoming increasingly accessible in terms of cost and speed. But what does all this mean for business?

According to Pilira Mwambala, ad operations director at Mark1, data is what enables businesses to make key decisions about consumerism, driven by the fact that the world’s Internet population is almost 4 bn people. Every swipe, click, like, share and view gives brands real-time access to their consumers and supporters, as do interconnected social platforms, providing huge sources of data that allow for smarter marketing.

“Nowadays, technology is smarter and faster, and it’s integrated. There’s been an upsurge in wearable technologies. Not only are these fun and trendy to use, tech companies are investing in connected devices,” says Mwambala, adding that not much convincing is needed to get consumers to wear a smartwatch or activity tracker that bears brand names like Apple, Samsung, Fitbit or Polar. This is because the purchase decision is influenced not only by what the tech does, but also by what the brand logo stands for in the minds of consumers.

The trend towards mobile devices is driven by personalisation and the need for interaction. It’s a drive that is increasing exponentially thanks to social media platforms such as Facebook, Google, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and the like. These platforms have cleverly found ways to incorporate relevant ads and branding in their user experience, says Mwambala, adding that mobile video is also on the increase, as are mobile-rich media.

Both of these demand high volumes of data, a notoriously expensive commodity in SA that many consumers are unable to afford. There has been a move towards making free data available in public malls, business centres, universities and some schools, but Mwambala points out that these attempts have not been fast enough or far-reaching enough, leading to initiatives such as the #DataMustFall movement, where consumers have driven direct messaging to data providers in the hope of reducing high data costs.

Finally, consumer privacy, security and protection have become top priorities considering the vast quantities of data generated every day. With the Protection of Personal Information (Popi) Act coming into effect this year, companies across the board have to ensure they are compliant. Mwambala explains  that once in effect, the act will ensure, among other things, that personal information is used by marketers only for the purpose agreed to with online consumers, employees and other approved third-party entities. Mwambala says this will greatly influence the way brands and marketers are able to use consumer data.

The big take-out:

While data will be at the core of all online and digital transactions, it is influenced by high costs and legislation that will affect marketing efforts in 2018 and beyond.

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