Mobile devices don't just mean cell phones anymore. They have literally grown up and will soon be having a huge impact on South African business.
Consider this: In the past year I have not read a single paperback or hard-cover book.
But, I have comfortably read dozens of books on my Kindle e-reader because it is not a computer screen and the pages look exactly like an ordinary book. It is extremely convenient when I travel because it can hold a library of 15 000 books which is generally more than enough to see me through a weekend.
And through its embedded 3G card I can, from anywhere in the world, sample books for free and if I want to buy them not only do I pay less than half of the bookstore price but I get my book in about 30 seconds.
I am now also reading two of my favourite magazines, Car and Getaway on my iPad which is extremely convenient because the screen is roughly the size of a magazine anyway.
My iPad has become an important business tool because unlike a computer it boots up in a split second, has internet access through a 3G card and apart from allowing me to check my e mail and access any Word or Excel documents in a heartbeat, its battery life runs into days.
So, what has all this got to do with marketing?
Plenty actually. In the USA for example, magazine readership has dropped about 15% in the past year due to affluent consumers preferring to read on their mobile devices. Newspaper circulations have also dropped, not entirely for this reason, but certainly partly so.
It is important for marketers not to look at falls in circulations of magazine and newspapers in isolation but rather to understand that whether a consumer elects to subscribe or buy a printed version or to buy a digital version, it still represents a sale. Certainly here in South Africa the Audit Bureau of Circulations accepts both printed and digital version has bona-fide sales.
The only problem of course, is that while the readership of a printed product may be four or five times the sales, the digital product will more than likely only be read by one person. Apple is due to launch the iPad in South Africa soon and within the year competitors such as Samsung, Sony and others will have similar devices available.
In a nutshell these are no different to an Apple, Nokia or Blackberry mobile phone - just a heck of a lot bigger.
As sales of these devices grow so will marketers have to be aware of what consumers in the top LSM brackets will be using them for. For example, many magazines are making their products available in a digital version absolutely for free. The thinking behind this is that because it is so cheap to covert a printed product into a digital version, it is worthwhile to make it available for free to increase circulation. And consequently give advertisers a lot more reach and value.
Digital downloads can be extremely accurately tracked to be able to give marketers data on distribution by country, city, gender and age.
Right now there are still a lot of people who scoff at reading books on Kindles and magazine on iPads. They like to feel the book, smell the book and physically turn pages.
But, once one has got over this pointless nostalgia and experienced the extraordinary ease of purchase and the even more extraordinary ease of travelling with these devices, there is no turning back.
Mobile devices no longer mean cell phones. Mobile devices have grown up literally and quite considerably.
Business and marketers in particular need to keep abreast of developments in terms of the mobile industry. This is not about confusion and complication, it is about making the whole business of targeting and talking to consumers a lot easier, cheaper and vastly more efficient.