To Build Or Not To Build An App

Mobile platforms are among the fastest growing form of owned media in the social arena, and naturally some of the most trailblazing companies are jumping onto this bandwagon.

According to Yahoo’s Flurry Analytics, mobile application (mobile app) usage grew by 115% in 2013, with social and messaging apps seeing the highest level of growth at 203%. Analysts have dubbed Africa a ‘mobile first continent’ and this has driven more innovative strategies in mobile technology. Does this mean you should pour resources into building a mobile application for your brand?

Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s vice president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, says that people in South Africa and Nigeria are using mobile devices more when accessing the social network. Facebook has reached 100 million monthly active users in Africa, with 80% of them using mobile devices to access the social media platform.

These findings, among others, point to how African media consumers use their mobile devices. This also makes mobile apps more viable as owned platforms to engage both new and existing markets on the continent.

Engaging

Unlike other socially positioned platforms, mobile apps that are built by companies for consumers tend to enable less peer-to-peer communication among people and their friends.

The most popular social platforms are those that enable communication amongst people. These platforms, like Facebook, MXiT and Twitter, are businesses in themselves which have, over the years, gained traction to engage users better, and attracted increased capital – i.e. increased investment that has helped to bolster the platforms.

Lack of bandwidth infrastructure in Africa also constrains the usage of mobile applications, and influences how people use them. But,judging by the capital investments from mobile networks, this seems to be improving.

In their 2014 half year report, MTN said their operations in Nigeria account for 37 percent of the group’s revenue, which translates to ZAR27 million in monetary terms.

Aside from the growing access to bandwidth and cheaper smartphones making inroads to the African market, the price of data usage and access also affects how apps are downloaded and consumed.

Unlike the West, Africans tend to pay more for higher usage than other parts of the world. My Broadband has revealed that African mobile networks, such as Vodacom, MTN and Cell C, offer competitive data rates, especially when it comes to smaller data bundles.

Mobile data prices: Is South Africa really expensive?

Connecting

Most mobile apps require connectivity at all times and the lack of infrastructure in some areas is a deterrent in cases where mobile websites can offer similar functionality.

However, mobile sites require less data and allow for better testing. The logic that apps are the way to go can be flawed, and testing with a mobile website can give better insights for both functionality and the need thereof. Banking applications, because of their convenience, have been growing in South Africa, where instead of sitting in queues, people can bank from their mobile phones.

There are many instances where mobile websites serve the same function as apps and they are more effective for testing. The most downloaded Android and iOS apps range from social media platforms, with Facebook leading the pack, WhatsApp gaining favour in instant messaging platforms, and Instagram being the most-used picture editing and sharing platform. But the most downloaded applications are games, and Angry Birds is still the most popular.

The latest Media and Entertainment Outlook report by PwC, a comprehensive source of consumer and advertising data for South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya, forecasts that the entertainment and media markets in South Africa will grow to ZAR71,6 billion in 2018. in Nigeria, mobile Internet subscriptions are forecast to surge from 7,7 million in 2013 to 50,4 million in 2018 – and in Kenya from 1,8 million in 2013 to 14,3 million in 2018.

Media and Entertainment Outlook report by PwC

Growing

The general sentiment and findings are that the African internet, entertainment and mobile markets are growing. Africans, if other parts of the world are anything to go by, will also consume more social, communication and entertainment apps.

The key for most businesses is to test what their customers use their mobile websites for, and be cautious in moving that towards a mobile app environment. It should not be seen as an approach that will work equally well for one business as it does for another.

This article originally appeared in "The Media Report 2014 – Independence Issue" by Ornico.

Media Report 2014 - Independence Issue

Cover Image Credit: Nicola

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