“The customers perception is your reality.”

– Kate Zabriskie

There is no denying that the world is transforming into a digital economy, making up more than 15% of the global GDP alone. Although digital transformation has been the buzzword since the 90’s and early 00’s, it has become the foundation of many businesses in recent years. Even before the global pandemic hit, more and more businesses were driven online, and today there are even businesses that purely operate online. Not only has digital transformation made businesses more efficient and cost-effective, but most customers prefer to interact with businesses online.

Consumers have become accustomed to having information at their fingertips, either to find out more about a product or service or to see what people are saying about a brand. A brand’s online presence makes up more than 50% of how a brand is represented, with online word of mouth becoming one of the strongest marketing tools.

The terrain of South Africa’s digital landscape

The digital landscape is growing at a rapid pace, not only internationally but locally as well. South Africa currently has a population of 60.4 million, with 68% having access to the internet. Those are remarkable numbers for what used to be a third-world nation. Out of the 41 million internet users, more than half (28 million) have social media accounts. Despite the reign of social media giant Facebook which spearheaded the online social movement, YouTube is South Africa’s most popular platform with 26 million users and Facebook is a close second with 24 million users. There are also new platforms like TikTok taking the market by storm. TikTok has more than 6.4 million users, surpassing Instagram with only 6.2 million users, which is impressive seeing that it’s only been around for the last four years. Indicating that the digital landscape is always growing and expanding.

Even more astonishing, there are more than 108 million active connected mobile phones in South Africa, which is 180% of the population. In last year (2021) alone this increased by 4.6%, indicating rapid growth in the mobile market, with mobile compatibility becoming the new normal and a basic requirement for any brand when creating an online presence.

Video content has become the main tool to communicate online, making up 80% of all content. It’s an easy and convenient way to communicate a comprehensive message, that customers prefer, and want to consume. As internet speeds improve and data prices drop, video content has become more accessible to the mass market. With 26 million users, it is estimated that YouTube ads reach more than 60% of South Africans. Although it is not a standard social media platform, it has an impressive reach and has become the centralised platform to host video content for distribution across multiple online platforms.

Your first impression is now digital

With the vast amount of information online it has become hard to stand out from the crowd and rise above the noise. Thus, it is important to create content that inspires, educates, entertains, and mainly informs the audience. Content creates longevity and long-term consistency for your brand online. In turn, this ensures an improved online presence, communicates a clear brand vision and keeps customers informed. The new era of marketing is based on an omnichannel approach, where a consumer can engage with various brand collateral, across various channels, at any given time. Although there is a downside to this, as content can never really be erased. Making it more important than ever to manage your online perception and reputation consistently, with a clear and concise message across all channels.

So why is this important? In South Africa 98% of businesses are in the SME sector, making up 60% of the workforce. With more than half the population having access to the internet, more and more consumers engage with brands online – businesses can’t afford to neglect their online presence. Digital marketing has become the cornerstone for any business to establish its presence, and the first step towards growing that business. It creates the first impression of a business and manages its online perception.

These days the first impression of a brand is the way it presents itself online, rather than that firm handshake or that brand new suit. Navigating the digital terrain has become a specialist role in an environment that’s here to stay. Much like you need expert advice in tax planning and business management – you need specialists who understand your industry and how you fit in South Africa’s digital landscape.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein.