Social distancing? Mobile phones will continue to play a critical role in how we shop, work and play.
There are more mobile phones than people in the world. By 2022, mobile data traffic is expected to reach 77.5 exabytes per month, globally. And even though mobile phones are part of our taken-for-granted world, the Covid-19 pandemic has put mobile phone usage on an upwards trajectory. According to statista.com, mobile accounts for approximately half of web traffic worldwide.
Today’s smartphones are already the future of on-the-go computing. Smarter than the first NASA computers which put astronauts on the moon, we use our mobile devices to listen to music and podcasts, to stream news and television, to play games and connect with others. Phones have replaced standalone GPS devices and pocket cameras, alarm clocks and dictaphones. But with lockdown, more people are turning to the mobile phones than before. Screen time is at an all-time high and despite economic struggles, mobile spend (especially when it comes to app store revenue) is up – worldwide consumer spending in mobile apps is projected to reach $171 billion by 2024.
Mobile affects anyone who is selling something. Consumers are downloading on-demand apps to help them stay home, and retail is getting on board. From digital mall apps like Zulzi which smartly link up to popular grocery stores, liquor outlets and pharmacies, to Checkers’ popular Sixty60 app which promises groceries in an hour or less, on-demand is an essential part of changing how users consume. The rules of retail have changed. They’ve been disrupted by a connected and research-savvy consumer who not only wants to do everything from the convenience of their phone, if a brand doesn’t have an online presence, they doubt its authenticity. With Covid-19, companies who previously didn’t do ‘mobile’ need to integrate digital to bring customers back.
No matter if you’re working from home or just stuck at home, many app developers have realised that they can win over consumers by making apps free during lockdown. If you’re staying home and can no longer go to the gym, why not try a free 30-days workout? Balance, a popular meditation app for iOS, gave its users a year’s free subscription because being in the midst of a virus which is trying to kill us all is kind of stressful. Looking to upskill? 190 world universities have provided 600 courses for free. You can (virtually) visit museums and aquariums and live stream anything from musicals to the Aurora Borealis. Free is an incentive and mobile is one of the most popular ways of accessing this content and more.
Changing demand patterns
Covid-19 has shut down a large part of the economy but for many industries, mobile is a lifeline and you need a mobile strategy to stay in the game. Mobile can be personal and dynamic, connecting companies with their socially-distant workforce and brands with consumers who are still willing to spend.
Ultimately, the coronavirus outbreak is affecting all of our lives in one way or another. And it has shown us, more than anything, that innovation is a necessity. Even though mobile phones were invented less than 50 years ago, today they provide accessibility and inclusivity. Fintech solutions, such as cardless banking or USSD services, have become even more important during the pandemic.
South African consumers, who were previously risk-adverse to online shopping, have turned to their smartphones, satisfying their retail needs over social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
It’s simple: people are using mobile devices to do everything they do. And if there is something they can’t with their phone, they’re ready to leap onto the next best app or service that comes along.