2016 is dubbed the year of the tablet, with tablet sales forecasted to overtake that of laptops, the successor of the almost-extinct desktop PC. This, paired with the unprecedented growth in sales of smartphones, highlights the importance of South African businesses to recognise and adapt to the multiple devices that consumers are using to engage online.
The rapid growth of tablets and smartphones will force local companies to evolve their communication strategies to be device-agnostic and functional across multiple devices and platforms. The shift to mobile computing is inevitable and the responsibility now lies with local businesses to quickly adapt their marketing strategies to move with this shift in order to retain customer loyalty.
A recent report released by Gartner revealed a decline of 0.1% in the number of PCs shipped worldwide in the second quarter of 2012, compared to the same period in 2011. In a separate report by Gartner, tablet sales are predicted to be around 118.9 million units in 2012, nearly 100% more than reported in 2011. By 2016, Gartner predicts tablet ownership worldwide to be around 665 million.
For the third-quarter of 2012, Apple reported an 84% increase in the sales of its iPad from 9 million to just over 17 million units compared to the same period last year. This increase was the highest the company reported across all of their devices and shows the zealous global adoption of tablet devices.
In South Africa, tablet adoption is doing seemingly well with 530 000 tablets currently in use, as reported by World Wide Worx in May 2012. Smartphone adoption in South Africa was just over 15% of the South African population in 2011, according to a study by Google and, according to forecasts by Nielsen, is likely to follow international growth trends such as in the US, whereby two out of three Americans currently opt for a smartphone when upgrading their cellphones.
The approach currently taken by marketers needs to be revised to suit the ever-changing online behaviour and adoption of new devices by consumers, to ensure that messages are not lost. Consumers are becoming increasingly savvy and dependent on their mobile devices, which have become an irrevocable part of their lives – marketers need to ensure that they capitalise on this shift in order to reach their intended market.
Findings from a recent study, conducted by Business Insider, found that consumers undertake nearly 60% of their Internet browsing on their iPads and smartphones, as opposed to personal computers, with activity on multiple social networks comprising a large portion of this time.
The recent announcement by Google to release Project Glass, a wearable glasses-like form of computing with a heads-up display operated through gestures, as early as 2014, presents some insight into what mobile computing may look like in the near future.
This further emphasises the opportunity presented to marketers to engage in ways and means different to a device-specific approach. Rapid development in the mobile computing market will soon force marketers to devise clever campaigns that are not only suitable to touch-operated devices.
The reality is that we have only reached the start of the growth curve and local businesses may have some time in which to devise these strategies before South Africa joins the world in the mobile computing revolution.
This pro-tablet shift is confirmed by the recent announcement by software-giant Microsoft to launch its own tablet called Surface, which will compete for market share with Apple’s iPad and other Android powered tablets. The soon-to-be-launched Windows 8 and the new Microsoft Office will also speed up this shift further, as both are developed for touch operation using tablets and smartphones.
Google also recently joined the tablet battlefield following the announcement of its Nexus 7, a more affordable alternative to the iPad. The addition of heavyweight tech companies into the tablet market mix spurs on healthy competition, resulting in the pricing of their products becoming more affordable. This prospective affordability will surely bolster the tablet and smartphone adoption rate of ordinary South Africans.
Software and device development will never cease and it is crucial that marketers adapt their multi-channel marketing strategies to be functional on all platforms to actively engage 24/7 with consumers. It is simply no longer viable for businesses who wish to remain profitable to ignore significant technology adoption shifts such as the rise of tablets and smartphones.