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The Top 7 Trends for Mobile in 2021

Technology is ever-evolving and adapting at rapid speeds to the changing global landscape. With the global COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a shift to accommodate the ‘new’ way of life and business, which has given rise to numerous applications and use cases of technology. 

Most would agree that the new normal that begins to take shape in 2021 won’t be anything like the old one. The pandemic has prompted us to critically rethink the ways we live and work, and how we can effectively mix life and work together.

The mobile device is ubiquitous to everyday life with over 8.74 billion smart devices worldwide in 2020, which is expected to grow to 17.7 billion devices by the end of 2024. Subsequently, brands, businesses and organisations need to seriously consider leveraging the mobile device to reach, communicate and build experiences for their communities of consumers, in real-time and convenient ways.

We have compiled 7 global trends for 2021 within the mobile technology landscape to watch closely.

1. Mobile internet on the rise

A smart mobile device with an internet connection has proven to be a personal assistant that is capable of solving almost any requirement or query, quickly and conveniently. The use of smartphones has exponentially increased in the past decade from being a budding technology to a fully grown prime tool for communications. Mobile devices now enable numerous new applications and tools for businesses and personal use that previously were never possible or conceivable – unlocking multiple avenues for new ideas and potential, both personally and professionally.

When pairing the capabilities of a mobile device with affordable connectivity, there are a huge amount of possibilities for personal and business applications.

We have seen the mobile network operators (Vodacom, MTN etc) within South Africa come under heavy pressure to reduce the cost of mobile data and in Dec 2019 the Competition Commission ordered MTN and Vodacom to slash their mobile data prices, which the commission found to be prohibitively expensive. The result saw the operators lower their prices by an average of 33%.

There has also been a huge drive to increase the accessibility of mobile internet connectivity and GSMA expects that the penetration rate of mobile internet users will reach 39% in sub-saharan Africa by 2025. Similarly, GSMA predicts smartphone penetration to increase to 65% by 2025 in Sub Saharan Africa – as a result of the sharp decrease in smart device prices.

2. Data privacy and protection is non-negotiable 

The rise in internet usage has driven an exponential increase in the volume of digital data that is created and handled by organisations. None of us want our private and personal data to be exploited or misused and there have been increasing calls from consumers and governments to ensure that organisations who are handling personal need to do so responsibly.

There are real consequences for failing to ensure the privacy and security of users’ information. From July 2018 up until the time of writing this article, 492 GDPR fines totalling € 274 million have been issued against organisations for failing to adequately protect their customer databases.

Facebook’s controversial WhatsApp December 2020 privacy policy change also caused one of the biggest digital migrations of 25 million users to a competing app, Telegram. This just shows that consumers will not hesitate to boycott and abandon brands that do not respect the privacy of information that is shared with them.

South Africa has also introduced data regulations in the form of The Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) which came into effect on July 01, 2020. POPIA will begin its enforcement from July 01, 2021. Any company or organisation that is operating within South Africa and offering digital services that utilise consumers data and information, will need to comply with these regulations to ensure the protection of personal information is always central to any digital service being rendered.

All of this means that companies now need to ensure that they treat user data responsibly by default or risk severe fines and user backlash.

We’ll likely see new data governance models become more popular in 2021 and beyond – like data trusts, which operate as trusted intermediaries between consumers and big tech platforms.

Data driven decision making must become a key driver for businesses in 2021 and beyond. Insights are powerful and fully available with smart data gathering and processing tools, however this can never be at the detriment of the privacy of this data.

3. Customers expect to chat with businesses

Mobile chat is one of the most cost effective and efficient means of communication for consumers. It has become the primary method of mobile communication, surpassing traditionally costly phone calls and SMS. The worldwide popularity of WhatsApp and other chat applications is testament to this. 

Consumers now also prefer to communicate with organisations using these familiar chat applications. They no longer want to spend their time and money travelling to a physical branch or holding on a phone call, and in most cases don’t want to download a brand’s app just to communicate with them. Instead they prefer to send a message in an app that they use regularly and be notified when someone from the organisation is ready to chat with them.

WhatsApp now provides a way for businesses to communicate with customers, and so businesses are now rolling out their own live chat and chatbot solutions to provide more convenient ways for their customers to communicate with them.

Live Chat via mobile channels such as WhatsApp Business has shown a 5x improvement on conversation completion rates comparatively to that of telephonic voice chats via call centres. According to research done by Invesp 38% of consumers are more likely to buy from a company if they offer live chat support. 

Businesses have started to place huge emphasis on creating user experiences to effectively engage their communities and their requirements in dynamic and real-time ways. Today’s consumer is extremely savvy when brands do not genuinely and authentically consider their needs and preferences. This being said, the modern day consumer expects to be served and responded to almost instantly and via their channel of choice.  Fail to do that and the consumer can, at the click of a finger, look for alternative choices from competing brands and organisations.

The mantra for omnichannel communications is to cut through the noise and reach consumers via multiple channels of their choice and in a real-time manner. A huge opportunity and similarly, requirement for businesses in 2021 and beyond, is to offer and engage with their consumers via Live chat solutions. 63% of consumers are more likely to visit a website that offers a Live Chat service.

For businesses and brands that require service centres for consumer queries and issue resolutions – Live Chat is a must-have and will result in substantial operational support cost savings due to its streamlined efficiencies.

4. Growth of Mobile Commerce

Government-mandated lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic have massively shifted consumer spending online. In November 2020 Acadia group, which owns Topshop and many other well-known fashion brands, went into administration and is in talks to be acquired by the online fashion retailer ASOS. Another well-known retailer in the UK, Debenhams, has now been acquired by the online retailer, Boohoo. A fundamental shift from physical retail to online retail is underway.

More people own mobile phones than laptops or desktop computers and so e-commerce has become the only way for people to purchase non-essential goods during the pandemic. Companies that can adapt and serve customers effectively through online and mobile will be the ones who can maintain their revenues and survive.

During 2021, mobile commerce sales are expected to account for 54% of total e-commerce sales globally.

The goal is to put the consumer experience at the centre of the shopping journey this involves: 

  1. maintaining effective digital storefronts across desktop and mobile devices 
  2. offering compelling delivery and returns on products purchased
  3. providing quick and helpful customer support

Additionally, retailers need to ensure that they support the most popular payment method in their regions. This can differ vastly between regions like Europe, Africa and Asia.

5. Real-time conversations are now a must

According to EConsultancy, 79% of consumers favor live chat support as it allows for almost instant responses. Or similarly, consumers now expect a real-time response 24/7 which is made possible via instant and automated responses from a chatbot. 

While there are consumers that will always prefer to speak to a live agent, businesses also need to consider how to handle frequently asked questions, requests outside of operating hours, or during high volume traffic.

Chatbots are an effective first layer for customer support. They can provide customers with instant responses and reduce customer support centre load. Gartner highlights this with a report of a chatbot able to answer within 5 seconds of consumer contact, while the average advisor took 51 seconds. There are only so many queries a live agent can handle at once. Live chat solutions allow agents to help more than one customer at a time, but call center agents must finish one call, before starting another. Chatbots can handle common questions far more efficiently and defer to a customer support agent, where necessary. When done right, chatbots can both improve customer experience and reduce call centre costs.

It’s estimated that conversations between brands and consumers are going to grow by at least 87% in 2021 globally in the next 12-18 months, via Live Chat and Chatbot solutions.

Whether it is via a live chat solution or a chatbot solution, what is clear is that consumers expect instant responses from businesses and organisations more than ever before.

6. The rise and application of 5G

Mobile networks around the world began rolling out their 5G networks to consumers in the second half of 2020. The increased speed and bandwidth are going to drive more data-intensive applications. 5G on paper is considered to be the hero of all technologies and bandwidth speeds will increase more than tenfold. 5G is the fastest-growing mobile technology in history and is being adopted four times as quickly as LTE was when it was introduced.

In terms of rollout, nearly 122 mobile operators globally have launched their 5G services in November 2020.

5G is not only about the faster internet connection, but connectivity in many more services, applications or objects that we see today. We are already seeing compelling 5G use cases for consumers, but in the medium-term, 5G is expected to have an outsized impact in the enterprise space. From healthcare to logistics, many enterprise applications require the low latency, ultra-reliability and capacity that only 5G can offer.

7. Mobile advertising is the real business

The shift to mobile commerce has also spurred the growth in mobile advertising as businesses can now see a correlated ROI between mobile ad spend and mobile revenue. Mobile ad spend is likely to hit $290 billion worldwide in 2021.

In a consumer-centric world, brands are needing to become more consumer-focused, authentic, personalised and are required to hyper-target their communications and ads like never before to keep relevant in a highly saturated world of advertising.

The precision and personalisation with which mobile’s targeting functionality has is a greater advantage for companies. Mobile advertising includes anything from video ads to mobile display ads to in-app ads. It is an extremely personalized approach and can be targeted towards a precise audience.

Our Conclusion

In conclusion, the pandemic has driven a huge shift towards mobile technology for communication and commerce which is now emerging as the primary method of interaction between businesses and consumers.

Businesses will need to adapt quickly in order to maintain their revenues and survive and should look to gravitate towards solutions that make them more resilient and flexible to quick change to maintain competitive advantage and market share.

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