Cellphones, smartphones and other mobile devices don’t have to be cheap, as long as they are easy to use, high-quality and dependable, according to a survey of one thousand small business owners in South Africa. 

This is a key finding from the Mobility 2009 research project being conducted by World Wide Worx and backed by First National Bank (FNB and Research In Motion (RIM).
“The findings of this survey demonstrate clearly that small business owners attach a high value to the benefits of staying in touch with clients and colleagues at all times, wherever they are,” says Deon Liebenberg, regional director for sub-Sahara Africa at RIM. “Dependable, easy-to-use and high-quality mobile solutions pay for themselves quickly by enabling small businesses to be more responsive, efficient and productive, and allowing them to do more with fewer resources.”
The Mobility 2009 study is being conducted in four phases, with the first three looking at the use of mobile technologies by small and medium enterprises (SMEs), Corporations, and Consumers, and the final phase exploring the mobile Internet.
In the first phase, it was revealed that SME owners and decision-makers consider a range of other factors before price enters the picture for purchase decisions.
For no less than 80% of the businesses surveyed, ease of use was an important criterion, while 79% rated quality as important. Maintenance and reliability were a little further behind, with 74% and 72% of respondents respectively rating these as important.
Only then, and in a distant fifth place, came price’, with only 64% of respondents rating it as important. At 52%, the least important criterion for SMEs was company procurement policy – largely because most SMEs don’t have a formal policy.
“Whether you are designing a phone or a cellphone banking service, ease of use and consumer education are critical for users,” says Len Pienaar, CEO of FNB's mobile and transact solutions.
“These findings explain why many seemingly valuable and useful technologies, tools and applications are not embraced by SMEs,” says Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx.
He points out that, while marketing campaigns for cellphones in South Africa have traditionally relied heavily on the power of brands, the survey shows that brand loyalty is no longer a factor in the mobile market. Only 55% of respondents rated brand loyalty as important. In itself, this should be significant, but it becomes largely irrelevant in contrast to other factors.
“This suggests that the mobile arena is about to undergo fundamental changes in market structure and dynamics,” says Goldstuck.
Liebenberg adds: “For smaller businesses with limited resources, the business benefits of being in touch with clients and other business stakeholders are perhaps even more important than they are for their larger competitors. Yet, since they don’t have resources and time to waste on managing, supporting and training for complex solutions, small businesses demand that their mobile devices be reliable and rich in functionality as well as simple to deploy and use.”
Mobility 2009 included research among 1 000 consumers, 1 000 SMEs and 240 large enterprises in South Africa. The enterprise findings will be released at the end of September, and the consumer findings at the end of October 2009.