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Mobile retail revolution underway

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South Africa could be on the brink of a mobile commerce revolution.

This is suggested by the results of a survey of more than 6 200 connected South Africans by online retailer kalahari.net, which has launched its own mobile retail offering, www.kalahari.mobi.
The kalahari.net Mobile Shopping Survey not only shows that 51% of connected South Africans access the mobile Internet every day, but that they also have intent to transact. In fact, 26% of respondents have already made a purchase and a further 53% are considering it.
Gary Novitzkas, CEO of kalahari.net, comments: “The number of people accessing the mobile Internet is skyrocketing and we expect it to overtake the PC as the most sought after way to access the Internet in less than five years. As an online retailer, this has resulted in a new type of browser experience, another channel to market, and therefore a slightly different sales platform.”
Novitzkas adds that in developing countries such as South Africa, where mobile phone penetration outnumbers fixed Internet users by a ratio of five to two, the mobile screen is the only screen for many. As smart phones start entering the mainstream, a new generation of Internet user is emerging. Coined the mobile-only Internet Generation, they do not, or very rarely also use a desktop, laptop or tablet to access the Web.
According to local research house On Device Research, 57% of South Africans accessing the mobile Internet, are mobile-only Internet users.
“The FNB Mobility Report released in February this year conservatively estimates the mobile Internet universe to be at six million mobile Internet browsers strong at the very least,” says Novitzkas. “This is a significant figure. It impacts the way we communicate and transact as an Internet only business, especially when considering that what they see on their mobile phones is all they will see, and that the mobile Internet is not merely an extension of their desktops. It is for this reason that we have not simply created a mobile version of the kalahari.net site but a standalone extension of the brand.”
Although 37% of the kalahari.net Mobile Shopping Survey correspondents felt that the mobile Internet is the future of how we will communicate, a resounding 63% believe that it is just another way to access it. This could contribute to 89% of respondents feeling that accessing the Internet via their mobiles is as safe as accessing it from their computers.
“Trust and safety are the catalysts to sales conversion. It stands to reason that if customers feel safe, they are more willing to transact as a further barrier to sale is removed,” says Novitzas.
With 51% accessing the Internet via their mobiles every day, 18% every week and 12% every month, the mobile Internet is bulldozing its way into the mainstream.
According to the survey, respondents only marginally prefer MTN (43%) to Vodacom (42%) as their primary service providers while Cell C’s marketing promise of superfast Internet connectivity has resulted in it being the primary service provider to 19% of kalahari.net’s survey respondents. Virgin Mobile comes in at 2% and newcomer 8-Ta comes at 0.4%.
When asked about their brand of the primary mobile phone, 38% of South Africans responded with Nokia, 31% with Blackberry, 12% with Samsung, 8% with iPhone and 5% with Sony Ericsson.
“Although Android is touted to garner the most market share in 2011 by both Gartner and  the IDC, a quick look at preferred devices of the kalahari.net Mobile Shopping correspondents show that Symbian remains the prevalent operating system along with BlackBerry and that Android has some catching-up to do. The kalahari.net mobile site is designed as a work horse and performs comfortably on most handheld devices. We have rigorously tested our mobile shopping offering across all platforms to ensure its stability” adds Novitzkas.
When asked what products they were most likely to purchase on a mobile shopping site, no clear winners emerged. Applications, flight tickets, airtime, books, CDs and DVDs, music downloads and games were all supported with between 10% to 13% votes. Electronic devices such as mobile phones, and groceries each garnered 5%.