Does the South African Market understand Online Marketing?

Posted by Mandy on 21 Feb 2008

Of course there are several companies who have finally caught on to the worldwide trend of transferring a large percentage of marketing dollars to online channels. But as a whole I would say that there is still a severe lack of comprehensive understanding of the opportunities that online marketing and specifically PPC can offer South African companies.

I was pretty shocked yesterday when I spoke to the marketing director of one of the biggest car rental companies in South Africa when she said that she already has “an online strategy because she has a web designer”. EEK! Dangerous territory for a travel related company. Especially when the web is the preferred channel for 50% of UK users searching for financial and travel items. [Source: Equi-Media, February 2006] and that an industry study revealed that nearly 75% of travel buyers used search engines before making a purchase. [DoubleClick / Performics / comScore, “Search Before the Purchase”, March 2005].

Whether your travel company is an online operator or not it stands to reason that an effective online marketing strategy is vital to your survival.

I also spoke with someone who has an inside interest in one of the major food and beverage retailers in South Africa who was also at his wits end trying to convince the big marketing honchos of the need for and the effectiveness of search marketing.

It is amazing to me that anyone in marketing has no interest or understanding of online marketing channels. Even if they are over 50 and have to get their children to set-up their online banking profiles…one would think that on a professional level they would hire a young online marketing professional who could source and manage relevant agencies to establish their brand’s online profile.

These two incidents revealed to me just how much revenue and indeed national and international exposure big corporates in SA are missing out on.

It is my opinion that the South African companies who are already operating in the online space or who are considering including it in their marketing mix in the next year are going to have a massive advantage over their competitors who are too intimidated by online marketing to even consider its worth. These ostriches who bury their heads do not realise that online advertising is a multi-billion dollar industry already in the US and that every day they shy away from the leap to online is lost revenue and lost branding opportunities.

There has never been a more targeted channel that provides such massive opportunity for feedback on consumer preferences and purchasing habits. Wakey wakey Marketing head honchos!