The Direction of mCommerce

mCommerce isn’t only about the final purchase of goods on a mobile device, it’s about technology’s ability to keep consumers connected (to the internet and to brands) while they move around – it is about Mobility. The old adage “Where users are, brands must follow” is as true in the physical world as it is in the virtual world. Mobile allows these two worlds to meet and marketers must take advantage of this environment.


According to AMPS, individual smartphone ownership in South African adults is over 50%.  This brings an ever-converging expectation of capability to consumers that brands can leverage (think iPhone 4 as a benchmark).  The average mobile experience is becoming faster, smoother and more intuitive and our wireless broadband connectivity continues to become cheaper and always-on.  As the device that is always available at the moment of inspiration (research, purchase, finding directions, etc.), consumers are turning to their phones to accomplish more of their daily life’s tasks. Many of which ladder up to a purchase.

Millennials, and to some degree post-millennials, are coming of age.  As their disposable income and purchasing power increase, their expectations are becoming democratised demands that can affect a brand’s bottom line.  Brands and retailers that meet young consumers ‘where they are’ digitally will continue with success.  Those that maintain rigidity and require that customers come to them will lose revenue.  ‘Where they are’ should mean the shortest click-path (or perhaps more correctly tap-path) from the moment and point of inspiration to the moment and point of fulfilling it.

Perhaps the most literal interpretation of being where users are is to be in their conversations.  Not merely within social media streams but inside their instant messaging apps.  Facebook Messenger’s recent push into this area brought chatbots into the spotlight, while WeChat has long been bringing the mCommerce market and instant message environment closer together (but mostly in non-Western markets).  While being able to conduct commerce from within the chat environment is fraught with complication of implementation, it is worth skipping the implementation detail for the moment and noting the medium and long term evolution of conversational commerce (as I see it).

On one hand, integrations that bring services to chat environments (whether its Slack for work, or the more social Messenger) enable users to interact with software and services without leaving the paradigm of instant messaging and conversation – but it stops at “be where consumers are”.  This could be seen as simply a radical skinning of a store’s consumer-facing digital front-end.  This will develop further and reduce the clutter of graphical environments contending for users’ attention and time.  Smaller brands need to ensure that they can integrate on this level with available intermediary platforms and services that leverage this behavioural change.

On the other hand, this is merely a stepping stone to creating new environments that consumers will move in to.  When you bring chat, artificial intelligence, speech recognition and speech synthesis together, you get services such as Google Now and Apple’s Siri.  Remarkable, but not quite changing the commerce landscape.  When a giant retailing platform like Amazon enters the fray, we can expect an effect on e-commerce. Amazon’s Echo or the retailer-independent Viv are creating platforms that are designed to not only play in the personal assistant and connected home space, but that are also geared for seamless conversational commerce.

For big brands this is the “where” that ultimately needs to be leveraged, and will require a fundamental shift in how brands expect to be found – shifting our virtual interactions from visual digital devices and advertising to conversational commercial transactions handled by a virtual, “artificially intelligent”, assistant.  The questions plaguing brands should not be rooted in chatbot implementations, but rather in questions that seek out stability and opportunity in a quickly changing commercial environment:  How does your brand, product, service or platform fare in an AI-led conversational commerce environment?  How will your business need to adapt in order to leap into the new paradigm and flourish over competitors?  But most importantly, when users move, how easy will it be for us to follow?

To see conversational commerce in action, have a look at a demo of Viv.

The elements of a good strategy

Strategy is a funny thing. As a wise man once told me, “It’s kinda like a gas – it will expand to fill the space you give it.”

He was trying to tell me that I could achieve 80% of the same outcome with just 50% of the time investment – I tend to take quite a thorough approach to my work, and he needed me to hurry the hell up. But the truth in this is that a really useful plan does not always need to take weeks and months to develop. So how do you know when you’ve done enough? When is your “amazing document of thoughts” an actual, useful strategy?

This article outlines four key elements that a good strategy should contain. This is by no means all that you need to do, and it also doesn’t imply that every strategy will always have all four of these elements. But, if you’re looking for guidance about how to give guidance, ensure your document or proposal contains these elements, and you’ll be on the right path to adding strategic value.



This may sound obvious, but is often missing. What are we setting out to achieve? And more importantly, why do we want to achieve these things?

This is best done by building a simple stack: start with your business’ objectives, ladder that down to the marketing objectives that are implied or necessitated by the business objectives, and maybe (if you’re working in the digital space, like I do) ladder those down to digital objectives.

This should achieve clarity about what the strategy or plan is meant to achieve, and confirmation that those outcomes are in fact relevant to what the business or brand as a whole needs to achieve.


Most strategies (and definitely all marketing strategies) are intended to have some sort of effect on a consumer – a human being, and usually a very particular type of human being.

Does your plan recognise who this person is? Does it draw from sources detailed enough to derive insight from? Does it recognise the unique sub groups that exist within a broad categorisation? A classic example is when we are asked to target the good old “black urban male, 25-34”. This broad segment contains many unique subgroups: do we mean the guy from Sandton, or the guy from Soweto?

Most importantly – your plan should be centred around these very insights. We can’t just describe the consumer(s) we’re aiming to appeal to, we must demonstrate choices made throughout the plan based on these attributes. I’ve seen many a plan that has a slide or two about the target audience, followed by plans that don’t actually speak back to anything special that’s really being done to leverage that information, or more particularly, insights based on that information.


A bad strategy … tries to cover all the bases rather than focus resources and actions” – Richard Rumelt (Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why it Matters, 2011, Deckle Edge)

By definition, strategy is about choices. We should be choosing to focus on x over y as the better way to achieve our objectives. Yet, very often, we don’t make any meaningful (read: difficult) choices in our plans about what, in the list of things to do, is most important.

Plans may speak about the need to “attract new consumers to grow market share, and retain existing consumers”. So we’re just doing everything then? Business as usual? No. We should identify the most effective lever to pull to move towards a specific, prioritized objective, and structure difficult choices around that.

An implication of choice is sacrifice. Ask what you are not doing? What is being deprioritised? Does that feel uncomfortable? Will your boss or client question it? Good. You’re probably heading in the right direction.


If you’re dedicating time and effort to making plans, you surely need to know if those plans are working. So logically, you should consider what indicates success or failure, so you know when you’ve got there, or when you haven’t. From this you can decide to change plans, execute your plans differently, or decide to keep doing what you’re doing.

Thinking about measurement is also useful in planning, as a check on the overall validity of the plan. If you don’t have a logical flow between the objectives, the strategic choices made to achieve those objectives, and the outcomes you’re looking to measure, you might need to go back troubleshoot the overall plan.

But a caution: measurement can be a messy game. Sometimes you know the outcomes you need to see (e.g. sales), and measuring your tactics (e.g. an online competition) is easy enough, but linking the tactics definitively to the outcome is hard. This doesn’t necessarily mean the plan is invalid!

If you have at least considered carefully how the tactics will contribute to the outcome, and have an idea of when you know the outcome will be achieved, you’re doing the right thing.

Each of the four concepts above should really have their own article (or even a series of them!) written to properly do them justice. So this is quite a high level dip into the topic of what it takes to write a good strategy. Also, there are quite a few areas of strategy we haven’t even touched on here.

But if you take one thing from this, it should be that strategy needn’t be an intimidating area “for experts only”. We all make choices in our daily lives (focus and sacrifice) to achieve outcomes (objectives), based on our wants and needs (consumer centric). And we generally know if it worked out for us (success metrics). So consider that we’re all strategists, and keep these principles in mind when you’re making plans.

Worthwhile: Pokémon Go, road safety, speaking etc. etc.


Yes you can!

i do hope you enjoy this week’s lisiticle of links


Between the last Quirk newsletter and today’s edition, the latest thing – Pokémon Go – has gone from zero to smash mega-hit. Crushing download records and Pokemon’s servers left, right and centre.

But Scott, what is this Pokémon Go craze you speak of? Here’s everything you need to know about Pokémon Go and more in 5 articles:


  1. Pokémon Go: 9 questions about the game you were too embarrassed to ask. via VOX
  2. Pokémon Go seen making billions for Apple. via Reuters
  3. For the advertisers – This is what sponsored Pokéstops look like in ‘Pokémon GO’.
  4. For the retail outlets – How Are businesses taking advantage of Pokémon Go?
  5. Pokémon Go Shows That The Smartphone Revolution Has Barely Begun.


It was bound to happen, and now the stats are out.. The grownups are starting to arrive on Snapchat.

Although the service continues to add users in all age brackets, it’s the 25-34 and 35-44 groups which are now growing at the fastest rate. So, while Snapchat’s audience still remains young overall, it’s likely that its broadening appeal will put it in a better position to break into the top tier of social networks currently occupied by names like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Speaking of social platforms that adults don’t get, this article via about, an app that allows users (mostly tweens at the moment) to create and publish little music videos of themselves, offers a number of little insightful nuggets about your future customers:


In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes…by ninth grade. And the platform for that tween infamy is


Your move MTN, Cell-C, Vodacom…

Great news from an unexpected source: Telkom. A massively competitive set of price reductions for mobile data. On paper, the implications of this news could be far-reaching as data costs are generally accepted as the number one barrier to an increased uptake in mobile services by consumers..


A striking piece of work from the Australian Road Safety Foundation:

Meet Graham



As much as we like to think we’re invincible, we’re not. But what if we were to change? What if our bodies were built to survive a low impact crash? What might we look like? The result of these questions is Graham, a reminder of just how vulnerable our bodies really are.


To close, a few really great entries from the recent Cannes Lions show:

#Public Health: Dipper Condoms

#Banking: Meet Clever Kash – ASB’s new cashless moneybox.

#Creative Data: The Next Rembrandt

#Immersive Video: Seeking Pluto’s Frigid Heart | 360 VR Video | The New York Times


And that’s that!


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