media update's Adam Wakefield was at Google South Africa's head office in Johannesburg on Tuesday, 6 February, where he heard Google Kenya country manager, Charles Murito, break down what online consumers are looking for today, and how online marketers should adapt to their changing needs.  

The mobile phone is driving Internet use in Africa

According to Murito, rising Internet usage is due primarily to better infrastructure, cheaper devices, and lower data costs. While data costs in certain African countries were higher than others, overall, data is getting cheaper.

What was striking for Murito was the growing usage of the Internet in Africa. Between 2014 and 2017, statistics available to Google showed that Internet usage in Kenya grew from 48% to 53%. In Nigeria, Internet usage grew from 62% to 65% over the same period and in South Africa, usage increased from 48% in 2014 to 65% in 2017.

“This will continue growing all the time,” Murito said.

This growth has been matched by a surge in searches, and in particular searches for different things. What was unique in Africa is this growth has been based on the mobile device, with the continent using mobiles more than anywhere else.

Among the top five countries that did Google searches online through their mobiles, Nigeria was placed second in the fourth quarter of 2017, and Kenya and South Africa were also in the top five.

YouTube watch time had also increased dramatically over the last 12 months in these three countries. In Nigeria, watch time increased by 120% year-on-year. In Kenya, 110%, and 90% in South Africa.

Beyond mobiles, smart TVs were also driving increased viewing time on YouTube, and globally, revenue from Internet adverting exceeded TV advertising for the first time in 2016.

Consumers are more demanding, curious, and spend more time researching than ever before

Amidst this rising Internet use, brands are no longer just competing with one another but with experiences. Users have high expectations and brands are competiting with the best experience users have ever had, Murito explained.

Consumers are now more curious, and often spend more time searching and researching to validate an assumption or support their initial research. Consumers are more demanding, they want it now, they want it close to home, and they want to have that experience in a more efficient manner.

“Time for them is something that is really scarce,” Murito said.

“People are no longer searching ‘near me’ because they expect your device to have geolocation and it will automatically give the best searches and results close to you. It goes back to that element of expectation. They understand that their device has the capability to give them the results they need.”

In the United States, Google had seen a two-time increase in ‘same day shipping’ searches between January-June 2015 and the same period in 2017. There had also been a 150% increase in travel searches for ‘today’ and ‘tonight’, and a three-fold increase in ‘open now’ searches.

“It is really critical to anticipate what customers want. People want you as a brand owner to tell you what they need. It’s the notion that Steve Jobs spoke about. Consumers don’t know what they want. You have to create it for them and tell them why it is amazing,” Murito says.

“We are basically entering the Age of Assistance”.

Online marketing and The Age of Assistance

The Age of Assistance, according to Murito, is the new battleground for growth. A total of 89% of marketers indicated that one of factors that is going to differentiate them from their competitors is anticipating the needs of their customers.

This is one of the reasons why brands are heavily investing in data science, and turning data into insights.

“That is what is going to differentiate between who wins and who loses,” Murito said.

“What may seem relatively mundane, people are still going to become more informed about those products. The ability to have that strong presence online, and an informative presence, is what is really going to make a difference between whether [your brand] wins or loses.”

In short, businesses need to show up, wise up, and speed up.

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