We all remember the first telephone we ever used, connecting with the person on the far end of that dialling tone. It was amazing to be able to connect like that — no matter the time or distance. Remember the girls hogging the phone for hours?

Years after this, an even better bit of tech evolved. It was a telephone that you could have on you all the time, one you could walk around with and connect to with more than just voice.

But did you know that handheld phones had been in the making since 1918 in trains and automobiles? This and many other lightbulb moments helped Motorola and its peers to introduce the world to the future telephone that would colloquially be known simply as 'the mobile'.

It is argued that South Africa is the foremost mobile-first nation in Africa — maybe even the world. This is similar to America being the world's foremost computer-first nation.

The desktop and the mobile are probably two of the worlds' grandest means of connecting businesses and consumers globally. According to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), South Africa's smartphone penetration today stands at a whopping 84%; it has doubled in the past two years.

There is a saying that goes, "fish where the fish are and if you can't find fish where the fish are, change your bait". This was a simple analogy for the modern-day market place, where quality leads have evolved from walk-ins to platforms.

Our world is a smartphone market place and it seems that the only thing that matters these days is, 'is it mobile ready?' ICASA recorded smartphone subscriptions at 46.9 million as of Sunday, 30 September 2018.

Taking this into the context of South Africa's population, July 2018 Statistics South Africa reported that the mid-year pollution was at 57.7 million. That is a staggering figure for any business wishing to connect with its consumers.

For a business to thrive with more than just a shift in mindset, the following three approaches are very necessary:
  1. Look deeper and understand the type of audience that you want to attract.
  2. Understand how your type of audience connects and converts, as they sometimes don't relate to the same thing.
  3. Know what device is your audience using to engage and at what time.
Mobile has in no way become the be-all and end-all of connecting with customers; that would be a dangerous assumption. There is, however, something to be said in constantly connecting with customers.

Imagine serving a print ad, then serving the same ad via desktop or TV and then later re-serving it directly to the same customer's mobile phone. Sounds a bit stalky and nonsensical, doesn't it?

What if we could just re-purpose the same ad and serve it in three different appealing ways, at three very convenient times, directly to that same customer? This is the impact of smartphones and where the power of technology lies.

The technology behind mobile phones means that businesses have the ability to study their customers' engagement and lifestyle patterns. After all, mobile has propelled today's fastest-growing industrial stack — digital marketing — where the global online spend has grown 3% year on year since its inception.

Over the past three decades, it remains without a doubt that the biggest lesson for marketers throughout mobile's incredible changes is that the fundamentals have remained the same.

It is still vital to reach the right customers, with the right message at the right time. Technology is accelerating at a tremendous pace and it pays to keep moving with the times. Mobile, more than any other platform, has become the world's premier and competitive marketplace. So really, it's always '#MobileFirst'. 

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