As South Africans get more connected online, shopping malls are finding their voice on social media, according the a new report.
The research compiled by Quirk Education titled Social Media Marketing in South African Shopping Centres, was commissioned by the South African Council of Shopping Centres (SACSC).
The report looked at 100 local shopping centres and compiled figures around how connected South Africans, brands and retailers engage online.
SACSC found that, while only 18% of South Africans own a computer, the main drive for online connectivity was mobile, with 84% of the population owning a mobile phone.
Of the connected population, three-quarters are signed up to at least one social media network – like Facebook, Twitter, Mxit and LinkedIn, “making these networks significantly more popular than email, which comes in at 66%,” the council said.
According to the report, 59% of South African social media users actively follow brands, while 27% actually discovered unknown brands via social media, SACSC said.
Further data showed that 6.8 million South Africans connect to Facebook via mobile, with Twitter drawing in 2.4 million local tweeters – though Mxit proved to be the most popular mobile social platform with 10 million active users.
“Curiously though, the massive Mxit phenomenon has not been tapped into by the retail sector. Only one in five large brands using it as a marketing tool,” SACSC said.
Shopping malls online
“The research shows the average shopper visits malls 38 times a year and spends 80 minutes on average per trip,” said SACSC CEO, Amanda Stops.
“Increasingly, when we go shopping we take our online lives with us too. Along with airports, shopping centres are the most checked-in venues for South African Facebook users.”
Of the 100 malls surveyed, 65% had an active Facebook presence and 45% were on Twitter, while 43% use email newsletters to talk to their customers.
According to the report, while the proportion of people actually buying via social media is still only 12%, globally it is growing.
“South Africa isn’t far behind the curve. For instance, nearly 10% of local Mxit users actively spent their virtual “Moola” currency in a 30-day window,” Stops said.
According to Stops, the biggest opportunity for malls and connectivity at the moment is Wi-Fi and apps.
“Because of the massive numbers of South Africans who rely on their cell phones for Internet access, we should increasingly see shopping centres providing customers with free, fast in-house Wi-Fi networks.”