A new survey published by Deloitte has highlighted the top reasons why consumers are likely to change mobile providers.
South Africa is fortunate to have several options when it comes to mobile service provision, through four main firms – namely Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and Telkom – while additional players include mobile virtual network operators (MVNO) like Virgin Mobile, Mr Price Mobile and FNB.
Rain also recently made a splash by launching a mobile data-only network earlier this year.
Deloitte found that South African mobile subscribers are looking for cheaper data prices to the extent that large-scale consumer activist movements have formed, such as the recent #DataMustFall and #SocialMediaBlackout campaigns.
Such and other campaigns have had some influence on the industry to lower data tariffs with the greatest impact being in the network technology layer – which is owned either by telcos, vendors or other tech players, the professional services firm said.
“We found that the price of data is the most important factor influencing churn. Other factors such as the quality of the network for internet access, availability of 4G, the quality of customer service and device price are also important,” said Mark Casey, Global Telecoms, Media and Entertainment Leader at Deloitte.
When it comes to customer retention, value for money for access to data and the internet trumps everything across all age groups, geographic areas (rural and urban) and gender.
South African mobile subscribers are looking for cheaper data prices to the extent that large-scale consumer activist movements have formed, such as the recent #DataMustFall and #SocialMediaBlackout campaigns, pressurising the industry to lower data tariffs.
Operators have responded by slashing data rates but, as consumers become more data hungry, are likely to face more pressures to reduce the price of data and remain price competitive.
The quality of the network with respect to internet provision, the availability of 4G/LTE coverage and usage of the network by family and friends were found to be the key drivers for consumers choosing a mobile operator.
The significant cultural and ethnic diversity in South Africa and the tendency to coordinate choice of an operator among families and friends implies that brand and marketing techniques must be able to appeal to targeted segments.
Most operators in South Africa have launched discount bundles and tariff plans that target friend and family groups. These ‘Friends and Family’ packages can be a strong differentiator in the market, influencing buyer behaviour through social networks.
Our survey results reveal that only 18% of customers would definitely recommend their current operator to friends, colleagues and families. A significant proportion of the survey respondents (31%) indicated that they are neutral. Operators are clearly prone to disruption from both new and existing players that can better meet consumer needs, Deloitte said.
The operator landscape is facing a difficult challenge of balancing consumer perceptions with respect to the price of data and the need for further network investments, including the anticipated move towards 5G and the inevitable need to satisfy the demand for data, Deloitte said.
The scenario is not all that gloomy for new smartphones entering the market as consumers prefer to buy new phones over used ones Casey added.
The percentage of consumers owning new phones over used phones increased from 78% in 2016 to 86% in 2017. Approximately one in 10 consumers own a second-hand phone regardless of whether it is a feature phone or smartphone.
The rate of mobile technology evolution is increasing, and new applications are emerging that attract an increasingly technologically savvy South African consumer base.
These factors, along with the mobile operators’ strategy of subsidising phones in the post-paid market, is expected to maintain the dominance in the new phone market over the used one.