The top 10 most read articles on Think with Google Sub-Saharan Africa in 2020

Rifumo Mdaka / December 2020

By now all the adjectives used to describe the year that was 2020 have become cliches. But they’re true. Unprecedented, the new normal, never seen before in our lifetimes — it’s been a history-making year.

For us at Think with Google, the one thing that’s characterised this year most is the resilience that the industry has shown. Amidst challenges no one had planned for, teams and leaders rose to the occasion to change the ways in which we do marketing and indeed business forever. Your top 10 reads in 2020 are evidence of this.

1. How people decide what to buy lies in the ‘messy middle’ of the purchase journey

Digital acceleration is something the industry has been talking about for years, but the pandemic took that conversation up several notches. So when 2020 global e-commerce sales growth reached 2023 prediction levels, it became all the more important to understand the complexity of the consumer purchase decision process, something we called the ‘messy middle’.

Key insight: “Although the messy middle might seem a complicated place, it’s important to remember that to consumers it just feels like normal shopping.”

2. Why helpfulness should be the purpose of every business

Helpfulness has been a core value at Google since the very beginning. And the message of helpfulness couldn’t have been more appropriate in a year like 2020. In this piece, Marketing Director for Google Sub-Saharan Africa Mzamo Masito talks about the importance of earning consumer trust, leveraging technology to solve problems, and striking that all important balance of serving a customer respectfully and honourably at a profit.

Key insight: “Businesses don’t sell products, they sell the solution that the product enables. For some businesses, understanding this will require a mindset change.”

3. How 3 brands pivoted to meet changing consumer demand and grow online sales

Along with all the other terms to describe 2020, ‘pivot’ became a staple in marketing spaces. Leaders and teams looked to understand the most efficient ways to be there for their customers while staying safe and afloat. Engaging visuals, a holistic approach to promotion, and real-time optimisation were the strategies these three inspiring brands employed.

Key insight: “For your ads to succeed in this ‘messy middle,’ they need to first win — and then defend — consumer preference throughout the shopping journey. One way to achieve these goals is to pair relevant ads with visually rich and engaging content.”

4. Connect with new customers by tapping into intent

This year saw the launch of The Update video series, where Google and industry leaders shared their best insights on marketing today. In this episode, Natalie Zmuda, global executive editor of Think with Google, talks to Mary Ellen Coe, president of Google Customer Solutions, about how businesses can connect with new customers today.

Key insight: “When we talk about quality, we're talking about people with high purchase intent. You spend less time and resources converting customers and that means higher lifetime value for these businesses who are really in tough economic times.”

5. How the ad industry can sustain momentum for racial justice beyond this moment

The world grappled with another crisis this year: racial inequality. Tiffany Warren, chief diversity officer at Omnicom Group and founder and CEO of AdColor, called on creative and tech companies to create a lasting shift in their organisations and the broader industry.

Key insight: “To make a lasting shift in the industry, we need to develop and sustain deeper empathy for each other.”

6. How speeding up your mobile site can improve your bottom line

Africa has long set the example when it comes to being mobile first so any insight into making the experience better is sure to resonate. This report looks at the areas of opportunity that marketers can explore to increase conversions today: checkout, encouraging customers to stay longer on site, and lowering bounce rates.

Key insight: “To see the benefits from site speed improvement, businesses need a mobile-oriented culture.”

7. How to put privacy first and accelerate your business’s economic recovery

As more and more people come online, privacy will continue to be priority number one when initiating any marketing efforts. President of EMEA Business & Operations Matt Brittin describes why privacy isn’t just the right thing to do, but that it’s essential to earn the trust of both users and employees.

Key insight: “Privacy-first business practices are proven to drive better results, which are critical for businesses trying to reopen and recover after what has been a turbulent time for most.”

8. How a Kenyan bank helped sports gamblers save for future goals

The most effective marketing goes beyond conversions and profits — it works to improve the lives of its consumers. When KCB Bank noticed that Kenyan youths were gripped by a gambling addiction, it launched an experiential marketing campaign to encourage a savings behaviour instead.

Key insight: “At Google, we often summarise strategy into a simple phrase: know the audience, know the magic, connect the two.”

9. 5 agency leaders share their approaches to diversity, equity, and inclusion

Although the Black Lives Matter movement was galvanised out of the U.S., there are intimate parallels to the issues experienced in South Africa. We spoke to five Black agency leaders about their approaches to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and learned that this is commitment none of us can afford to ignore.

Key insight: “We know that marketing has the power to both break or solidify stereotypes, and it’s up to each of us to dedicate our energies to the former every day.”

10. Why synergising digital and TV is the future of video advertising

The pandemic saw more people than ever turning to video on demand at home, and brands responded accordingly. Looking to the future, a new report by Kantar and commissioned by Google found that marketers that plan their advertising across TV and YouTube have significantly better reach opportunities.

Key insight: “By using both platforms in unison, marketers are able to deliver a sum which is greater than the individual parts. The research shows this: YouTube adds 20% reach to TV’s 85%.”

2020 was a big year for Think with Google Sub-Saharan Africa. We launched our website this year and we are so thankful to all the contributors and readers for being with us on this ride — even through a pandemic. We’re excited to bring you more helpful insights and thought leadership in 2021 so consider subscribing to our newsletter so you don’t miss any of it. In the meantime, stay safe and well.

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