The Future of Marketing in Africa: Digital trends in 2021 and beyond

In this article, our expert team at Pulse is sharing six key trends shaping online user behaviour across Africa going forward – and ways your digital marketing strategy can leverage the changing environment.

1. Covid-19 has accelerated and shifted consumer behaviours permanently.

(Image credit – Unsplash)

The pandemic has prompted many users to try new ways of consuming content and shopping. We expect these consumption shifts to outlast the pandemic, as they are an acceleration of behaviours that started emerging pre-pandemic.

To illustrate this, McKinsey’s survey of Nigerian consumers during the pandemic shows that 46% of respondents tried a new digital shopping method since the start of the pandemic, leading to a growth in consumers shopping online of 30% to 65% depending on the category of items purchased. 

The discovery of these new shopping options is led by three main channels:

  • Online ads (33%)
  • Recommendation from family and friends (23%)
  • Seeing someone talk about it on social media (18%)

With these discovery channels, a strong digital ad strategy as well as generating discussions on social media by engaging users and working with influencers is more important than ever. These channels are equally accessible to small businesses and larger brands, giving the opportunity to new products to grow fast online. 

In terms of content consumption, social media remains by far the main touchpoint for online users in our region. According to We Are Social and Hootsuite’s Yearly Digital Report, Nigerians, Ghanaians, and Kenyans spend on average three and a half hours on social media per day, compared to two and a half hours on average globally. In Nigeria alone, 6 million people joined social media networks for the first time in 2020.  

2. Snackable video content is no longer an option, but a must.

(Image credit – iStock Photo)

With the rising time spent on social media, video has become a must to successfully engage users. New video formats have taken the lead with the emergence of platforms like TikTok and the adoption of competing products such as reels on Instagram. 

These short, snackable video formats can be leveraged by brands that are not afraid to be authentic and willing to develop new ways of communicating with their audiences. You can check out Pulse Nigeria’s TikTok channel to see how we have found new ways of telling the news on the channel. 

In order to get started with these formats, we recommend collaborating with creators that have mastered the language of TikTok. These formats are also the perfect medium for user-generated content competitions thanks to their ease of use in creating videos with specific sounds, filters, and effects.

3. Social media influencers connect with your future consumers organically.

(Image credit – Unsplash)

With the emergence of more social media platforms & the growth of the existing ones, we are seeing the rise of a new type of testimonial: the social media influencer / creator.

Whereas the general popularity of a celebrity has an impact on its influence on social media, we are seeing an increasing shift towards a new generation of influencers that have become popular thanks to their exceptional content creation skills, authenticity and virality.

They have often mastered the art of storytelling on social media and can become strong partners to co-create content with brands.  

A subset of these influencers is known as micro-influencers: This new generation of smaller, but keenly followed creators has become more and more popular among fans and marketers: their loyal subscribers are more willing to actively engage with their – and as a partner, your – content. As the smaller influencers tend to occupy more specific market segments, they have an easier time to attract audiences who are genuinely interested in your product or service as long as it fits their niche. This increases conversion and ROI.

Choosing a strong content, management and analytics partner for such campaigns can help reduce administrative burden and keep your own focus on the message you want to deliver.

4. Build direct channels to your consumers, get first-party data and do more with it!

(Image credit – Bakers)

With a general shift towards privacy online, relying on data from Facebook, Google, and other large platforms will not be enough. Users are willing to share their data with brands they love and trust – when they understand the value they can get out of it. 

By building a strong first-party data strategy, brands can build a direct communication channel with their users, learn about their needs, and delight them by improving their products and services through this direct relationship.

A first step to do so can be newsletters and SMS campaigns with offers – using existing client databases. Asking for feedback helps you learn what users appreciate most.

5. User-generated content attracts your audience authentically.

(Image credit – Unsplash)

As the name suggests, user-generated content (UGC) is created by your customers and users. Therefore, this material has no direct brand intervention, and its format can be completely different: comments on the brand’s own publications, text and video publications on the user’s own social networks, comments on blogs and professional publications, as well as ratings. Consumers often trust the recommendation of other consumers far more than the ads by the company itself. approach

On social media and on platforms such as Tripadvisor, Twitter and Google Maps, it is one of the most authentic forms of digital word-of-mouth marketing, making it a great way to make brands more accessible and recognizable. Old trends, new perspectives: We know that this type of content is not entirely new. Verbal advertising has always existed, but the social distancing rules and restrictions that everyone faces this and last year have led to a massive increase in UGC. Since many consumers cannot meet and test the product in person, they will check the reviews to determine whether the product is the right decision.

Having a strategy around this phenomenon in a digital-first environment is crucial. While the content is user-generated, a well-placed request for ratings on a platform or a promotion requesting for audience submissions are just two ways that companies can accelerate it.

6. Sell on social media.

(Image credit – Marketing Land

Some recent changes in social media globally have allowed many companies to use their social media profiles as direct sales channels:

With the release of sales catalogs on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, large companies are starting to take social commerce seriously. By 2022, social commerce will become one of the biggest digital marketing trends globally. While the sales catalogs are not live yet in Africa (we will keep you updated!), social can already be used for strong lead generation. Many online shoppers go through social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram or Youtube to research your products and ultimately buy.

Therefore, selling your brand, products and services on social media is more important than ever. Adding a simple link to an online shop to your social media or highlighting ways to get the product customers can see make this a simple exercise. When a simplified shopping experience is provided to buyers, they are more likely to buy. These and other social commerce strategies allow brands to optimize their shopping experience across multiple channels and platforms. 

What is your next move?

The digital marketing trends that we have listed here are not exhaustive. Nonetheless, just by devoting more resources to social media and research around the topics, you undoubtedly will have a better starting point for planning strategic possibilities. The shared hot trends can help you attract more website visits, more potential customers and more sales. At the same time, they can ensure that your customer base is kept up to date. These trends are also important to help you better understand expectations for years to come and how they will affect your broader competitive landscape. And of course: you can get in touch with us if you need a sparring partner to determine your next steps!

If you would like our team to help you with your marketing, send us an email here.

Nigeria – [email protected]

Ghana – [email protected]

Kenya – [email protected]

Senegal – [email protected] 

Pulse set for pan-African growth with international initiatives & incoming, international management team

With strong media & marketing teams and offerings in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Senegal, Pulse has become an important source of information & engagement to its users and a trusted partner to its clients. With the already announced launches in Côte d’Ivoire and Uganda later in the year, Pulse will be present with platforms and organizations in the six key markets in their respective regions in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Today, Pulse is announcing several international initiatives to support these operations and strengthen its pan-African offering:

  • First, Pulse has re-launched its corporate website under On it, partners, clients and users can find out about the services Pulse is offering; review cases of Pulse media & marketing projects and live chat with a team member about collaborating with Pulse. Based on Pulse’s value to collaborate with local ecosystems, the website’s headline images have been designed by Nigerian artist Victor Veddart.
  • Second, Pulse is tomorrow launching the monthly Pulse Insights-newsletter on the most important trends in marketing, media and digital in Africa today. It is focused on sharing Pulse’s learnings as a leader in the space – to help companies market better & sell more in Africa. It is free and you can sign up here.
  • Finally, Pulse is now available to South African partners with a physical presence in a shared office space in Johannesburg. Companies interested to tap into the wider African market through the media and marketing opportunities of Pulse can meet team members there. You can find Pulse’s presence here.

In addition to these initiatives, Pulse’s Founder & Publisher Leonard Stiegeler is today announcing a newly arranged international management to be fully in place by 1 July to drive further international growth:

Moritz Boullenger will be stepping into the role of Managing Director of Pulse, managing the company and heading both an international leadership team of regional and local Managing Directors and an international coordination team of subject-matter experts. He will be replaced in his current role of Managing Director of Pulse Nigeria by Fiona Weeks, who is joining the international leadership team from her current role as Director of Digital Strategy. Fiona will be supported by Katharina Link, MD of Pulse Ghana, taking on the additional responsibility of MD for West Africa.

Leonard on the appointment: ‘Moritz has successfully led our Ghanaian and then Nigerian operations and built out Pulse’s crucial tech platform. I have full confidence in him to drive sustained growth at Pulse with our team. With Fiona & Katharina in the lead in our biggest markets and region I know we will go from strength to strength.’

As Managing Director of Pulse Senegal & Francophone West Africa, Caroline Mbodj will continue to build up operations and support a new MD to come in later in the year in Côte d’Ivoire. 

In the role of Managing Director of Pulse Kenya & East Africa there will be a change: Leonie von Elverfeldt has decided to transition out of Pulse, after building up Pulse Kenya over the past 4 years. As part of Leonie’s transition, Wamuyu Kiragu will join as new Managing Director for the country and region, also supporting a new MD to come in later in the year in Uganda.

Leonard on the transition: ‘Leonie’s impact in building Pulse in Kenya to be a love brand for our users and partner to our clients cannot be overstated. 

Her hard work, expertise, continuous drive for innovation and energy have built a strong and sustainable base of our Pulse brand in East Africa. Her dedication also shows in her support in winning Wamuyu to join our team: I have no doubt that with Wamuyu’s experience, expertise and network, we are set for continuation of the success in Kenya and the region.’

This international leadership team of Pulse will be supported by the international coordination team, working with all countries as well as international partners and clients. It comprises of the recently onboarded Head of International Business Development, Devon Llywellyn Van den Berg, based in South Africa, and Head of Marketing & Content Growth, Kanyinsola Aroyewun, based in Nigeria, as well as the Head of HR & Admin, Temi Akinya, based in Nigeria. Temi will be promoted to Director HR & Admin as part of the overall adaption – completing an international management poised to enable and support Pulse’s 150+ team members throughout the continent.