With the Digital Marketing and Advertising industry evolving with significant challenges are being brought to light. Discussions and ways in which fragmented ownership of digital content or assets may limit ‘consumers’ access to use and manage their digital goods thus making meaningful possession strained /difficult.

With deliberate restrictions set before to access digital assets i.e. access to website, mobile Apps or social media applications – terms of service agreements (T&C’s) have become protocol for consumers to agree to beforehand despite consumer behavior insight to fully comprehend the details to these agreements least so even read through the conditions.
The result for brands that see themselves as offering access to a service, but the consumer tends to perceive digital goods as possessions.

Public policy on digital content in general is still a work in progress in most African countries to catch up with these developments,whilst the online privacy and ownership agenda is well established i.e. guidelines set for content published on google,we are yet to see how consumers might have rights to their digital possessions.

Long term commitment concern?

Consumers grow strong emotional attachments to digital goods e.g.certificates ,photography,video games & music many of which exist online and are a lot cheaper to own.
Subscription-based business models such as Spotify and Netflix clearly position access to digital goods as temporary. (need i add it’s important to read the fine print whilst purchasing these digital goods)
With content hosted online there’s bound perception of permanence but no guarantee of continued access. Accounts may be terminated where consumers are seen to have violated the company’s terms,the service may be discontinued, whilst data loss is another potential risk.

When consumers’ relationships with content is functional and framed as accessing a service this lack of continuity is less problematic.
Increasingly we see companies encouraging consumers to engage in meaningful relationships with web based platforms and hosted content. e.g. Facebook has set up measures for personal accounts e.g. a Facebook memorialized account (facebook account for a dead person) can only be accessed by confirmed friends who can see the timeline or locate it in the search bar. The timeline will no longer appear in the suggestions section of the home page, and only friends and family can leave posts on the profile in remembrance.

In 2011 Google released a campaign ‘The Web is what you make of it.’
A campaign featuring a father sending anecdotes, photographs and videos to his daughter via email throughout her childhood with the intention of one day reflecting on these emails together – what we ideally looked at as scrapbooks have are being provided as a digital option thus children born in the social media era owning social media profiles,with new parents religiously uploading treasured photographs and leaving meaningful messages to be read when their older.

In summary

There is no doubt in Africa today emerging digital technologies have transformed consumer cultures. It is well documented that they have changed the way we shop for material goods, communicate and purchase goods and services in the 21st century.

About the Author: WMC Editor

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