By the end of 2015, 36% of people in Asia–which is more than twice the population of Europe–will own a smartphone. It’s a tempting conduit for marketers.
However, this growing market is far from homogenous. Figures from Forrester Research reveal that although 86% of Singapore’s residents will own a smartphone by the end of 2015, a much lower 44% will own one in China and just 23% in India.
Paul Budde, managing director of Sydney-based Paul Budde Communications, said this jumble of technologies and devices across the region is the reason there is no uniform platform or communications infrastructure.
Devices and network access also vary within individual countries. For example, Hong Kong and Singapore are leading the world with the fastest connectivity, while much of the population in developing countries, such as Laos and Myanmar, is still reliant on 2G networks–precluding most forms of mobile advertising beyond voice or text campaigns.
Budde also said that large sections of the populations of China and India are also corralled onto 2G networks, with faster communications centred on major cities.
Besides the challenge of network speeds, there is a diverse and growing range of devices available across the region.
“If you do want to do a national campaign, then you are still going to be dealing with Apple devices and a dozen different Androids,” Budde said.
Apple is a strong presence in many markets. In fact, in April the company announced that iPhone sales to Greater China exceeded those in the United States.
At the same time, a broad array of Android devices can be found. While all use the Google operating system, they are subtly different, which can prove challenging for marketers developing device-optimised campaigns.
Compounding the issue is the rise of China’s homegrown Xiaomi Mi smartphones, which feature their own technological ecosystem, making it even harder to achieve uniformity.
Nation, Not Region
For some organisations, the issue of uniformity is academic given how marketing is a nation-by-nation exercise, rather than a regional one.
“These countries are all at different stages of evolution–there is no one-size-fits-all,” said Vinay Dixit, Singapore-based vice president of strategy for Electrolux Major Appliances in the Asia-Pacific region. And just as this applies to consumer mobile platforms, it also applies to the products and brands marketed to consumers in different countries in the region.
“Cultural context is very critical for us,” Dixit said. “So the way a consumer packs a refrigerator in India is completely different from the way it is packed in Vietnam. We need to talk to the consumer in a way that resonates for them.”
Mobile devices are important in marketing campaigns, Dixit said, but he prefers to concentrate mobile marketing efforts on post-sales. This means maintaining strong relationships with the consumer for the five to seven years they may own a product, so that when it is time to replace it, Electrolux is front of mind. “That’s where mobile is useful,” Dixit said.
Mobile Optimisation Matters
Nevertheless, Dixit is mindful that while “80% of consumers go to the store to make a decision, 80% use their mobiles to research products,”–so it is important to have a mobile-optimised site.
Allen Qu, founder and chief executive of Beijing-based Netconcepts China, an Internet marketing and search specialist, echoed Dixit. Google recently upped the ante with its new mobile search algorithm that effectively punishes sites that are not optimised for mobile devices.
Mobile-optimised sites are a must for marketers devising a pan-Asian approach, Qu said. Organisations that also develop apps for Apple, Android, and Xiaomi Mi phones used throughout the region will realize additional benefits, said Qu, who also suggested that regional marketers consider harnessing mobile social networks to reach clients and prospects.
Forrester agreed, noting that the billion or so people already using mobile messaging apps, such as WeChat, Line, KakaoTalk, Viber, and WhatsApp, represent a substantial opportunity for switched-on mobile marketers.
See what the Twitterverse is saying about mobile marketing: