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8 Things You Need to Know about Mobile in Asia

8 Things You Need to Know about Mobile in Asia
(An arcane glimpse at the future for everywhere else)

Guest Blog by Claire Mula

This festive quarter, Comscore estimates 13% of all e-commerce transactions will be made via a mobile device in the US, up from 8% in Q4 2011. Globally, AIBI Research expects 1 in every 4 e-commerce dollars will be spent via mobile in five years.

How does this compare with today’s “mobile-first” markets in Asia? What should retailers and brands seeking to engage Asian consumers in the world’s fastest growing economies be aware of when it comes to developing multi-channel strategies for Asian markets?

Here are the 8 facts you should know about mobile internet in Asia Pacific:

1: The present (not future) is mobile in Asia

Asia as a region accounts for over half of the world’s mobile devices. By 2016, Asia Pacific will account for 57.7% of all mobile phone users—nearly ten times the North American share.

2: China is now the largest smartphone market in the world

China, which surpassed the US as the largest smartphone market in the world, represented 22% of global smartphone shipments, while the US (formerly the largest market) accounted for 16%, according to estimates by Canalys.

3: Asians have ‘skipped’ desktop – gone straight to mobile internet

For many populations in markets in Asia, the first time they experience the web will be via a mobile device. In 2012, mobile replaced desktop as the predominant way to access the web in Asia’s most populated markets: China and India.

4: Asia-Pacific has the highest number of mobile payments users in the world

According to Gartner, Asia has the highest number of mobile payment users in the world. This is largely dominated by SMS payment methods born from a need to transfer money via ubiquitous methods across a fragmented payment marketplace. In contrast, in Asia’s most sophisticated mobile service market, Japan, more than 10% of mobile subscribers have used a m-wallet to buy goods and services.

5: Cash is still ‘King’ in Asia

Asia is a two-level mall when it comes to payments, and the region is very fragmented in terms of providers. Markets like India, Indonesia and China are largely “unbanked”- and cash is still king. There is a movement towards mobile as a payment channel for low-transaction value goods and services (<US$10). NFC is an opportunity to make the experience more user-friendly for everyone at a store level.

6: Mobile = “extended shopping hours”

Like their Western counterparts, mobile users in Asia continue shopping after hours. Among Sprooki’s Asian-based retail clients, 15% of purchases occur outside of mall operating hours. During holiday periods such as pre-Christmas, this can be as high as 34% in some markets.

7: Mall Culture a ‘hot-bed’ for location-based marketing

Location-targeted advertising in and around malls can increase response rates of untargeted or demographically targeted ads. Among retailers and malls who use Sprooki’s location-based marketing platform, between 60% and 85% of all shopper purchases or coupon downloads are made within 500 meters radius of the mall or store, in response to a location-targeted message. Around 10%-20% buy via their mobile device from a physical store while in the mall in order to benefit from a discount or value-added offer.

8: There is no common market – but similarities exist

Like Europe, Asia is culturally, economically and socially diverse. A market-by-market approach is best. However, in terms of mobile shopping “readiness”, Asian markets can be grouped based on a few important characteristics:

  • Tier 1: “mobile shopping” markets of Singapore, Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan, where both smartphone penetration and debit/credit card penetration is upward of 50%. In Singapore and Hong Kong, mobile comprises 23% and 41% of online commerce already.
  • Tier 2: markets such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, where smartphone penetration is below 50% and SMS and cash remain the predominant remittance or payment methods.
  • Asia’s largest market, China, experiences 42% smartphone penetration (and growing) -and is one of the world’s largest online commerce economies. China warrants a strategy all to itself.
  • India remains very much a feature phone market, with only 4% of total mobile users having smartphones. Irrespective, this still positions India as the fifth largest smartphone market globally – with 44 million internet-enabled mobile users.

Most markets in Asia require a “mobile-first” approach to effectively engage, win and retain local, internet-enabled consumers. For retailers, getting to market quickly and cost effectively across multiple markets at different stages of mobile evolution can be challenging and costly. Partnering with platform providers like Sprooki (www.sprooki.com) who offer customizable solutions, integrated local payment options and insights on how to engage local shoppers – when and where they shop – can help retailers reach their success metrics sooner and without the risk of over-investing.

Claire Mula is Co-founder & Managing Director of Sprooki

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