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The Asian Mobile Consumer Decoded

3 minute read | September 2013

Smartphone penetration in the Asia-Pacific region is booming. In fact, penetration in a number of markets in the region is approaching saturation point, having already eclipsed penetration levels in the U.S. and many European nations.


While Nielsen expects the growth in ownership of connected devices to begin leveling out, consumer use of these devices will continue to evolve and expand, presenting vast opportunities for organizations to engage with consumers on an almost ubiquitous platform. It’s therefore becoming more critical than ever for companies to develop sophisticated mobile strategies designed to leverage changing connected device behaviors and cultivate ongoing consumer engagement.

As smartphone functionality improves and expands, along with consumer awareness and knowledge of handset functionality, consumers are spending increasing amounts of time on their smartphones. In Southeast Asia alone, smartphone owners spent an average of more than three hours per day on their smartphones in June 2013. They spent the most time using chat apps, social networking and entertainment activities like games and multimedia. Even though smartphone penetration hasn’t yet reached 100 percent, app usage is burgeoning. Globally, one in every five mobile users (1.2 billion) is using apps, according to Portio Research. In Asia-Pacific, apps for games, social networking and multimedia are among the most-used.

Viewing video via smartphone is also starting to gain traction in Asia, particularly in more developed markets like Hong Kong and Singapore. Comparatively, adoption of mobile video in developing Asia-Pacific markets has been slower to gain traction. Consequently, mobile video content is a growing consideration for both advertisers and media owners. Importantly, engagement among the consumers that are watching video on their mobile handsets is very high. Consumers who are watching mobile video in the majority of Asia-Pacific markets are doing so more than 10 times per week on average, which illustrates the exciting opportunities for marketers to build a lasting connection with users.


Soaring smartphone ownership and usage is also presenting a huge mobile commerce opportunity in the region. While mobile commerce is still largely untapped in a majority of Asia-Pacific markets, it’s very well progressed in markets like Korea and Japan. In fact, close to nine in 10 (89%) Japanese consumers and around two-thirds (67%) of Korean consumers participated in mobile commerce activities in July 2013. Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Australia might be the next big mobile commerce markets, as this technology wave is beginning to catch on. As this growth gains momentum, mobile commerce will play an increasingly critical role in shaping the future of retail in Asia.

The increase in smartphone usage in the region is also paving the way for advertisers to connect with consumers. Although mobile advertising is still very much in a nascent phase, many agencies and advertisers are experimenting with formats to see what works and what doesn’t, and receptiveness to mobile ads is growing among smartphone owners in Asia-Pacific. Currently, the ads that support free content without disrupting the user experience are the ones that are the most widely accepted. Subsequently, advertisers looking to leverage mobile platforms should focus on providing an engaging experience that doesn’t interfere with a user’s overall experience.

While mobile technology is evolving rapidly, it has a long flight path ahead. Even so, the best practices for engaging with mobile users are no different than those for engaging with any other consumers. That said, success with the mobile consumer hinges on understanding the opportunities and challenges, as well as the drivers and motivators mobile behavior—all of which are key considerations when it comes to developing strategies that tap into those drivers and motivators.

This article is based on a recent webinar discussing today’s Asian mobile consumer. For additional information, download the webinar, or contact Sagar Phadke.

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