By Marco Veremis
By 2019, nearly 70 percent of the global population is expected to be active on mobile devices. Of those connections, 4.5 billion will be made possible by smartphones and 3.1 billion by feature phones. To take advantage of emerging markets, device manufacturers and mobile players must adapt their offerings – which are currently focused toward Western customers – and localize their services to consumers in intensified growth markets such as Latin America and Africa.
Growth-market customers care about more than price; they also need access to payment options and content that’s relevant to them.
Still, cost definitely matters. Microsoft recently released its new Lumia 532 and Lumia 435 phones to strengthen its low-end offerings and reach new global customers. At $93 and $81, respectively, these devices appeal to consumers in regions such as India, where many are transitioning from basic feature phones to affordable smartphones. Similarly, Google recently announced that Android One, its low-cost device targeted at growth markets, will launch in Indonesia at the end of this month.
Big mobile players are beginning to understand the growth potential that can result from delivering cost-friendly phones. Such “price localization” is a key first step.
In addition to pricing, there is the issue of payment obstacles. Upstream’s “The Next Mobile Frontier Report” reveals that 44 percent of consumers would prefer to purchase content directly through mobile operators (instead of app stores), if they had the option to. However, this is not possible for many mobile users, as 21 percent of consumers cannot access credit or banking facilities, rendering Apple’s App and Google’s Play Stores obsolete.
To successfully reach mobile users in growth markets, it’s critical to understand what kinds of mobile content they seek. The Mobile Frontier report also discusses how consumers in emerging markets have different yet distinct mobile wish lists. For example, they prefer health service content and education apps, unlike their Western counterparts, who tend to prefer apps focused on social media and retail. Additionally, health and education services have enormous growth potential, as an equal or higher proportion of non-mobile users expressed strong willingness to try them in the future.
An important note: Even when mobile users are able to purchase content, they often cannot locate content they desire on their mobile devices. Upstream research also shows that consumers in global markets (Brazil, India, China, Nigeria and Vietnam) want to access health services and education content and apps specifically, but currently, only 33 percent are able to do so. Additionally, there are often translation issues because content is not properly localized in accordance with the user’s language. In order for Apple and Samsung to see continued success, not to mention tech companies such as Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook and their solutions partners, brands and organizations with global mobile presences must sync their content offerings to each market.
To emphatically note: 2015 poses a unique opportunity for mobile players to extend their global reach. The competition is intensified as local players such as Xiaomi and Huawei (in China) gain substantial ground. Through localizing content, app access and price, organizations can better capture worldwide consumer attention.
Marco Veremis is founder and CEO of Upstream, where he sets the company’s strategic direction and spearheads expansion. He has also been chairman of the board since 2002. Veremis is a mentor for Endeavor and Openfund, and serves as vice president of the board of HAMAC and as an angel investor and board adviser for Workable HR.