In the next five years, another 2.5 billion smartphone users will come online — of which 2 billion will come from emerging markets. What’s more, the largest percentage of smartphone users in these markets are millennials, offering brands the opportunity to capture the loyalty of young people and families for years to come.
But even experienced mobile developers can make mistakes when they set out to tap into this huge opportunity. This is particularly true if companies have built their customer base in economies with highly developed digital infrastructures because they might make costly assumptions about customer behaviour where it is less so.
Customer habits are different
At Naspers, I often talk about ‘device as demographics’. Understanding which people own what device can help direct local development builds and marketing initiatives. For example, low-spec smartphones proliferate in India. These phones hold far fewer apps than is expected elsewhere and as a result, users tend to install and uninstall apps readily.
Research has put app uninstall rates as high as 90 percent in the country, with developers competing for as little as five to ten spots on each device. China, Brazil and Russia also have high uninstall rates. This can make acquiring users via app installs very expensive.
In addition, low-cost Android devices dominate over high-end iOS in many developing markets. Luxury goods sellers therefore would be well-suited to target iOS users. In the USA, Google AdWords allows advertisers to bid on users based on their income. In other markets, advertisers can still reach the wealthy by explicitly targeting iPhone users — particularly owners of the newest model. On the other hand, for most companies seeking mass adoption, developers should prioritize Android.
Payments are different
Another critical consideration is the payment route, which is often an afterthought for mature businesses entering less mature markets. In Mexico, for example, it’s common to purchase goods online, print the receipt, take it to a local convenience store, and pay cash to release funds to the vendor.
In India, despite having the world’s second largest population of 1.3 billion people, there are fewer than 50 million credit cards in use — a reality many companies overlook when they open their online businesses accepting credit cards only. In Brazil, 79 percent of payments are made in instalments, meaning that even a local pizza delivery may be paid incrementally, interest-free, over 10+ instalments.
So simply translating your app and localizing the language is not enough if people can’t pay you. Companies that assume payments will be frictionless need to understand local alternatives and assess how delayed gratification affects their business model.
Local infrastructure is different
Connection speed also plays a critical role. Ultra-fast connectivity in places such as Finland, Denmark, South Korea and Singapore facilitates slick user interfaces, video interactions, and on-demand streaming. But slower speeds in Botswana, Pakistan and Algeria for example, necessitate the development of lightweight apps. In Africa, where the cost of mobile data is prohibitive, consumers prefer to download content via Wi-Fi for offline consumption later.
All of these factors impact the way that mobile companies should deploy their products into these markets. Rather than take a universal, top-down approach, the most successful companies will embrace local conditions and idiosyncrasies and tailor their entry accordingly. The key to this is knowledge of the local mobile landscapes. With this, companies have an incredible opportunity to reach a further 2 billion smartphone users.
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