Is Mobile First the right strategy for APAC?

Since the proliferation of smart phone in 2008, there have been a lot of talk about how Mobile needs to become an indispensable element of any digital marketing campaigns, especially in Asia Pacific. But how much we should focus on Mobile? Should we change from a Desktop first strategy to Mobile first? This post attempt to provide some discussion points on this topic.

Before we begin, I have to say wearesocial Singapore has done an absolutely fabulous job of gathering data and building this presentation called Social Digital & Mobile in APAC. You should definitely check it out. It has all the cool statistics that you need about Mobile in APAC and more.

1. What is a mobile first strategy?

I tried to search for definition of “mobile first” on Wikipedia but nothing came up. I guess the term itself is quite self explanatory.

My simple definition is: mobile first strategy is about creating/renting/promoting digital assets to engage with target audience primarily on mobile devices. So the next time you want to build a microsite/website, think about responsive/adaptive site, think about mobile native apps on iOS or Android, about promoting your campaigns via rich media banners on different mobile ad platforms.

The next part is about deciding whether a Mobile first strategy is suitable for your company?

To answer this question, there are many considerations and some of them are below:

  • Device ownership of your target audiences across APAC?
  • Do internet users in APAC access the internet via their smartphones? How long/How often do they connect via phone?
    • What are the barriers of going online via your phone in APAC?
  • Media consumption across screens in APAC?
  • What type of experiences your company can create for your target audiences on mobile? What does it take to build it (human resources, capital, processes etc…)
  • Could you promote your mobile assets at scale in APAC vs Desktop assets?
  • How can you track the return of your investment on mobile?

2. Smartphone penetration ranges from 15% to 87% across APAC.


smartphone penetration in apac

Source: Nielsen 2014 Asian Mobile consumer report, eMarketer smartphone use in JP

While we could see that smartphone penetration is reaching the saturation point in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia or Australia, there are still lots of room for growth in countries like Vietnam, Philippines, India, Indonesia. These countries are catching up fast though. GFK reported that smartphone revenue grew by more than 61% in SEA in the first 9 months of 2013.

In addition, tablet ownership reached half way point in Singapore (47%), Malaysia (42%) and highest in Hong Kong (57%).

As for when tablet/mobile shipment will exceed that of PC/laptop, I think may predict that reality to come soon. What this means is that the next 100 million of internet users in APAC may use tablet/mobile as their main connected devices instead of PC.

3. Near 50% of internet users in APAC spend at least 1 hour online via mobile devices

Of course across APAC, people would still spend more time on desktop/laptop. However time spent on mobile is increasing.

time spent online via mobile in apacSource: GlobalWebIndex

Countries like CN, HK are leading the region in terms of % of users who go online at least 1 hour per day via mobile.

Nearly half of users in APAC use Mobile while watching TV as well. This brings us to the reality of a multiple-screen world.

half of the users use mobile while watching tv

4. Mobile Media consumption?

Below are the top activities that people do on their mobile phone. There is no surprise that taking pictures, sending sms, playing games and browsing the internet are the top activities.

top 5 actitivies on mobile

As for top app categories used on mobile, again Entertainment activities like music, games, social network occupy the top spots. However, Utilities and Banking/Financial services are amongst the top 10 as well, which show that users in APAC are willing to engage.

top 10 app categories

5. Owned assets on Mobile

On Mobile, you have a number of options opened for you, just like on Desktop.

You could have a mobile friendly site, a mobile app or rent your space on social media platforms that are mobile friendly and have lots of users.

If you are thinking about a Mobile First strategy, I would think that you do not want to rely on social media platforms alone and would build your own assets.

I wrote a small piece about what options you have when it comes to mobile site or mobile app titled “are you ready for a mobile world“?

There are quite a lot of company offering Enterprise grade solution like HP Autonomy, IBM etc… that you could explore.

As for how much it would cost, what organisational structure you would need and timeline, I think you need to talk to specialists in this field on a case by case basis to understand.

While it’s true that mobile gives marketer the potential to connect with a segment of 1, deliver more contextually relevant experience, the way we interact/use our phone is fundamentally different from our desktop mainly because of smaller screen size and its constant companion 24/7.

6. Could you promote and track your mobile activities at scale in APAC?

I think that as programmatic buying is getting more and more popular in APAC, together with the ads ecosystem built by Google, Facebook, Twitter and other players, you have a lot of options to promote your assets or build your brand on mobile. You could put your ads in front of hundred of millions of people in APAC, targeting them based on their location, phone model, interest, sometime gender/age group, previous searching behaviours, previous browsing history etc…

With mobile, the potential to do hyper targeted location targeting is enormous. Current technology could pin-point people to a precise building/location so it’s more the matter of privacy and willingness to share location data from consumers.

When it comes to tracking, there are a lot of analytics solution that helps you to track your mobile site or your mobile apps at scale as well. Almost all of the big players have solutions so you just need to do a bit research on Google or take a look at Mobile Lumascape presented by Luma Partners.

Obviously, if you want to tackle attribution problems (between multiple screens, or online to offline), it’s another issue. I don’t think we have a good solution at scale in APAC yet at this point to tackle attribution across multiple screens. You could read more about different attribution problems and the solutions proposed by Avinash Kaushik here.

When it comes to attribution between online (through phone) to offline, however, I think people have been using login/coupon/uniques codes via sms or apps quite successfully to track traffic, sales, leads driven to store from mobile activities.

Lastly you could see that I am very much still a novice on this subject so I am welcome any guidance/debate. I would love to dig more into this and may follow with other posts in the future.

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