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Southeast Asia Execs Confirm Mobile Adoption Increases with Complete Coverage

2011 September 13
by David Eads

Mobile Commerce in Southeast AsiaI just returned from two weeks discussing strategy with mobile commerce executives across Southeast Asia. Despite having spent considerable time in North America, Latin America and Europe, this was my first trip to the region. I found the similarities and differences intriguing.

In North America and Europe, execs I meet often mentally write-off Asia as so foreign and different that their experience aren’t relevant. Perhaps this is true for South Korea and Japan which have very specialized markets; however, in Southeast Asia there continue to be far more similarities than differences.

For example, everyone is struggling with mobile adoption growth. Mobile is happening – and it’s happening fast – but, it’s still around 2-4% of online. Everyone wants it to grow faster, while struggling to support what they have. Many companies simply turn mobile on and customers show up with little or no promotion.

Similarly, travel and financial services lead the way. These verticals have higher adoption and the most mature solutions in each region around the world. Many of these companies are on their second or third major version of their mobile offering. Retail mobile commerce is poised for explosive growth when retailers fully commit to the mobile channel.

Southeast Asia has had mobile offerings longer than North America in particular. Asians have also more consistently supported feature phones and SMS than Americans and Canadians, since they have large populations of both rich and poor.

The result is that Asian executives confirm an important trend we’ve been seeing from our perspective in the industry:  visits increase permanently when you add mobile channels. Furthermore, with complete coverage, visits split evenly between mobile web and native applications.

Many U.S. & European companies are still wrestling with whether to support transactions on mobile web or native applications. The data very clearly shows the answer must be “both.” North American banks – and apparently Southeast Asia – have moved on and is finding ways to innovate and compete across all channels.

All channels are not equal, however. The Asian execs see similar transaction conversion rate differences to what we see across channels most prominently in North America.

In particular, we see iPhone native applications having 30% higher conversion rates than other channels (including Android native apps and mobile web). We expect this behavior to change over time as devices change and users – and companies – are more experienced with mobile.

The Asian execs confirmed that they have seen these patterns change over the years they’ve been live with mobile. Therefore analytics support and the agility to react to changes are absolutely critical for continued success. Today’s mobile strategy isn’t likely to be next year’s strategy.

Of course, the Asian economies are seeing much stronger growth than the U.S. and Europe which are mired in sovereign debt crises and the Great Recession. Asian companies are planning their second (and third) acts with mobile. Instead of considering new channels or new features, many Asian companies are planning major new lifestyle functionality around loyalty and rewards.

Furthermore, around the world, enterprise mobility and mobile commerce are meeting to create new, more strategic employee-facing applications that solve new problems using the devices employees choose while still securing company data and streamlining processes.

It’s clearer than ever to me that mobile is driving innovation through all its incarnations and across every channel of the business from bricks-and-mortar, online, and beyond. Now, I’m off to India.

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