Saturday, August 23, 2014

Mobile Philippines: 2014 Update

Last Five Years: Re-examining mobile penetration and marketing 

Mobile is one of the most exciting digital arenas. I first wrote about Philippine mobile adoption in 2010. I spent a good chunk of 2010 in New York and mobile was the biggest buzzword. Everyone seemed to be asking, What's your mobile strategy? You end up comparing the digital trends in developed markets with our own situation. Everybody here seemed to be buzzing about the "killer app", but it didn't come, at least not from a local brand. Even for some of the clients I worked with who were ready to forge ahead with mobile, it was tough to strategize given the market gaps. New technology was mostly available on smartphones, which for a long time was Apple-dominated and limited to higher-income brackets and which excluded lower-income segments still on legacy phones. Despite our established mobile penetration, it has taken awhile to see significant numbers in smartphone penetration.

This year seems to be a tipping point. Digital and marketing experts are now asking local brands to ensure that their mobile strategy in place. We have some encouraging numbers – 15% smartphone penetration, still much lower compared to our Southeast Asian counterparts, but this is expected to surge to 50% in 2015.

In recent years we've seen stronger Pinoy adoption of global digital trends.

Major Developments
In 2010 I identified three key areas that were barriers to mobile adoption in the Philippines. Major developments in these areas have driven local penetration and usage.

Hardware: The Android OS accelerated the launch of local phone manufacturers and lowered phone price for lower-income segments, driving smart- and feature phone penetration. MyPhone, Cherry Mobile and Star Mobile have spurred smartphone growth with handsets priced in the USD 50 – 250 range. Even these lower-priced phones have cameras and can access the web, and through Android have access to the Play Store for apps. Android is the most popular operating system, with 91% of Philippine smartphones running on it. (Pinaroc, 2013)

Connectivity: Telcos have done their part! They've been offering data plans and products for prepaid users - such as standalone mobile browsing offers and social networking access bundled with Unli products - to make it easier to go online.




The next hurdle: Speed and reliability is still a big issue, however. Many Filipinos are not satisfied with their internet speeds on PC, let alone on mobile. This is definitely a gap area that needs to be addressed.

Content: With access to the Apple App store or the Google Play store, users now have so many apps to choose from. "32% of smartphone owners download six or more apps per month." (OnDevice, 2014) Social media sites Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, what I would guess are the most popular mobile apps in the country, all have mobile interfaces. Games remain to be the most popular type of app download, and music streaming services like Spotify or local Spinnr have become extremely popular.

The next opportunity: Locally-created, locally-contextualized apps and social/mobile content. We're using a lot of global social networks and apps but when will we find our clear voice in software content?

You're Up, Marketing!

There seem to be different grades of mobile strategy adoption. The most aggressive I've seen locally has probably been ABSCBN Mobile - an entirely new convergent product segment built with a bet on mobile and content.

Marketers certainly have more toys to play with now, depending on what is optimal for their digital strategy: Mobile Ads, Apps for Enterprise-level (e.g. pizza delivery), Apps for campaigns, Mobile content (e.g. Spotify for Coke or Spinnr for Smart), Mobile Commerce. On a more basic level much of the content developed for Twitter, Facebook and especially Instagram are accessible on mobile and can/should be considered part of a mobile strategy.

Local brands may not have maximized mobile yet, but it's encouraging that penetration is growing. The exact areas I identified in 2010 as barriers to mobile adoption have all been at least partially addressed. The landscape is ripe for innovation.



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