Success, Growth Await Companies that Engage Emerging ‘Mobile-First’ Markets

Around the world, smartphone adoption is soaring, leaving traditional computers (and the conventional web) in the dust. According to data from StatCounter, global webpage views on desktop browsers have plummeted 13% in recent months. In a mere three years, more than one-third of the world’s consumers—about 2.6 billion people—will own a smartphone.

Spending on the mobile web is skyrocketing, too. M-commerce now outpaces traditional ecommerce by three-to-one. Next year, global m-commerce sales will reach $291 billion, almost tripling 2012’s sales.

But where is this growth in adoption and m-commerce spending taking place? My company, which localizes mobile websites for international consumers, examined publicly available information and proprietary data to find out.

For Western companies, some of these thriving mobile-first markets are close to home, but valuable opportunities are hailing from emerging markets, too. Let’s take a look.

U.S. Hispanics

The U.S. Hispanic market is increasingly affluent and influential, with a current buying power of $1.5 trillion. Hispanics also lead the country in adoption of new digital devices, according to Google research. Nearly half are “mobile-dominant” online, meaning they prefer mobile devices to desktop computers. That’s much higher than the non-Hispanic average of 38%.

According to that Google report, Hispanics are 1.5 times more likely to buy digital media than non-Hispanics. They also access mobile banking and coupon services more often, too. (For banking: 65% vs. 53%. For coupons: 25% vs. 17%). They’re early adopters of mobile payments. About 25% have used a mobile device to pay for an in-store transaction.  (The U.S. average is 13%).

Based on our analysis, companies that cater to Spanish-speaking Hispanics with localized mobile sites see positive results. One of our clients generates over half of its Spanish online revenue through its mobile site. Weeks after we launched a Spanish mobile site for another client, its total Spanish site traffic (across desktop and mobile) grew 80%. Mobile revenue grew by 363%.

In fact, this client’s mobile site will generate, in revenue, 379 times its annual cost.

Chinese Canadians

Chinese Canadians are another increasingly affluent and mobile-savvy market. This demographic is poised for massive population growth: a recent study suggests that—at anticipated immigration and birth rates—the Chinese Canadian population will explode in several key Canadian cities in the next 15 years.

Our research indicates this market also indexes highly in mobile. We manage localized Chinese sites for many major Canadian banks. About 40% of all traffic coming to these sites hails from smartphones and tablets. This corresponds with recent comScore data: 51% of all Canadian online traffic hails from a phone or tablet.

Chinese-speaking Canadians prefer localized content to English or French content. They also return more often to localized sites. Based on our exclusive research, page-per-visit rates increase by as much as 69%, and some conversion rates rise by 130%.

Emerging Markets

Smartphone adoption is thriving in many international emerging markets. In 2014, China—the world’s leading smartphone market—crossed the 500-million mark for active smartphones. In 2016, India will have more active smartphones than the U.S. Indonesia will surpass Japan and Russia in 2018 to become the world’s fourth-largest smartphone market.

In three years, the top five global smartphone markets will be:

  • China: 704.1 million
  • India: 279.2 million
  • United States: 220 million
  • Indonesia: 103 million
  • Russia: 76.4 million

But this list doesn’t tell the full story. Emerging markets will continue to adopt smartphones at a higher rate than mature markets. When we look at where this growth is the highest, the opportunities for international engagement become clear:

  • Indonesia: +98%
  • India: +67%
  • Philippines: +56%
  • Vietnam: +52%
  • Nigeria: +48%
  • Brazil: +48%
  • Mexico: +46%

This growth leaves mature markets in the dust. For instance, China’s smartphone growth will increase by 23% during the same timeframe. U.S. growth will increase by 20%, and Russia, 31%.

Smaller markets in Southeast Asia are already seeing astonishing growth. Take Vietnam, one of the fastest-growing smartphone markets. It experienced smartphone growth of 25% this year. Nine in 10 adults now own a smartphone.

Latin America is booming, too. We recently analyzed mobile traffic to Spanish sites we’ve localized for e-commerce clients. Average Order Values are robust: $143 for Mexico, $195 for Argentina, $186 from Venezuela.

Companies are leaning in to engage these mobile-first markets. One key indicator is mobile ad spending, which is on the rise. For instance: mobile Internet ad spends in Mexico (another high-growth market) will increase 76% to reach $391.4 million this year.

As organizations cast their eyes to overseas markets for expanding their reach and revenue, they must consider launching localized mobile sites to engage these consumers. With so many markets’ smartphone adoption rates hitting all-new highs, companies that engage these consumers on their devices of choice, in their languages of choice, stand to gain a powerful competitive advantage.

Charles Whiteman is senior vice president of client services at MotionPoint Corporation