Six Powerful Tips to Reach Global Customers on Their Smartphones
If your company wants to expand into emerging international markets, it should invest resources in engaging those customers via their mobile devices.
Why? Smartphones are the preferred internet-connected device for many global consumers—and increasingly, it’s the only device they have for researching and purchasing products and services. Indeed, mobile ecommerce (m-commerce) is outpacing traditional e-commerce by 3-to-1. Next year, global m-commerce sales will reach $291 billion, nearly triple the sales of just three years ago.
It’s easier than ever to expand into new markets online, but the global mobile space still has unique challenges that could catch some companies unawares. Let’s look at a few “survival tips” to help conquer them.
Bandwidth: friend and foe. Bandwidth—the capacity of data that flows through network connections—plays a critical role in mobile experiences. Some markets have state-of-the-art cellular data networks with robust bandwidth accommodations, which deliver peppy load-times and performance. Others don’t. Companies must understand these market-specific inconsistencies and create content accordingly.
For instance, South America is home to some of the slowest Internet connections in the world—an important consideration to note, should your company wish to expand in those markets. According to Akamai’s State of the Internet report, Argentina has the slowest in the region, with an average of 1.8 Mbps. (The global average is 4 Mbps.) Attractive online markets such as Brazil and Colombia feature better, though comparatively slow, speeds of 2.5 Mbps.
Tip #1: If a market’s bandwidth is slower than what’s needed to effectively present your localized digital experience, your new customers won’t transact there.
We’ve seen companies, especially those in the UK, create international mobile sites with the assumption that global users have access to the same ultra-high speed bandwidth UK users do. This often results in disaster. Sites that aren’t optimized for slower connections usually see higher bounce rates. Users disengage when they have to wait.
Tip #2: In contrast, U.S.-based companies that target affluent markets with strong infrastructures (such as those in Europe) can reasonably assume these nations will have faster-than-average internet connections and higher-than-average smartphone penetration rates. This empowers companies to cater to those more robust “pipelines,” and higher user expectations.
And speaking of U.S. companies: Most don’t dedicate many resources to creating mobile-friendly experiences for domestic consumers. That’s a mistake, but it’s an even greater one for global markets. Even when launching an overseas site in a high-bandwidth market, don’t neglect to offer users a mobile experience.
Multi-screen experiences aren’t a global phenomenon. Technology pundits and marketers have been crowing about the ubiquity of the “second screen” experience for years, but that trend isn’t as omnipresent as you might think.
In mature markets, mobile experiences are used to augment content consumption. This might mean delivering real-time complementary experiences to “first-screen” television viewers, or creating access anywhere omnichannel retail experiences.
But emerging markets are different. In these regions, desktop computers never achieved the same levels of market penetration. Here, mobile devices have provided the first internet connection—an entirely new breed of “first screen.”
As a result, these consumers use mobile devices as their primary internet connections, and for a wider variety of activities. Analysis of desktop website traffic tells the story: According to data from StatCounter, the share of global webpage views on desktop has decreased 13 percent to 62 percent, compared to the same for mobile phones which has grown from 31 percent to 39 percent. Developing markets including Nigeria, India, and South Africa is where mobile’s share of web traffic dominates desktop.
Tip #3: This phenomenon isn’t limited to emerging markets. American companies keen to connect with U.S. Spanish speakers should ensure that their mobile experiences are localized, and that appropriate resources are dedicated to marketing to this demographic.
Tip #4: Offering a more robust, comprehensive, and user-friendly experience for your new global customers requires placing a greater emphasis on localized mobile sites. This is nowhere more important than in China, where there’s a developing one-screen society—mobile devices are simply displacing other media.
This is very different than the multi-screening we often hear about in the U.S.
The Power of Search and Mobile Design. Offering localized on-site search (OSS) functionality is also especially important for mobile experiences.
Tip #5: An in-language OSS experience that is predictive in anticipating users’ queries—and can account for common misspellings—saves users time, and increases engagement. Indeed, serving these users quickly may mean the difference between winning and losing a sale.
But having such search functionality won’t be especially effective if your company’s international mobile sites have lousy designs. In our post-mobilegeddon world, greater focus has been placed on desktop sites with responsive design, and mobile-friendly sites. But now, companies are increasingly facing a new question relating to mobile users: Should businesses stick with a responsive site, or deploy an exclusively mobile site?
Offering a responsive version of a site has several benefits—namely, companies can use their existing sites, and there’s no need for a separate team or budget to be allocated for its maintenance. However, this route becomes difficult when managing a large site, as the site’s complexity may not lend itself well to an optimized responsive experience.
Tip #6: Remember that for most consumers in emerging markets, the mobile experience will be the only experience they’ll have of your brand. Since they’re customized for smaller screens, mobile sites simply display better than responsive sites. Consider launching localized mobile sites for your international efforts.