Emerging Markets Offer Big Mobile Opportunity

Feb 03, 2014

Article ImageThanks to cheaper prices, smartphones are now in the hands of more and more consumers around the world-particularly in emerging markets such as Africa, the Middle East and the Asia/Pacific rim-and that means big opportunities for western businesses and marketers. "The opportunities in the emerging markets are without a doubt tremendous," explains Peggy Anne Salz, a mobile industry analyst based in Germany who is the founder and chief analyst for Mobilegroove.com.

"They are not to be ignored for the simple reason they offer such volume and such possibilities-even viral sharing and other possibilities through content and apps," adds Salz, who is also the author of an upcoming book, Apponomics: The Insider's Guide to a Billion Dollar App Business. "Emerging markets are also exciting because that's where there is pent up demand, untapped interest and just a desire to explore the wealth of content and apps and stuff at their fingertips."

Naturally, emerging markets are "very interesting for a lot of companies," observes Michael Meinhardt, co-founder of San Francisco-based Cloudwords, which provides a localization automation platform to globalize campaigns and reach audiences in over 30 languages. 

"It's not that they've tapped out in their existing international markets but they are always looking at the long tail languages and the long tail market," he says. "It's one of those things where companies are forever forced to take a look at new markets; certainly with the falling prices around smartphones, that's only going to accelerate a company's desire to reach out to these new consumers they wouldn't have otherwise had access to."

Western companies are testing the waters in places like Russia, the Baltics, Poland, the Czech Republic, Vietnam, and Malaysia to name a few, says Meinhardt. "And, what we find is that they're not going headfirst as they would with a top 10 language [such as English, Chinese or Spanish] but they are really dipping their toes," explains Meinhardt. "They are really testing the markets with social content in the native language; they're testing the markets with marketing, email campaigns, and landing pages before they actually go whole hog into a specific emerging market. It used to be the case that if a company were going to enter a new market, they would go through a fairly elaborate analysis about the market. What we are finding now is companies are looking to accelerate that a little bit and dip their toes in the markets."

The Middle East is one market that is "growing quite immensely," says Meinhardt. "It's one of those things where Arabic is obviously at the forefront of a lot of the products we are seeing come across with the companies we work with."

With respect to localization, Meinhardt points out, "You're actually talking about adapting the content or the materials being produced such that it looks, feels and reads like it was developed inside the region or market that you're targeting. You do have to translate the content; the smart companies are ones that are using in-country translators to actually do the translation for them."

Of course, cultural subtleties are something else to keep in mind. "You can say, ‘Ok, translation-no-brainer; I will do that,"' says Salz. "But, actually, it's also about cultural nuances and other things that you have to know about" depending on the market.

According to Salz, Africa is currently a "booming market." She adds, "It's an exciting market and it's also a very sophisticated market." It's also a market that does not have to deal with what Salz calls "the legacy of having a fixed internet or fixed internet services."

Salz notes that emerging market countries like Nigeria "are mobile first," meaning, for example, "When they want to do banking, they jumped right into mobile banking. As a result, mobile banking is very advanced in Nigeria," says Salz. "Nigeria is the most sophisticated mobile banking country in the world. So, in a way, they are late to the party, but in terms of technology, they are very far ahead of us. That's the wonderful irony."

Salz says she prefers to think of the so-called "emerging markets" instead as "developing," explaining, "I would call them developing because they're not just emerging, they are very much developing. They are well on their way and with or without us they are going to do just fine. They have a fantastic homegrown industry of app developers and companies embracing mobile."

And, moving forward, it looks like there will also be plenty of opportunity for western companies that want to "dip their toes" in these fast-developing markets. 

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)