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Mobile landscape in APAC: opportunities and risks

What is the mobile landscape like in APAC?

Mobile has exploded in the APAC region, with a study citing it as the only way people access the Internet.

Yet even as the format grows, are advertisers cottoning-on and grabbing the opportunity to reach APAC by the horns?

Nicole Liebmann, head of mobile, APAC & South Africa, Exponential, thinks it has adapted and changed to better take advantage of this growth.

“Advertisers are tapping into that [mobile] offering, as a result we are seeing a lot of advertisers taking risks in the market when it comes to mobile, as well as a lot more vendors being introduced to the market as well,” said Liebmann.

“Those vendors are really helping to grow products, for example location is a huge opportunity in the market. If you look at how it started off, it was very simple, state targeting, region targeting, then now you got things like in-store footfall attribution and a whole bunch of cool opportunities advertisers can take advantage of,” she added.

Ronen Mense, vice president, Asia, AppsFlyer, concurs that advertisers are sitting up and paying attention to mobile.

“Advertisers are paying attention to the increased preference and demand by consumers to access social networks and regional web portals on their mobile devices. Spending of marketing budgets continues to shift towards mobile-focused social advertising,” said Mense.

“Consumers in the region are developing more complex and sophisticated mobile usage behaviours and patterns. To that, the industry is catching on and adapting more advanced approaches by utilising more sophisticated technologies - including measurement tools and analytics that help marketers decide, in near real-time, how and where to invest their budgets and activities so they can produce the best ROI,” he added.

Apps on the rise

Going online via mobile has now become more of an app experience in the rest of the world, and seems to be reflected in APAC as well. However, there are some local quirks to this trend according to Mense.

“The split between mobile apps and mobile web varies greatly from country to country. For example, apps are a huge hit in Indonesia, while Japan still has a preference for feature-phones, which limits their mobile surfing to web browsers,” he said.

Exponential’s Liebmann agrees that the trend of spending time in app is happening in Asia as well, and may limit advertisers in their reach.

“A lot of time is spent in [mobile] web too, but it definitely skews to in app,” she said.

“It does quite limit advertisers in terms of reach and really getting full exposure. Often we are interacting with these apps from a specific task driven point of view… when we are across mobile web, we are in a state of mind of being more open to exploration, which allow us to be freely guided by advertisers when the campaign has been accurately targeted to us, we want to explore that further,” she added.

AppFlyer’s Mense however, believes that apps might be the way forward in driving conversions for advertisers.

“In fact, we have seen that consumers in Asia, on average, tend to spend more on in-app purchases than other users worldwide. With that, within Asia Pacific, we foresee the continued growth of digital ad spending driven by industries such as ecommerce, financial tech, gaming and FMCG sectors for markets like Indonesia, China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and throughout Southeast Asia,” said Mense.

APAC strategy or localised strategy?

While mobile might be the answer to reaching out to the APAC market all at once, are brands missing out by adopting a one size fits all strategy instead of a localised strategy?

Exponential’s Liebmann notes that there is a divide in the market about this very point.

“There is a divide in the market, some global advertisers have an internal goal to have a global strategy as opposed to changing it for the markets. Then there are different advertisers who really do understand the different regions and are quite savvy, as a result are able to tailor their strategies and executions to better suit the local markets,” said Liebmann.

“For example, around APAC, there is a huge presence around messaging apps, and we are starting to see advertisers starting to take those under their wings and include those as strategies to help allow for customers to help communicate with brands in a way that is suited for the regions,” she added.

AppFlyer’s Mense warns advertisers that not catering for such nuances is only to their undoing.

“Advertisers must recognize the nuances of regions across Asia and adapt their mobile advertising strategy for each market. Unlike Europe or the Americas, Asia is an extremely varied market consisting of mature markets like Singapore, Korea and Japan and developing high-growth markets such as Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam on the other. Further, the app stores and mobile platforms in different countries are often fragmented,” said Mense.

“For example, smartphones are often the only digital screen Indonesians look at, and with the huge mobile app culture in that country, it is a hotbed for mobile advertising. Yet, one must also consider cultural differences and understand how, why and when users are interacting with their mobile devices and apps. There may be app features people in one region utilize more than users in other regions, or there may be times of day or days of the week that are more popular for app engagement in one region than others,” he added.

Mense goes further to warn companies from just blindly executing campaigns without the proper due diligence.

“Companies, especially ones foreign to the region, have to be clear on the do’s and don’ts of each country’s cultures, the preferred device types consumers use in each region, and their mobile behaviors,” said Mense.

“Once marketers have a good understanding of the marketplace, they can utilize media sources, creatives, messages, and promotional campaigns that are known to be successful in each region, constantly measure their activities, and double-down on campaigns that bring in new users and retain existing ones,” he added.

Liebmann notes that brands are across the spectrum are taking risks with mobile, breaking the image of APAC just being a follower of the other regions.

“It varies significantly to be very honest, some advertisers are quite traditional, they are sticking to traditional campaign on mobile, it could be standard banners with targeting attached to them,” said Liebmann.

“Around APAC, brands are pushing the boundaries, one great thing they are understanding is that mobile is a very different platform from the traditional platforms, it is still relatively new to compared to TV and radio, but it does offer opportunities in creative developments in this space.

“One thing that advertisers are taking note of is the unique functionality of these devices, for example, you can get users to pinch, tap and swipe things on their phone, and have a cool and interactive engagement experience with the audience. We definitely are seeing advertisers in the region take advantage of this and even treating the region as a test market for these innovative ideas,” she added.

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