Asia Pacific Mobile Is Booming, But Marketers Are Lagging Badly

By Curt Keller //

A recent study conducted by Warc and the Mobile Marketing Association for the Festival of Media Asia amply demonstrated that although the proliferation of mobile web-enabled devices has mushroomed across the Asia Pacific region, the majority of online marketers are failing at the critical task of implementing a viable mobile strategy. This revelation begs the questions of what is currently going haywire in the strategies of online marketers in this massively influential region, and what are the prospects of updating the efficiency and impact of mobile strategies in Asia?

71% of all Asia Pacific marketers have no mobile strategy

The Warc study discovered that the vast majority of online marketers in the Asia Pacific region believe that mobile will play a primary role in their sales in the next few quarters, with 90% of all responders claiming that mobile is extremely important to their upcoming campaign plans. With this overwhelming majority opinion, it then becomes quite surprising when the Warc study goes on to state that barely 29% (less than one third) of all online brand advertisers stated that at the present time they even have a formal mobile marketing strategy, leaving fully 71% with no strategy at all but just fumbling around in the hinterland of effective marketing.

Appalling lack of mobile marketing skillsets & talent

When primary agencies were asked the same question of their clients, they stated that 58% didn’t have a formal mobile strategy either. The latter statistic is almost as incredible as the companies which work with primary agencies are usually the larger multinational corporations, and for nearly three out of five of these types of brands to not have a mobile strategy for the Asia Pacific region is a finding which is dismaying to say the least.

Respondents to the Warc study stated that the greatest single obstacle to growth in the area’s mobile marketing arena is the current lack of skills. Fully one third of all respondents claimed that if there was access to stronger talent and skillsets in the area of online marketing for mobiles in the Asia Pacific region, growth could be significantly more pronounced and sustained.

Display, Apps & Social will lead mobile marketing in the future

With the paradox that mobile is seen to be critical to a company’s ongoing marketing strategy while it is being so sorely underused at the present time, there seems to be a broad consensus on what marketing campaign types will be gaining in popularity in the next five years. About half of all respondents stated that the most important upcoming mobile campaign categories will be mobile display, app development, and mobile social media marketing.

3 out of 5 mobile campaigns have no digital cross-channel tie-ins

Another failing amidst Asia Pacific mobile marketers is the implementation of coherent cross-channel strategies. Only 41% of all mobile marketing in the area is applied in conjunction with other digital media, leaving almost 60% of the marketing to not have any tie in with another online channel of communication. This is seen as a significant fault since the synergies between mobile marketing and related channels has been proven to be a primary key to achieving successful campaign results.

Asia Pacific leads the world in mobile subscription growth

There is no disputing that the Asia Pacific region is swiftly adopting the mobile lifestyle. In fact, according to a recent Ericsson Mobility Report, in the last quarter of 2012 the area accounted for over 50% of the increase in all global mobile subscriptions, with 73 million accounts being added in just those three months alone in the region.

China was the single biggest gainer, adding 31 million users and representing 22% of the total worldwide. This world-leading growth in the Asia Pacific region is occurring at a time when the Western markets are slowing down to a crawl. Western Europe and North America combined only recorded increases of 4 million, which equate to not even a mere 13% of the Chinese gains alone.

China will account for the majority of online adspend

Even though the majority of companies are dropping the mobile marketing ball, these multiple millions of additional mobile subscribers in the Asia Pacific region certainly are being targeted by record internet adspends, which is expected to continue to grow at an annual rate of 23% until it reaches $60 billion in 2017, at a time when fully 38% of all consumers in the Asia Pacific sphere will own a smartphone, according to a Forrester Research report.

Of this astounding amount of money being spent on online advertising, China will account for the lion’s share with 58% of the total spend, while Japan is expected to experience the slowest growth rate in the region.

Samsung is the #1 most admired mobile marketer

There are some success stories in the Asia Pacific region’s mobile marketing space. Samsung was found to be the most admired brand when it came to achieving mobile campaign success. Fully 10% of all respondents placed the electronics company as the number one success story in mobile marketing, followed by 9% stating it was Coca-Cola, while Nike, Starbucks, and McDonalds tied for third place with 4% response each.

When it came to determining the nations where mobile marketing was being harnessed in the most innovative manner, Japan came in first with 16% of respondents, followed closely behind by South Korea at 15%, and third place was claimed by China with 11%, which finished a bit higher than the 9% for Singapore.

Fundamental advantages in Asian mobile

Even with the recalcitrance of major online marketers to plunge into the Asia Pacific region’s market with both feet, there are some fundamental advantages to operating there versus in North America, according to SponsorPay:

  • Asian consumers use their smartphones as their main computers
  • Mobile infrastructure, especially in South Korea and Japan, is far beyond that of the USA
  • Asian mobile users are far more likely to view and appreciate an online ad due to a value-exchange mentality

According to Crisp Media, marketers to the Asia Pacific mobile consumer can leverage the ability to benefit from much lower cost display ads, with CPMs (cost per thousand) as low as about $3 in Japan and South Korea for a premium brand campaign vs. nearly $15 in the United States.

Another area where Asian mobile consumers are well ahead of their counterparts is gaming. Mobile gaming in the area is set to reach $17 billion in the next four years, representing half of the entire worldwide market. Shrewd marketers have been able to take advantage of the Asian user’s much longer mobile gaming sessions than in the North American market to insert game-based sponsored experiences that resonate well with those consumers. All of these factors add up to the significantly greater return on investment per user in the Asia Pacific region than in North America or Western Europe.

Key trends currently at work

Forrester Research has concluded that there are various key trends currently at work in the Asia Pacific region’s mobile market:

  • Mobile requires an overall shift in online marketers’ approaches
  • Tablets will be the largest disruptors of the market in the short term
  • Mobile platforms will catalyze the next generation of connected experiences
  • Smart apps will be powered by big data harnessed by sophisticated analytics
  • Mobile will require more formal structure in the sense of processes and governance
  • Top marketers will seize ownership of the mobile market from agencies
  • The mobile marketing manager will be a powerful entity in the near future
  • Spending to enable mobile marketing services will increase significantly

There is no doubt that these are heady times in the Asia Pacific mobile marketing arena, or that the companies which are currently fully engaged in that critical market will continue to maintain a comfortable lead.

Curt Keller is CEO and founder of Benchmark (, a global email and events marketing service with clients in Asia, the United States, and beyond.

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