The Art of Going Mobile in Asia Pacific

15 December 2015

Previously in the Executive Series, we discussed how social media plays a critical role to the digital transformation of brands in Asia Pacific. In this article, we’ll explore the growing influence of mobile in APAC’s fast-changing landscape, how the growing number of mobile consumers is impacting brands and retailers, and how mobile can be integrated into the three pillars of digital transformation: customers, connectivity and consistency.


Asia Pacific as a Growing Mobile Market

APAC is home to more than 3.6 billion unique mobile users and over 7 billion mobile subscriptions as of 2015[1]. But as mobile penetration sits at 51% in the region, mobile is expected to continue growing as smartphone accessibility continues to rise[2]. In 2015, APAC is projected to become a mobile-first market with half a billion users relying on their mobile phones as their primary internet connection, and 83% of APAC internet traffic coming from mobile devices[3]. Since mobile can be accessed anytime and anywhere, consumers are connecting with brands at a larger and faster rate than ever before. As the influence of mobile grows in APAC, brands should do more to tap into their consumers’ “mobile moments”, or the moment of need for consumers at the very moment they need it[4]. Given the immediacy and convenience of mobile, the platform should be treated as more than just a channel of communication and transaction, but as way of integrating your brand into your consumers’ behavior, or in other words, their mobile lifestyle[5]. Tapping into the mobile lifestyle is a potential opportunity for APAC brands to establish and nurture, long-term relationships with mobile customers. But to establish such relationships, your brand must be ready to build a mobile strategy that provides a customer-centric, connected and consistent experience for consumers, which is especially important for regions such as APAC where eCommerce is experiencing substantial growth.


The Role of Mobile in eCommerce

eCommerce in Asia Pacific has been largely driven by increased mobile penetration and internet usage. Led by markets where a significant percentage of consumers have recently purchased goods and/or services online, countries such as South Korea (61%), Taiwan (51%), Australia (51%) and Singapore (46%) have steadily embraced eCommerce in 2015[6]. But the rise of mobile and eCommerce in Asia Pacific is not purely coincidental. As an indicator of the growing connection between mobile and eCommerce (mCommerce), mobile payment adoption has been discovered to be particularly strong in Asia. The number of consumers making mobile payments have surpassed those paying via credit card in countries such as Bangladesh (55%), Pakistan (52%), Sri Lanka (44%), Philippines (36%), Thailand (27%), India (27%) and Vietnam (18%)[7]. Since credit card penetration in developing markets are comparatively low, mobile payments provide a viable alternative to traditional credit card transactions. Mobile growth can also be traced to the rising need of consumers to engage with brands across various touchpoints, driven significantly by mobile shopping. In a Q4 2014 survey of APAC consumers, close to half of respondents (45%) admitted to purchasing goods or services via mobile within three months preceding the survey[8]. In the same survey, it was discovered that consumers from China (70%), India (62%) and Taiwan (62%) were the most likely to shop using their smartphones with nearly half of survey respondents in APAC (49%) citing convenience as the main reason to shop via mobile[9]. But leveraging on mobile as a source of revenue and consumer engagement demands far more than a one-is-to-one mobile translation of your brick and mortar stores and desktop initiatives. When tapping into your consumers’ mobile lifestyle, it is essential to integrate mobile into the entirety of your brand’s strategy.


Preparing Your Brand for Mobile

In the case of SingPost, mobile has become an essential part of our overall strategy. Mobile is a platform that allows us to provide a connected and consistent experience centered on our customers. Our mobile apps allow us to put SingPost’s services right at the fingertips of our users, giving them access to information, updates and services at their convenience. Our SAM mobile app, for example, allows our users to make online payments through their mobile devices while allowing them to manage their mail via their digital mailbox. On the other hand, our POPStation mobile app allows us to support our offline services by augmenting it with digital conveniences. The POPStation app seamlessly integrates with our POPStation locker service, which allows users to have their parcels and packages delivered to any number of secure lockers in various locations in Singapore. The app allows users to track parcels, receive delivery notifications, as well as interface with the locker itself. All these services are integrated with the primary SingPost mobile app, where users can track any number of packages while making postal transactions on-the-go. Through the SingPost mobile app, users are able to locate SingPost postal boxes, offices, POPStations, SAM Terminals as well as postal agents. The app can also calculate postal and shipping charges as well as provide postal codes for any number of local landmarks and locations for added convenience. In developing our mobile strategy, we zeroed in on the behavior of our consumers and identified what features and services would provide value to our users’ mobile experience. We paid special attention to capturing our users’ mobile moments and carefully crafted experiences that connect customers to our brand while providing a consistent experience both physically and digitally. Innovation becomes key in delivering value to customers who expect satisfaction and relevant content the moment they open their devices. This is especially important for a company like SingPost whose core services in post and logistics are still heavily steeped in physical transaction. While our traditional and physical methods of business are still available, our mobile and digital strategy is intrinsically embedded into the rest of our brand strategy. Our mobile strategy provides consumers with a consistent and connected experience by bridging our brand across all our platforms, offline and online. But at the heart of this experience is the mobile customer.


Making the Mobile Customer Your Priority

While mobile has long outgrown its fledgling years as a new technology, 62% of eBusiness professionals still view mobile as a new platform[10]. But brands should do more than design mobile experiences as downsized versions of their desktop counterparts. A number of brands make the mistake of relying too heavily on mobile to arbitrarily push products and services. But in the process, brands lose sight of the customers themselves. Before your business can focus on the technology, it’s essential to transform your brand into a business that centers on the mobile customer. Based on my years of experience in the digital field, I’ve come across a number of recurring questions in this particular regard. Here are some of the most popular questions I’ve been asked when building a mobile strategy around the mobile customer.

  • Who is my mobile customer?
    Getting to know your mobile customers is the first step to focusing on their needs and concerns. The mobile revolution has made customers impulsive and impatient, but they have also become savvier and more willing to be engaged by brands. Mobile customers demand trust and crave information, and they pledge loyalty to the brands that are able to deliver. But despite these common characteristics, mobile customers are also unique in their needs and concerns, which is why it is critical to profile your customers accordingly and gather information on everything from what mobile devices they prefer to what products, services and experiences are valuable to them.
     
  • What do my mobile customers want?
    What mobile customers want differ depending on industry and context. Their wants and needs change not only based on their demographic and interests. But given the immediacy of mobile, it is also based on the time of day and their mindset at that particular moment. This is why it is essential to build you mobile strategy around the behavior as well as the characteristics of your mobile customers. Discover what your customers want by exploring how your brand can provide value to their concerns, habits and lifestyle. But your strategy needs to be able to connect your brand across as many touch points as possible, allowing you to address whatever needs your customer may have wherever they may be in as consistent a manner as possible.
     
  • What can I do as a brand/retailer to focus more on mobile customers? 
    Once you have a clearer understanding of who your mobile customers are, you can begin developing and then executing a mobile strategy that addresses them more specifically. But this means servicing customers through a number of mobile related areas: messaging, engagement, conversion and security. To better attend to these areas, here are some questions you should be asking yourself and your brand.
     
  • How does mobile fit in with my existing channels?
    As mentioned earlier in this piece, mobile should not be viewed as a distinct channel. It has the ability to provide cross-channel support by driving traffic and conversion to other channels. Mobile can provide a seamless, integrated and consistent experience for consumers across other channels such as social media and brick-and-mortar stores. Brands can utilize mobile messaging in the form of discounts, promos, product notifications, and geotargeted marketing to drive footfall to physical stores. On the other hand, in-store enhancements like Near Field Communication (NFC) and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology can help drive in-store activity towards web and mobile by providing additional product info and special discount rates while in-store. The key to designing your brand’s mobile experience is to do so with an omni-channel strategy in mind[11] and with your customer’s mobile lifestyle at its center.
     
  • How do I engage customers on mobile?
    Given the immediate and convenient nature of mobile, it is no surprise that customers engage with brands up to 10% more on social media through mobile devices than on desktops[12]. But instead of crafting mobile experiences that are simply downscaled versions of their web-based counterparts, brands should ensure that content remain mobile-friendly. This can be done by verifying the legibility and accessibility of information and experiences on mobile devices. At the heart of this idea is to engage customers throughout their customer journey, providing content, support and services that guide them through product discovery, purchase, all the way to after-sales support.
     
  • How do I drive conversions with mobile?
    Measuring ROI is difficult to ascertain particularly in the context of mobile messaging, or the practice of driving conversion primarily through mobile communication. This is especially true when relying primarily on open or click-through rates[13]. However, brands are discovering a strong connection between mobile activity and conversion, wherein consumers are relying heavily on mobile content to make informed purchasing decisions[14]. While many brands struggle to drive mobile conversion, the failure can usually be attributed to poor user experiences and inconvenient payment methods, making it even more important to streamline your customers’ mobile experience[15].
     
  • How do I make it safe for customers to transact on mobile?
    The ability to fulfill transactions via mobile have offered an unprecedented amount of convenience for consumers. But trust in mobile payments and online transactions have remained shaky at best even among developed markets. A number of brands have succeeded in turning consumer sentiment around by providing excellent return and refund policies. However, this still does not address the concern of security. Fortunately, there are a number of innovations to help bolster security over mobile. Tokenization as well as Host Card Emulation (HCE), for example, reduces the use of sensitive personal data on mobile devices when transmitted over networks for payment[16].
     

The Importance of Mobile in Digital Transformation

Regardless of the questions put forward, a successful mobile strategy is deeply entwined among the three pillars of digital transformation: customers, connectivity and consistency. By building your brand’s mobile experience upon these pillars and integrating them to your overall brand strategy, you are able to provide value to potential customers by placing them at the heart of the experience. The process of digital transformation is a holistic endeavor, and the focus towards mobile is no exception. By designing a mobile strategy that connects with your consumers across a consistent experience, your brand recognizes that mobile is more than just a channel. It is the lifestyle of the modern APAC consumer. It is dynamic, fast-changing, but remarkably engaging. As Asia Pacific continues to embrace mobile and eCommerce, the brands that best adapt to the fast-changing landscape of mobile marketing will most likely lead the way towards growth.


SOURCES

[1] - https://www.wearesocial.com/sg/special-reports/digital-social-mobile-in-apac-in-2015
[2] - https://www.wearesocial.com/sg/special-reports/digital-social-mobile-in-apac-in-2015
[3] - http://dazeinfo.com/2014/01/23/smartphone-users-growth-mobile-internet-2014-2017/
[4] - Create Mobile Moments With Messaging (Forrester)
[5] - Create Mobile Moments With Messaging (Forrester)
[6] - https://www.wearesocial.com/sg/special-reports/digital-social-mobile-in-apac-in-2015
[7] - https://www.techinasia.com/talk/rise-mobile-payment/
[8] - http://newsroom.mastercard.com/asia-pacific/press-releases/mobile-commerce-growing-fast-in-asia-pacific-with-half-of-smartphone-users-now-shopping-on-their-device/
[9] - Create Mobile Moments With Messaging (Forrester)
[10] - Mobile is Not a Channel (Forrester)
[11] - Six Strategies to Win the Mobile Consumer Showdown (Forrester)
[12] - Create Mobile Moments With Messaging (Forrester)
[13] - Create Mobile Moments With Messaging (Forrester)
[14] - http://www.mobilecommercedaily.com/deloitte-exec-mobile-and-digital-drive-conversation-rates-despite-what-retailers-may-think
[15] - Fierce Retail
[16] - http://thenextweb.com/insider/2015/05/15/why-tokenization-is-the-key-to-mobile-payment-security/

Dr Bernard Leong
Head of Digital Services at Singapore Post Ltd
Dr Bernard Leong is the Head of Digital Services for Singapore Post Pte Ltd, overseeing the Group’s digital, mobile & social media strategy, along products and innovation across the organization. When not donning his corporate hat, Dr Leong plays a key role in the Southeast Asia’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, serving as Entrepreneur-in-Residence at INSEAD Business School and mentor for JFDI.Asia, the region’s leading startup incubator.