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Mobile rising: Becoming a driving force in SEA

Two years ago, in its 2013 Global Survey of Trust in Advertising, Nielsen stated ‘Television, magazine and newspaper advertisements continue to be among the most-trusted forms of paid advertising for consumers in SEA.’

After two years and fast growth in internet penetration in SEA, the advertising landscape is starting to turn around. Opportunities for mobile marketing becoming more abundant. The goal for advertisers now is not just to incorporate mobile alongside more traditional marketing techniques, but to make it the driving force behind campaigns region-wide.

eMarketer estimates that digital’s share in SEA it is rising fast. In Indonesia, for example, digital ad spend is expected to grow by 80 per cent this year. More than one in 10 ad dollars in Indonesia is predicted to be spent on digital, including mobile by 2016, with the share exceeding one in four by 2019. This is quite phenomenal considering Indonesia still has relatively lower internet penetration, but indicates very strong growth of internet use in the archipelago, which mobile marketing is anticipated to capitalise upon.

However, there are still hurdles slowing uptake across the region. While markets like Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei lead the region in terms of internet penetration and mobile driven marketing, others are not as advanced – primarily due to poor infrastructure and lack of skill in mobile.

Internet penetration is still not equal across SEA
A joint study released by Internet Society and consulting firm TRPC, classifies internet penetration in SEA into three categories:

Cluster one covers countries where more than 60 per cent of the population has access to the Internet – Singapore (73 per cent), Malaysia (67 per cent) and Brunei (65 per cent).

Cluster two, internet penetration is between 25 per cent and 50 per cent – Vietnam (44 per cent), the Philippines (37 per cent) and Thailand (29 per cent).

Cluster three accounts for penetration rates below 25 per cent – Indonesia (16 per cent), Laos (13 per cent), Cambodia (six per cent) and Myanmar (one per cent).

Such variation in internet accessibility is proving problematic for the uptake of internet associated marketing tools and techniques, including mobile, across the region.

Poor infrastructure and lack of skill are getting in the way
Poor penetration rates can be attributed to a lack of maturity in technology as well as lagging knowledge and skillsets across a number of markets in SEA. This often leaves organisations unwilling to try new technology because it cannot be properly supported, analysed or maintained either electronically or physically.

Take cross-screen targeting for example, which is being used increasingly as an advanced way of targeting audiences in western cultures. According to leading video advertising technology platform, Videology, 51 per cent of US advertisers ran their campaigns on more than one screen (e.g. PC and mobile) in Q4 2014, compared to just 17 percent in Q1 2014. Specifically, 39 per cent of all Q4 2014 campaigns ran on PC, mobile and connected TV simultaneously, compared to just six per cent in Q1 2014, states Videology’s report, the Fourth Quarter U.S. Video Market At-A-Glance.

This type of targeted advertising uses data to reach specific audiences based on attributes beyond basic age and gender demographics, and instead targets messaging based on their behavioural or purchase patterns across a number of platforms, offering a much more pin-pointed advertisement that can span platforms.

While cross-screen targeting appears to be on the rise in the U.S, uptake is limited to Singapore in SEA, with a recent survey from Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) indicating that over 60 per cent of Singaporean viewers are dual screening and watching mobile video and TV simultaneously. However, a lack of awareness and skill, let alone intelligent data, to analyse user interactions with PCs, smartphones, tablets, consoles and engagement levels betweendevices is getting in the way of broader uptake across the region.

A basic lack of technological infrastructure and know-how, is the underlying problem impacting much of SEA in terms of mobile marketing. This is an issue spanning a range of business and financial interactions, not just marketing, with e-anything still behind western markets.

Furthermore, credit card penetration is not as high as in the West and trust levels in online payments are also lower, all culminating in a ‘softly, softly’ approach when it comes to any electronic process or online tool or technique, resulting in the slow uptake of mobile marketing. However, with internet penetration rates rising and strong interest from ecommerce giants like Lazada, Rocket Internet, Alibaba and Rakuten across SEA, ecommerce and its associated mobile marketing techniques are set to soar.

In fact change is already upon us.

A recent BuzzCity survey of 3300 mobile consumers found that the number of people making mobile payments has tied or surpassed the number of people using credit cards in 17 out of 23 countries, of which adoption appeared strong in the Philippines and Thailand, among others.

While SEA as a region isn’t there yet, it is on the edge of an ecommerce boom which will only improve prospects for mobile marketing, which will soon be seen in markets like Indonesia.

Although Indonesia again came in last in share of total media ad spending contributed to mobile in 2015, a different picture should be painted by 2019, with the archipelago boasting the highest rates of total digital and mobile internet ad spending growth of any country over the next four years, states eMarketer.

Such strong commitment to digital growth, from one of SEA’s poorest performers, suggests that despite hurdles in infrastructure and skills, mobile marketing is warming to the climate and will boil over in a matter of years – revolutionising the mobile marketing landscape across the region.

As SEA comes together to form one unified ASEAN Economic Community, shared platforms and networks will enable ecommerce to really take off and open up new advertising formats and avenues for mobile marketing to flourish. With this will come greater experimentation of new technologies and techniques, encouraging failure, growth and diversification in the mobile marketing space.

Rohit Dadwal

The author, Rohit Dadwal, is the Managing Director of Mobile Marketing Association APAC.