Asia’s reputation as an e-commerce force is well-documented, but it’s in mobile shopping where the likes of Japan, China and South Korea streak ahead of their competing nations. 

The continent’s mobile-readiness will be put under the spotlight by Siddharth Puri, CEO at ad-tech group Tyroo, as part of a PMI: Europe session that will expose drivers of Asia’s m-commerce biz, along with some of the things brands might have missed in their early attempts at cracking the market.

With the Berlin conference in sight, we caught up with Siddharth to gauge a selection of his pre-session thoughts. 

What makes Asia so special for m-commerce retailers?

Siddharth Puri: Asia has a unique, mobile-first internet population, which is expected to swell to 2.4 billion unique users by 2020. It will contribute to more than 50% of the global internet user base. Most of these subscribers, driven by India and South East Asian countries, are logging on with a sub-€100 mobile device. Predominantly made up of young people, this mobile-first revolution encompasses a diverse age spectrum and income classes with a unifying purpose of fulfilling their information, communication and entertainment needs conveniently.

In India, mobile has become the last-mile touchpoint for communicating and delivering important social services – energy subsidies, postal finance schemes, and agricultural information services among others. This aspect has made mobile a trustworthy device, capable of delivering the full commerce experience. 

Interestingly, India’s urban population has also woken up to the potential of m-commerce, which can work in a number of scenarios – from a young couple finding it difficult to source their daily groceries, to an old couple which uses a mobile banking app to do their cumbersome financial transactions.

How would you rate the advertisers’ pursuit of this growth? Do you feel there’s anything they’ve missed along the way?

SP: Advertisers have been quick to realise the potential of this huge mass of mobile-ready consumers. What has been the difficult reality is to understand and make the most of this medium. Asia poses a unique challenge to the traditional marketing mindset of extracting premium for a brand. Asia’s mobile-ready consumers are influenced by ‘free’ and ‘freemium’ marketing while being discerning and at times critical of the slightest nuance of the freemium service they consume. If they are empowered by micro-transactional elements, like some South-East Asian mobile economies, they can drive a high ARPU (average revenue per user). This is the case with gaming in Thailand. 

Advertisers can empower the customers with micro-transacting to avail the services. Advertisers who may have missed the dynamics and tasted little success in these markets in the past must also innovate their mobile marketing model to look at profitable growth stories in the future.
And for those that have stayed away from Asia, are there a number of ‘usual’ reasons for doing so?

SP: Asia is, after all, a diverging consumer base – something that is seeded in its history and culture. Any marketer or advertiser entering these markets should keep the trade-offs in mind – considering a high ARPU vs a high growth base. Game developers and performance marketers often cite the ‘usual’ reasons of not generating high ARPU in this region and long road to profitability. What could really work for them is to understand the dynamics of low ARPU customers. 

There is a gestation period for each market, but in most of the cases solutioning for micro-payments in some markets has yielded results for e-commerce and gaming developers in the recent past. With mobile wallets becoming an emerging reality and alternate to telecom operator payments, this may herald a new era for those who chose to stay away due to these reasons.
In markets like Japan and China, are we dealing with very specific selling environments? Or can we take mobile commerce learnings from here and apply them to markets in Europe?

SP: The environment between Asian markets like China and Europe is completely different due to content and commerce consumption behaviour of the audiences at large. Europe is a cross-device phenomenon and marketers spend a large portion of their time on targeting the consumer base accurately across devices. A user may search across devices and the purchase happens through a number of methods. In Asia, the customer journey into transaction initiates from a mobile device and often gets consummated on the mobile device itself.

Europe pays a huge premium on quality, while Asia pays for value. Price matters more than brand – hence the early mobile ecosystem has largely dealt on discounting than differentiation. Price often becomes the differentiator in determining customer choice. Another hugely successful Asia-centric phenomenon is cash-on-delivery, wherein the purchase path has often risked the payment to the point of delivery.

We’re hoping you’ll also delve into some of the things that will ensure mobile commerce and its worldwide growth isn’t short-lived. Can you provide a sneak peek as to what that’s likely to be?

SP: As mobile marketing specialists, we lay emphasis on serving e-commerce retailers at every step of the marketing funnel – from driving adoption of mobile apps to enabling commerce on mobile. Today we are helping local e-commerce stores with unique propositions like activating local customer bases and helping m-commerce businesses engage with audiences through our in-app retargeting and creating frameworks. 

In the last six months we [Tyroo] have sat down with major retailers to identify native ad formats for effective engagement across our supply platforms. In the coming months, we will focus on partnering with the new breed of local and mobile-only m-commerce retailers to help them acquire and activate geo-specific audience bases.