Emerging Market Lessons From The Mobile World

Marco Veremis, founder of a mobile marketing firm called Upstream, recently wrote an editorial for VentureBeat in which he points out that mobile manufacturers are jumping into emerging markets to find untapped opportunities. Not only is there demand, there’s also uncharted territory.

“It’s no surprise, as there are signs that many of the mobile giants, including Google and Apple, have saturated the Western world,” Veremis says. “Instead, the next one billion users for these companies could very well come from emerging markets, where smartphone use is in its nascent stage and a heavy reliance on feature phone devices still exist.”

Looking at the way that mobile marketers like Veremis have been addressing emerging markets can reveal some lessons for the marketing world at large. Here are a few.

Growth in technology opens doors for brand marketers

recent McKinsey report from Richard Dobbs, Jaana Remes, and Fabian Schaer points out that urbanization is “shifting the world’s economic balance towards the east and south at unprecedented speed and scale.”

By 2025, there will be a “four-billion-strong” global consumer class — a population that has quadrupled in size since 1990.  To ride this growth wave, brands need to look beyond the low hanging fruit of immediate sales opportunities and focus on courting emerging markets in an engaging, personally relevant, and substantive way.

In emerging markets, consumers may be in the beginning stages of forming their opinions on products and services that are now commonplace in the western world.

Veremis explains, “Emerging market users are very different than those in the West; their desire to use smartphones is driven by more basic services.” Yet availability is growing fast, and consumers in emerging markets are more than sufficiently connected. They’re tapped in, and often know what to expect next based on what they’ve seen unfold in brands’ primary markets in terms of products and technologies.

Conversations guide brand relationships

Social networks are staples in emerging market cultures, where populations tend to live in close proximity to friends and family. These consumers are also reading local media outlets, watching local television, and listening to local radio. They rely on peer networks to decide where to shop, what products to buy, and what brands to trust.

“Word of mouth plays a more central role in the decision journeys of emerging-market consumers than for those in developed markets,” explains a McKinsey report by Yuval Atsmon, Jean-Frederic Kuentz, and Jeongmin Seong.

A core strategy for marketers to build brand awareness is to personally join these conversations. Banner ads, flyers, and advertorials are half-hearted outreach attempts that are likely to miss the mark.

Atsmon, Kuenz, and Seong point out, “Spending heavily on advertising alone is not sufficient to ensure consideration.”

Customer engagement through open dialogue, social referrals, and storytelling is crucial.

Finding the right points of connection is key

Marketing to emerging markets is not as simple as running content through a translation tool. Marketers need to develop a unique and compelling value proposition for each group that they’re targeting.

“This can also involve localizing content with specific cultural references, whether these are references to places, current affairs, celebrities, TV shows, or culturally relevant jokes,” wrote Christian Arno for Search Engine Journal.

Dobbs, Remes, and Schaer, for instance, encourage marketers to evaluate emerging markets from a city-specific rather than a country-centric lens.

“Product adoption rates often are tied to local preferences that can vary across different cities within the same country,” they explain.

Emerging Markets Can Be Local, Too

Understanding emerging markets isn’t just the domain of companies working across international boarders. More locally-focused marketers can take a look for new customers in their own backyards.

Emerging markets for new brands, mobile technology, and digital media aren’t necessarily overseas. They could be right around the block in a neighboring retirement community. They’re war vets, homemakers, small business owners, rural dwellers, and consumers who just happen to be new to a brand or technology. Publicly available data sets including the Census Bureau’s American FactFinder database can help add perspective.

Emerging markets are brimming with growth potential and energy. Most marketers have heard this already. But fewer of them are anticipating the needs of these new potential customers before the customers start looking.

Image by Dmitry V. Petrenko
Tags: , , , , ,