A few years ago I had the opportunity to go on a cruise to the Yucatan Peninsula. One of the stops on the trip was Roatan Honduras, which is on a small but beautiful island. We had no plans made ahead of time and as we got of the boat we met a taxi driver that said she would take us on a tour of the island. It sounded fun so off we went. We visited places like the local mission, a homemade arts and crafts shopping center and we went past the local elementary where the kids were more interested in pick pocketing tourists than actually going to school. We saw the really amazing beaches and had lunch at our guide’s favorite place to eat. We saw the home of the richest person on the island and even stopped off at the guides home to drop off the leftovers from lunch for her kids. We got to experience the touristy stuff as well as the real life local life –our guide shared her life with us and we saw how they lived and for the most part it was a poor, yet happy people. It was an educational and fun time.
One of the things that caught my eye as we spent time among the people of Roatan was how many of them had cell phones. We asked our guide about this and she let us know that cell phones were a big part of life for the people from adults to kids, as it was really the only affordable way they had to access the Internet. Only the wealthy (of which they were few) on the island could afford a computer and the Internet. The locals used cell phones from everything from talking with friends and family to shopping online to get better prices than local to doing business with tourists. In an article published on FairWindsPartners.com it estimates that in 2007 roughly 2.7 billion people had mobile devices. So in other words that is once mobile device per every 2.5 people. “According to Eric Schmidt, Chief Executive of Google, “the biggest growth areas are clearly going to be in the mobile space.” As a leader in the Internet, Google’s focus on the mobile space is indicative of what is to come.” It seems quite clear that mobile media is on the rise and is used more than we as Americans would ever think, especially in poorer countries.
Internet marketing for years has been focused on desktop users (people in front of a computer accessing the web). For years, that was the only way to access Internet content. Mobile technology has made it more possible to access the web almost anywhere one goes. In some cases like Honduras, mobile Internet access is the only real affordable means of web activity. In other areas of the world like Japan, mobile usage is high as many people spend less time at home or with access to computers and mobile is more convenient. No matter the reason, mobile web access is on the rise and is expected to keep going and become the most common method of web access.
As an American, I grew up in the cyber world as a desktop user. That’s where I learned to research, play games and enjoy entertainment. Still to this day I prefer certain activities on a desktop because that’s what I know. For other things, like social media, I use more on my smartphone and like it better than on a desktop. It all comes down to experience and what device I learned the activity on. Culturally this is the same wherever you go. As a marketer you need to understand this and know how the target audience was brought up online. The US is behind the times and needs to catch up when it comes to mobile online usage, but it’s hard to teach an old dog new trick.
Due to the fact that each country has their own unique cyber upbringing based on accessibility, affordability and culture, we find that each market has different needs and expectations for mobile usage and marketing. As an example, I live in Salt Lake City, Utah. I drive my car anywhere I need to go and because of that I don’t use a mobile device while I am driving. There are not a lot of location based marketing methods in use in my area because of the fact we drive everywhere. I have found that the little location based marketing I receive as I drive around is not helpful and annoying as I am trying to drive and don’t have time to look at my phone. Now let’s look at Japan, where I have spent some time. Trains and bikes are the main method of transportation and because of this on the go Internet usage is high, making location-based services in high demand.
More and more mobile is taking over the web and as marketers; it is our job to figure out the best way to get the message to our audiences, not the method we like best. As mobile marketing is one the rise, it is up to each one of use to learn as much as we can about our target audience and how they like to receive information. If you ask me, there is not one right answer anymore, we need to make use of every tool we can, especially the one consumer are using. Its not about us, its about the user. So give them what they want, it’s just easier that way.
FairWinds Partners (October 25, 2007) “Perspective: Mobile” Volume 2 Issue 7 published at Fairwindspartners.com (http://www.fairwindspartners.com/our-resources/perspectives/mobile-web/)