American Marketer


Tapping into the market of mobile Internet users

February 11, 2013


By John Elliott

Supplied with a selection of smartphones, tablets and a variety of other affordable devices, mobile Internet users are rapidly forming a mass market.

As a result, there is a host of new opportunities for communications, media and technology players – or, indeed, for practically any industry that wants to reach its customers through mobile channels.

Net gain
In fact, new research from our Mobile Web Watch study shows that mobile devices are becoming the primary medium for accessing the Internet – and its related services – across all age groups and in both mature and emerging markets.

More than two-thirds (69 percent) of all Internet users use mobile devices daily to access the Internet, and almost half – 45 percent – said they conducted a banking transaction using their mobile device.

The survey was conducted across 13 countries in Europe, Latin America and South Africa.

Regardless of its regional focus on a particular region, the analysis reveals several trends and opportunities which are relevant worldwide for smartphone and device makers, telecommunications and mobile service operators, and media and technology companies, as well as for companies in industries that encompass retail, utilities, finance and automotive.

Companies that want to tap into this mass market in-the-making must realize that they face growing competition in a connected world, where a new generation of mobile Web users has multiple devices and platforms from which to choose. And to outperform their competition, broadcasters, technology companies and service providers must meet the needs of customers who take for granted interoperability, multi-device and multi-platform support and a superior user experience.

Pinpointing the opportunities
How do companies even begin to identify opportunities? It is best to start by “following the money.”

First and foremost, mobile Internet users are more willing than ever before to pay for premium services. They are also more open to trying out new services, such as cloud-based services or augmented-reality services that immerse users in computer-generated activities incorporating sound, video, graphics or GPS data, all on a mobile device.

Cloud-based services, for example, are key to a broad range of applications, including mobile banking and mobile commerce.

Among those surveyed in the recent research, more than half (56 percent) of mobile Internet users are currently using or planning to use cloud services and more than three-quarters (78 percent) of those respondents who are interested would be ready to pay for consumer cloud services.

Specifically, mobile payments represent another major growth opportunity for telecom players, payment gateway companies and enterprises.

Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) are aware of such services and an additional 39 percent would be interested in or plan to use mobile payment apps.

The growing popularity of tablets to access the Internet, especially among younger people, is also opening up new growth avenues for many types of businesses.

Tablet users are accessing the Internet to download and view short videos, watch movies and TV shows, check prices and weather forecasts, read news and get travel directions.

Addressing the challenges is key to progress
While the market for mobile Internet usage is growing rapidly, it is a complex ecosystem with many stakeholders and new entrants comprising handset and device manufacturers, mobile network providers, retailers and consumers.

Most importantly, to succeed in this intensely competitive environment, companies must establish enduring relationships with customers by understanding and meeting their needs. And they must remember that the “hyper-connected” consumer is an active participant in the market, particularly through social media, rather than just a passive recipient of services.

For example, the survey revealed that, for younger users, online communities and instant messaging have become key tools to connect with other users.

Two-thirds (68 percent) of the 14- to 19-year-old respondents use them at least daily, and 16 percent of this age group are “heavy users,” communicating via online communities and instant messaging more than ten times a day on a mobile device.

Communications service providers (CSPs), for example, must focus on network quality and coverage – users’ primary reasons for choosing a provider.

In addition, consumers are increasingly looking for ubiquitous coverage, with a network that follows them everywhere and provides a compelling usage experience.

To deliver on these expectations, network providers should pay special attention to regular network upgrades, while offering innovative subscription packages.

Another challenging area is data security.

Consumers still have concerns related to data security, particularly when considering the use of cloud services. Their concerns include losing personal data, hacking of personal data and viruses that can harm mobile devices.

According to the survey, the “annoyance factor” of Internet-based advertising poses another potential hurdle.

The analysis reveals that a higher share of the mobile Internet users – who most often come across ad banners and coupons on tablets and advertising through texting on smartphones – find these services annoying.

As a result, advertising and marketing companies must find more innovative ways of getting their messages to mobile Internet users in a more targeted way, working in collaboration with service providers and content developers.

Collaborate to innovate
As mobile Internet use approaches the mass market stage, the various players in the ecosystem – from mobile service providers to content generators – will be compelled to work together to explore avenues for collaboration and innovation in providing end-to-end services.

Managing data-hungry services is one of the top areas where collaboration may be required. The massive capital investments needed to keep pace with demand for bandwidth, speed and quality will make collaboration among service operators in the value chain essential in bringing innovative services to market.

For example, building collaboration tools, IT and common industry platforms to incubate and test new ideas could add significant value to offerings, and quickly add capabilities which operators currently lack.

And collaboration among service providers by sharing the actual networks could very well be another pathway to balancing consumers’ demand for high-quality data with the soaring costs of infrastructure investments.

Some players in the mobile ecosystem find themselves in new, and possibly unexpected roles.

In this connected world, CSPs are taking on the role of enablers. To deliver value to their customers and out-perform their competition, they must put even greater emphasis on building networks and creating more bandwidth, and on making investments to ensure better coverage and quality of service.

In their role as enabler, CSPs also need to get smarter about their digital customers and how to market to them.

Companies that have been successful in targeting digital consumers are turning to analytics to process and leverage the vast amounts of data that consumers generate while using the Internet.

In turn, advertisers must find more innovative ways of getting their messages to mobile Internet users by working in collaboration with service providers and content developers.

There is also a significant opportunity for cloud service providers to work with network service providers to meet the data security needs of the digital consumer through adapted tariff plans and appropriate privacy policies.

WHETHER IT IS used for banking online, shopping, keeping up with the news or watching a favorite television program, the popularity of the mobile Internet will continue to grow.

Our analysis indicates that with innovative services, and a network on which they can depend, consumers are willing to pay for the privilege. That is a market opportunity that every player touched by the mobile Internet should be prepared to address.

John Elliott is San Diego-based executive director at Accenture Mobility and product and offering development lead at Accenture. Reach him at