The year 2010 can be considered a watershed time for smartphone handsets in Asia. Undoubtedly, the Apple iPhone has been a major driver of this phenomenon as the mobile handset is probably the dominant smartphone handset in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Tawian.
This trend is now augmented by the rising number of Android devices that are priced competitively by manufacturers to reach the mass market in countries such as China. Subsequently, Microsoft made up for lost time by releasing Windows Mobile 7 with manufacturers such as Samsung, HTC and LG. With Blackberry's relative popularity to the iPhone in the Indonesian smartphone market, it is clearly not a bad year for smartphone manufacturers, though the number of low-end 2.5G handsets continues to be the most widely used device across Asia.
Inevitably, the Asian mobile environment will mirror trends surfacing in Europe and the United States as smartphone handsets proliferate while voice-specific phones move into a segment that may not be an immediate priority for mobile advertisers. Clearly, there are more opportunities for advertisers to reach customers via smartphones than on the Internet today. Today's smartphones offer multiple functions such as GPS, augmented reality (AR) and location-based services to deliver the desired communication message on formatted HTML pages on the handsets' screen.
Moving forward, the combination of social media and smartphone technologies will converge to bring new opportunities (and challenges) for advertisers and FMCG companies to reach their target audience in 2011. In particular, the ratings and reviews of the advertisers' brand will play an important role to influence prospective customers' purchasing decisions. The confluence of mobile data, camera functionalities and the ease of typing beyond 160 characters on today's smartphones opens new avenues for users to share their personal experience on an ongoing basis. Hence, advertisers in industries such as hotels, restaurants, shopping malls and airlines face increasing scrutiny by today's discerning consumers armed with internet-enabled smartphones.
For instance, a tourist from Singapore visiting Taiwan could have prior knowledge of the wide selection of food in Shilin Night Market in Taipei. Yet, the wide selection will require the tourist to 'prioritise' the food stores to visit so as to maximise their time spent in the market. As such the tourist (with a smartphone) can use mobile services such as the TripAdvisor app (left) to search for reviews and ratings when they are in the Shinlin night market (right). The near immediate response from the mobile application gives unvarnished feedback from the TripAdvisor community that gives the Singaporean tourist an indicative assessment on stores to visit first, and what to expect should they visit those stores (e.g. great good, but less than satisfactory customer service).
In this instance, Taiwan Tourism Bureau will be most affected by such reviews and ratings as the country's inbound tourism spend is impacted by tourists using their smartphones to search before making purchasing decisions. Inevitably, places of interests with low ratings and adverse reviews are unlikely to be popular with tourists who make decisions based on the experience of others on these social media networks. This trend will exponentially increase with mobile services that allow ratings and reviews by users posting under anonymity vis-à-vis on social media sites such as Facebook which users are explicitly identified that presumably limits such contribution.
Invariably, advertisers have to accept that this is a growing trend as prospective customers today are likely to search on the Internet for any information prior to making their purchasing decision. As we enter into 2011, advertisers should take heed on this trend and devise strategies to manage these reviews and ratings so as to maintain their competitive positioning in an environment that is increasingly dominated by smartphones.
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With more than 16 years of experience in mobile, digital media/advertising, and e-commerce, Darren has successfully developed and launched pioneering mobile Internet initiatives such as subscription-based mobile news services, location-based advertising, behavioral targeting using consumer analytics in Singapore Press Holdings, SingTel, Cisco Systems, and DBS.
At InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), Darren will serve as the regional subject matter expert on mobile and drive overall utilization of mobile to increase revenue and engagement in Asia, Middle East and Africa (AMEA). His mandate includes developing, implementing, and managing mobile marketing strategies to generate greater brand awareness and revenue through owned, paid, and earned media.
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