With about 91 percent of the mobile phone market saturated in the United States, mobile manufacturers are targeting the approximately 1.7 billion remaining possible global mobile subscribers; 27 percent will be from India and China. In emerging nations how are these users affording mobile devices? Through a combination of rising incomes (disposable), less expensive technology, more efficiently run mobile networks, and mobile marketers seeking to reach every potential mobile user.
Dr Arthur Goldstuck of World Wide Worx states that “Mobile companies know that they will lose money marketing to customers in the more rural regions of emerging countries.” This is because one of the conditions for obtaining a mobile license is that the licensee make available services to everyone in the area it serves. For example, in South Africa mobile service is available almost everywhere, including some of the most remote locations. This widespread service requires pricing plans that sometimes don’t achieve the profit margins in more urban environments such as Johannesburg.
How do mobile companies in emerging countries market to the most remote areas they serve? While companies like Vodaphone in South Africa have well-established mobile device distribution offices, studies have shown that many people will travel from rural to urban areas to personally interact with a sales agent rather than using the internet or telephone. This way of making a purchase reminds me of the early internet days when people lacked the savvy, and trust, to buy things without physically being present at a store. The way many people still purchase goods and services in emerging countries is by haggling, closing a deal by shaking hands or physically going to a bazaar to see and touch an item before making a purchase.
Another way mobile devices and services are being marketed is organically through urban user evangelism. In this situation mobile marketing takes place by urban users communicating with their friends and family when they visit rural regions of an emerging country.
Will current young technology users in emerging markets mirror the behavior of populations in less economically challenged countries, as their Gen Y/Millennial populations become more comfortable with technology?
Possibly, and services such as M-Banking may be one of the important mobile trends that facilitate this change.
A recent 2010 Pew Research Report found that Generation Y sees a “significant social benefit” in having a presence on sites like Twitter and Facebook, a place to “build friendships, find communities, seek help, and build their reputations.” According to the surveyed tech experts, Gen Y/Millennial users are much more willing to provide information than earlier generations; they’re already accustomed to seeing rewards for such disclosure and will continue to have this attitude as adults.
When it comes to current Gen Y behavior in India, Tammy Erickson of Harvard Business Review stated that Indians “share the generation’s global sense of immediacy, most are entrepreneurial and business savvy, as well as technologically capable and connected.” If India’s Gen Y’s are a behavioral barometer of Africa’s and China’s GenY/Millennial generation, the youth of many emerging nations will increasingly connect digitally in their social and business activities as they establish increased use, trust, and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies.