Emerging markets are driving a resurgence of the mobile web

June 1st, 2017 by

While the mobile app economy is still a driving force for consumer engagement in the USA, abroad, the picture is very different. How should brands plan a global content strategy?

mobile web

Apple’s iPhone is approaching its tenth anniversary, and the rumor mill is already fired up and churning out leaked design photos and fervent discussion about possible specs and features. It’s a good time to consider the effect the first iPhone had on the role of marketers and web content. If you cast your mind back to September of 2007, when iPhone debuted on the market, you may recall that the only web content it could handle was from within the Safari web browser. There were no apps and no App Store. In fact, iPhone users had to wait until July 2008 for the launch of the App Store and the ability to run third-party apps.

With the arrival of native apps, marketers quickly saw the potential for a rich, immersive experience for their brands, and so began what we might describe as the bifurcation of brand content into two distinct streams: the website and the app. In fact, the evolution of this trend has driven some interesting situations over the years:

1. Brands deploying different websites for desktop browsers and mobile browsers.
2. Brands using a single content repository and webserver to deliver content to both desktop and mobile browsers (using responsive techniques and variants thereof).
3. Brands employing both the web and the mobile app to engage with users.
4. Brands focusing solely on a mobile app to engage with users.

The idea that a brand would focus exclusively on the mobile app as an engagement channel is something that would have been inconceivable even five years ago, and it has been made possible primarily by the rise of the smartphone as the preferred way to access the web by consumers. But globally, smartphone adoption is happening at different rates. For example, while many developed nations are approaching market saturation, many markets that represent an enormous opportunity have relatively low smartphone adoption.

Therefore mobile-first brands with global ambitions must take these variances into consideration. A recent TechCrunch article highlights the case of Instagram, which started life as an exclusively mobile app (since it’s based on photos shot on a mobile phone), and is now confronted with the need to expand to the mobile web in order to drive adoption in emerging markets.

As stated in the article: “Many users in the developing world may not have a fast enough cellular network to conveniently download Instagram’s app. Their phones don’t always have enough storage to download it without sacrificing other apps or content. And the data cost of downloading the app can be prohibitive.” To address consumers in these markets, brands will need a content and technology strategy that addresses both the mobile web and the native (or even hybrid) app.

But even in developed markets, a multichannel strategy is needed — for two reasons. First, consumers will select the channel that is most convenient to them at that moment, which might equally be the web or the app. And secondly, some consumers are suffering from “app fatigue,” as described in this Fortune article: “How App Fatigue Is Taking a Toll on Smartphone Owners” — and are thinning their app herd for a variety of reasons: “Several participants on the Facebook thread noted that they now find mobile web sites more useful than apps. These sites are designed to display well on smartphone screens as well as on PCs and laptops. On the flip side, they also bemoaned that many companies do not (yet) offer such mobile-friendly sites.”

If you’re marketing a global brand, what are the best technology and channel strategies for customer engagement? First, you should ensure your content is optimized for all channels and devices. And secondly, for many brands, you will likely need to follow in the footsteps of Instagram to address the nuances of the larger opportunities in emerging markets.

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