Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Wildflower Hunters: Take the Mountain Road to the Back Country

800 million people is a respectable market opportunity. Okay, it's more than respectable - it's really big. But when gauging market potential, businesses have to consider many things. Chief among those considerations is, "How many people actually want what we're selling?" 

The good news for the many providers of smartphones, mobile broadband services and applications, is that there is a potential 800-million-strong market available - and a lot of the people in that market want what they're selling. Who are these hungry buyers? Working women in the developing world. In a recent study conducted with Qualcomm and the GSMA, Vital Wave surveyed over 1,000 employed women throughout Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, and Nigeria who own either a feature phone or a smartphone. The study showed that working women highly value mobile broadband for communicating with co-workers, locating customers, marketing their goods and services, and finding educational or job opportunities. Of those surveyed, 77 percent already own a smartphone would not go back to using a phone without Internet access. Two-thirds of the feature phone owners reported that they want smartphones and would be willing to pay for a mobile data plan, and half said they intend to buy a smartphone within the next two years. 

Despite these numbers, capturing this market will not be as simple or easy as picking wildflowers in a summer meadow. For all the programs that currently exist to expand technology in the developing world, very few focus on marketing, products and services to working women. In order to succeed, handset manufacturers, operators, governments, and even NGOs need to address the limited awareness as to the value of the Internet and the cash-flow implications of the handset purchase - the two most immediate barriers to smartphone uptake for women. Strategies to address these challenges include the development of public-private partnerships, creative financing, sponsored data schemes, and shared-use plans. Expanding Internet access, particularly in rural areas, will also increase women's use and appreciation for online services - a crucial first step for women who don't see the utility or convenience of mobile broadband. To discover additional insights, country-specific observations, market segmentation information, and directions to the best wildflower fields, download the full report here.

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