Monday, August 25, 2014

It's all fun and games until someone trips over 5 million subscribers

If MobiThinking's "Insider's Guide to mobile Web marketing in India" is accurate, 90% of the country's mobile subscribers have voted for a reality show-based contest via SMS. Half of them subscribe to regular SMS jokes, and nearly as many use their phones to get astrology or sports information. This is pretty remarkable in a country where many development organizations are struggling to achieve scale for their mobile-based health, agriculture, and education programs.

Writing for the GSMA recently, Kristen Roggeman pointed out that there is an obvious demand for entertainment among mobile users in both rural and urban India. She describes an innovative marketing effort by Hindustan Unilever (HUL), whereby mobile phone users make a missed call and receive an automatic call-back with 15 minutes of radio programming. The service now has 5 million subscribers and sends out 25,000 hours of programming every day. HUL has now dropped traditional radio marketing from its advertising mix. The hunger for entertainment is not unique to India. In Brazil, The most popular apps are for music, entertainment and navigation, followed by photo, video and social networking. In Nigeria, the national brewery ran a spectacularly successful SMS marketing campaign inviting 18- to 25-year-old men to attend music concerts. The ads had a response rate of more than 30% and a click-through rate of almost 9%. And in the US, drug makers and insurance companies are developing game-like apps that give points and gifts for sticking to drug regimens. (Failing to follow drug prescriptions is estimated to cost US employers, insurance companies and health providers around $200 billion a year.)

Development organizations might take note: even for the poor, entertainment is a central aspect of mobile phone usage. Mobile devices are quickly supplanting radio and television as the main conduit for personal entertainment in developing countries. Integrating entertainment - music, games, sports, movies, and contests - into dry but useful information campaigns is a viable way of extending the reach and impact of programs. Also, strategic partnerships (e.g., with sports, music, or media groups) could help defray the cost of promotion and generate buzz. Development organizations hoping to capitalize on soaring mobile penetration rates frequently devise SMS-based outreach programs. Making them more fun will require a little "outside the box" thinking, but it could be rewarded by increased awareness, adoption, and effectiveness. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Trust and Verify

Two seemingly unrelated announcements were made by a pair of tech industry heavyweights - Apple and (eBay's) PayPal. Apple extended two-step verification - where a code sent to an old device must be used to change an account or buy something on a new device - to 49 countries, including China, India, Brazil and dozens of other developing nations. Nigeria was not on the list. This is noteworthy because PayPal announced that tens of thousands of Nigerians signed up for PayPal in the first week of operations there. PayPal and its partners (a prominent local lending partner, suppliers in Dubai and China, and fast-growing online retailer Jumia) claim that e-commerce in Nigeria has officially arrived.

Of course, for consumers, signing up for PayPal or verifying a new iPhone is only the beginning of the online buying experience. The bloom will quickly fade from the e-commerce rose if buyers fail to receive an order or fall victim to identity theft. The trust barrier is considerably higher for emerging-market consumers than it is for their mature-market counterparts. In many developing countries, people generally mistrust banks, operators, mail delivery organizations, foreign companies, and the legal system's capacity to prosecute fraud or theft. It will take a concerted effort to build trust and educate new smartphone users about risk, data protection and privacy.

As smartphones and wearables are used for more and more functions, trust and education will determine the growth rate for online purchasing. Device makers, app developers, and service providers (including back-end hosts) all have tremendous opportunities up and down the e-commerce value chain. Multinational companies that build reliable public - and private-sector partnerships (particularly with delivery services) and implement strong, user-friendly security measures will foster trust. To be truly effective, these efforts should accompany early and continued investment in brand marketing via localized content and messaging that reinforces security features. Providing a platform for user reviews and focusing on early adopters and influencers through social media can also validate the online buying experience and address the trust issues of willing but wary buyers.