How Markets Grow Up
There are at least four different personalities that digital markets can adopt as they develop; to succeed, marketers need a precise understanding of the specialist roles that digital platforms can play for each.
And what it means for brands’ connection strategies
The advance of internet access is often portrayed as a simple progression with little room for variation – and inevitable consequences for marketers. Digital leads to fragmented audiences and diminishing returns; building awareness and engagement becomes harder work with less certain rewards. The media landscape becomes a maelstrom of proliferating touchpoints and uncertain consumer behaviour.
In reality, more touchpoints mean more choice, for both consumer and marketer. Although markets grow up in a number of different ways, the consumers within those markets use their devices in a manner that is largely predictable, provided you know which devices they can access and what attitudes they have towards those devices. As the availability of different
devices increases, consumer media consumption becomes more specialised, with different roles for different platforms at different times of the day. Because this specialisation follows a logical pattern, there is a real opportunity for marketers to follow consumers precisely from platform to platform.
Understanding the role that a device or channel plays within a given consumer’s day offers new opportunity to engage within a specific context. Media fragmentation may make mass targeting more challenging, but it also offers robust, precision targeting at scale – when specialised digital routines provide a rich variety of platforms and purposeful opportunities.
The alternative personalities of digital markets
Markets grow up in different ways as their inhabitants settle on the uses of technology that best fit their needs and their resources. The key to understanding each market lies in an appreciation both of the access that consumers have to different digital technologies – and their attitudes towards using them. Market forces and history combine to dictate access: the availability of technology and the price at which it is made available. Attitudes can
be both drivers and barriers to adoption; drivers for the early adopters who actively seek out the latest devices, barriers for those habitual users who are already comfortable with what they have and are less inclined to look elsewhere.
Whilst it is true that mobile is taking on a more central role across all markets, this can happen far quicker in those markets with no past history of using other devices, and where low-cost smartphones offer the most affordable route online. This lack of pre-existing alternative forms of web access distinguishes single-device, mobile-centric markets like Kenya (where 98 per cent of time online is spent on a mobile) from those such as Egypt, where legacies of desktop use make internet users slower to migrate to other devices, and 67 per cent of time online continues to take place on a PC. Cost of data can still provide a barrier to access in single- device, mobile-centric markets, but it also provides an opportunity for brands that are alive to access and attitudes. Unilever has had considerable success in India’s rural regions by offering free entertainment, served with accompanying ads, on mobile platforms.
The proliferation of alternative digital technologies helps to shift attitudes within a market, but is no guarantee that they will shift quickly. In many such markets, the PC remains central for the majority of consumers. In Germany, it accounts for 69 per cent of time online, and a willingness to wait for this preferred digital experience (rather than going online at any time through tablet or smartphone) helps to explain why overall time online for Germany stands at only 3.0 hours, whilst Kenya leapfrogs to 3.2
The key differentiator between a multiple-device, PC-centric market such as Germany and a multiple-device, mobile-centric market such as Hong Kong isn’t in the access to technology; it’s all in the attitudes and lifestyle. Developed markets where early adoption has become a mainstream behaviour don’t necessarily spend that much more time online – but they have huge flexibility as to when and where that time online takes place. The fact that 51 per cent of time online in Hong Kong is spent on a mobile or tablet device doesn’t add up to that much more time online overall (3.9 hours per day), but it hugely expands the range of needs that digital can meet. And it’s this broadening of the roles that digital media can take on that has the most significant implications for traditional media channels.
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