When was the last time you checked your phone and scampered through your newsfeeds? Or watched a video and maybe completed a purchase? If the answer is a few minutes ago, then you’re not alone. Almost 80% of the GCC population has active mobile subscription and the amount of time spent on the small screen is continuing to grow exponentially year on year.
The adoption of technology indeed has been a strong forte of the region and it’s the young consumers that are fueling this transformational growth. Connected living rooms are a reality now, with an average number of 1.8 devices in UAE and 1.6 in Saudi Arabia. Wearable devices are gaining traction as well, with roughly 18% of millennials owning at least one. And above all, mobile has emerged as the primary way to get online as opposed to secondary, fill-in-the-gaps, channels.
The Arab Consumers, or the “Digital Generation” are more connected than ever. There are certain consumer segments (25 and under) that are leap frogging desktops completely and using their smartphones as the sole means of fulfilling their day-to-day needs and aspirations. Almost 4 hours of their day is spent on their mobile phones and that number is growing.
A Google report released last year tells us smartphone penetration in Saudi Arabia stands at 86% across the entire population, and as high as 94% among people under 25. In the UAE, 30% of people use their smartphones more frequently than computers when they want to get online; in Saudi, the number is slightly higher, at 32%. A majority of smartphone owners in the UAE, as well as Saudi, prefer to complete a task digitally if that option is available.
Mobile has effectively emerged as a common touch point for Arab consumers. It has now become center stage and is influencing everything: content, commerce, social, video etc. and some of these trends will continue to gain upward momentum in 2017.
Mobile for Research
Smartphones have completely transformed the way consumers discover and research products and services before making their purchase decisions.
In Saudi Arabia, the younger consumer segment prefers to use their smartphone to research a product before purchase and 84% of people under 25 years researched a recent purchase using a smartphone. In the United Arab Emirates, 57% of people who researched a recent purchase used a smartphone.
This data from Google’s Consumer Barometer report reinforces the fact that consumers are already making many of their online purchases using mobile devices. Saudi Arabia’s rates of smartphone usage and mCommerce are among the highest in the world.
Mobile commerce (mCommerce) is making a very impactful contribution to retail sales this year. In a joint ecommerce report between OMD and Arabnet last year, it was established that 90% of the leading ecommerce retailers are focusing on an app-centric acquisition and retention marketing strategies. Almost 50% of their sales came from a mobile channel in 2016.
Mobile for Video
Mobile video is witnessing a spiraling boom in consumption. Millennials on smartphones have a lot of appetite for content and are now in control of how they want to watch it.
Consumers in the UAE and Saudi also watch a much higher volume of online videos than their European and North American counterparts. In the UAE, internet users prefer to watch videos on smartphones with 75% of respondents stating that they watch online videos once a week or more on their smartphones.
Winning the Moment
Given how technologically empowered consumers are forcing the rules to change and creating a whole new spectrum of engagement opportunities for marketers, we need to focus on reorganizing our approach around consumers and not necessarily the channels. Therefore, it is time to prioritize two key areas that directly impact our engagement with consumers and the efficiency of our investments:
Plenty of research has shown that consumers place a lot of emphasis on overall usability and mobile speed, however it is understood that a big percentage of businesses, particularly the ones whose business objectives don’t sit on digital, are failing to prioritize this area continuing to have a limited focus on mobile.
Today’s consumers are all over mobile. This region has seen an influx of new players who are helping improve the mobile approach and become more diversified and native. Even with these efforts, more drastic measures will need to be undertaken to glean maximum returns.
As we continue to see maturity in native programmatic and location-based ad inventory, and more importantly in the implementation of 1st and 3rd party data, advertising dollars must also follow.
As consumers continue to migrate to the mobile-only world and advertisers aggregate them through targeting, what we are finding are gaps in how we measure and attribute success across channels.
Cross-device measurement is hot on the agenda and the emergence of ID-based targeting will allow us to identify the right signals from mobile environments and subsequently optimize the right investment across those platforms.
It is now time to stop over-assessing targeting, which has already been effectively tackled, and to instead focus on the delivery environment.
As cliché as it may sound, 2017 should truly be the year for mobile in terms of monetization. Yes, you read that right – monetization. Social platforms are already championing the mobile space but as the possibilities around location data continue to unlock at scale, it will fuel brands to commit to a bold mobile-only ad-dollar ecosystem.
The MENA region is home to the second-largest mobile smartphone population in the world, but the region’s mobile advertising investment will need to pick up in order to keep up.