Forget social media – emerging markets want health, education and finance

Emerging market consumers do not need “the next Facebook” or “the next Snapchat”, according to new research from mobile commerce accelerator Upstream.

Instead, digital brands looking to entice the next three billion consumers in emerging markets – who collectively are willing to pay $70 billion for digital mobile services – need to focus on providing digital services in education (27%), health (26%), and finance (23%). This highlights the revolutionary potential of mobile devices in emerging markets, with mobile becoming a key access point for services and amenities that are typically offered in very different ways in developing economies.

Facebook is by far the most accessed digital service on mobile phones in emerging markets. As customer acquisition within mature markets becomes more challenging, the developing markets and their next three billion consumers are an increasingly enticing prospect to digital brands such as Amazon Prime, Spotify, Netflix and Apple Music which are looking to expand their global reach.

The thirst for digital content in emerging markets is rising, fuelled by increasing mobile connectivity, with mobile connections estimated to surpass the 9 billion mark by 2020 in Sub-Saharan Africa alone. The above statistics are highlighted in the findings of the 2016 Developing Markets Mobile Commerce report, commissioned by Upstream, and based on a YouGov survey of 5,215 adults in Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, Nigeria and South Africa, which also reveals:

  • The top 5 digital services consumers access on mobile devices in emerging markets are: Facebook (85%), Instagram (44%), BBC News (27%), Line (17%) and Netflix (15%)
  • Most of this content is being accessed via web browser, as 42% of emerging consumers claim to use their phone’s internet browser to access digital services. Apps come in at a close second, at 40%
  • Mobile has a multi-faceted functionality in emerging markets, given that only 3% use their mobile handsets solely for voice and texting
  • 87% make daily use of mobile handsets for other purposes, including accessing digital services, and this goes up to 97% on a monthly basis
  • Nigeria has the highest service usage: 95% of mobile use involves digital services on a daily basis

Localisation of digital services is also key in emerging markets, as 76% of users overall want a strong local feel to their mobile content and services. This response is higher in Brazil, where 91% also want localised content with a preference in categories like news, where 92% of users want local providers and financial services, where localisation is key to 88% of respondents.

Marco Veremis, CEO and Co-founder of Upstream, commented: “Social media services are currently the most widely consumed in emerging markets. Yet, our survey found that consumers are not looking for the next big social media tool, instead, they want digital services in education, finance and healthcare, where there is currently a market gap. Forward-thinking digital services providers will take note of this – rather than competing with established giants, they can make a significant mark by listening to consumers in emerging markets and giving them services that better suit what they are clamouring for.”


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