Asian smartphone use eclipsing the West: Google-TNS survey

  • Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, as well as China and Hong Kong, lead the world
  • Businesses must have a mobile-first mentality or risk being shuttered

Asian smartphone use eclipsing the West: Google-TNS surveyTHERE are five countries or economies worldwide that use smartphones more than personal computers (PCs) to access the Internet, a new study revealed – and they’re all Asian!
According to the Google Inc-sponsored TNS study entitled The Consumer Barometer, Malaysia and Singapore in South-East Asia, and South Korea, Hong Kong and China in Asia, are five countries where smartphone usage to access the Internet trumps PCs.
In Malaysia, the percentage of smartphone to PC use stands 51% to 39%, while Singapore recorded 85% to 74%. South Korea stood at 80% to 70%; Hong Kong at 74% to 61%; and China at 70% to 65%.
The trend shows that Asia is the region that is leading the world in smartphone adoption, use and engagement, the study noted.
Speaking to the media on Oct 27, Google Malaysia managing director Sajith Sivanandan (pic) said that it’s significant that these five Asian countries are named as having higher smartphone than PC use.
What’s more remarkable is that there are no Western countries on the list, and this really shows that Asia is leapfrogging the desktop Internet to create a new and exciting mobile-first landscape, he added.
“There is an entire generation of people in Asia whose first exposure to the Internet is via smartphones and not via the PC,” Sajith told Digital News Asia (DNA) on the sidelines of the briefing.
“There are two billion people connected today but there are another five billion to go [be connected], and this is going to happen via the smartphone,” he added.

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The Consumer Barometer Study sampled 150,000 interviewees across 56 countries and is aimed at helping advertisers, agencies, journalists and academia understand how people use the Internet across the world.
Conducted in the first quarter of 2014, the study is divided into three categories: ‘The Multi-Screen World,’ ‘The Smart Shopper’ and ‘The Smart Viewer.’ A detailed description of the surbey methodology can be found here.
Sajith said the findings were not unexpected given what the world knows about the use of mobiles in the Asian region. In fact, as more people come online, the first exposure they have of the Internet would be through smartphones, he argued.

He identified the three ‘As’ – affordability, accessibility and availability – of smartphones as the contributing factors that have fuelled this trend, and that this radical shift is poised to change how businesses are run.

Asked to elaborate on this, Sajith said smartphone users’ expectations are different from the generation of the past, when larger PC screens dominated.
“The huge implication for business is this: Whether you’re a small or large business, you are pretty much putting yourself out of business if you don’t have an online presence – and not only a web-based but mobile-optimised and mobile-first approach,” he declared.
Malaysia, Singapore trends

Asian smartphone use eclipsing the West: Google-TNS survey

The Consumer Barometer Survey also revealed several other interesting facts and figures about the behaviour of Malaysian and Singaporean shoppers.

For instance, shoppers in Asia are quite serious about conducting research online before they make purchases. The survey noted that 81% of Malaysians and 69% of Singaporeans said they conducted research online before purchasing.
The survey also noted that 48% of Singaporeans researched products on their smartphones before buying, while 41% Malaysians said they did so.
This is in stark contrast to Western nations. In the United Kingdom, for instance, this figure stood at a mere 21% while in Germany, it was 20%.
Also, 42% of Malaysian and 35% of Singaporean smartphone users used their phones at some stage in the buying process of the last item they bought, the highest rates in the world – ahead of China at 33% and well ahead of the United States at 21%.
As far as online transactions are concerned, flight tickets are the most popular items with Singaporeans – 89% said they had bought a flight ticket while 83% said they booked hotels. Other popular online purchases for Singaporeans are apparel and clothing (43%), cinema tickets (41%) and insurance (40%).
For Malaysians, flights (86%) are the most popular items purchased online, followed by hotel bookings (75%), apparel and clothing (42%), cinema tickets (37%) and insurance at 26%.
Also, 55% of Malaysians use their mobiles to listen to music, 50% play online games and 67% watch online video on their phones.
Singapore the ‘most connected’
The study also revealed that Singapore has the highest smartphone penetration in the world at 85%, up from 72% last year. Correspondingly, Singapore has amongst the highest number of connected devices per person, at 3.3 devices.

In Malaysia, smartphone penetration stood at 51% and the nation had an average of 1.2 connected devices per person.

One interesting trend that Malaysia led the world in: 35% of users exclusively use smartphones as the only means to access the Internet, followed by Vietnam at 24%, Singapore (16%), South Korea and Hong Kong (14%).
In the Western world, this trend was largely in the single-digit range, with Germany at 7% and the United Kingdom at 6%.

Google’s Sajith said the study simply shows that Malaysians love the Internet and their smartphones, and the amalgamation of these two trends is what sets it apart from the world.
“But more importantly, any business out there must have a mobile-first mindset. If you’re a business and you’re not mobile-optimised, you’re effectively slamming your shop door in the face of your customers and you’ll risk wiping yourself out,” he said.
Related Stories:
SEA smartphone sales exceed US$16.4bil in past 12mths: GfK
Mobile advertising growing, needs new approaches: Google
Media fragmentation an opportunity for advertisers: TNS
Shoppers flocking online for convenience, prices: Google

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