Malaysia amongst most savvy, least brand-conscious smartphone markets: Study
By Digital News Asia December 4, 2013
- Malaysians use devices for more than rest of emerging Asia; function and quality valued over brand
- Malaysian ‘digital frontrunners’ also more ‘digitally communicative’ than their Swedish counterparts
MALAYSIA is among the most smartphone-savvy and least brand-conscious markets in emerging Asia according to TNS’ annual global Mobile Life study, said the Telenor Group in Asia.
The study also found that Malaysia is one of the least brand-conscious countries in emerging Asia. Those surveyed placed phone features and functionality, such as instant Internet access, as their key ‘why-buys,’ rather than brand or model of handset or the look and feel of the device.
It was also revealed that Malaysians would use their smartphones across a wider range of functions and more frequently than their counterparts in other emerging Asian markets, the Telenor Group said in a statement.
Drawing on 38,000 people from 43 countries, TNS’ global Mobile Life study uncovered major mobile connectivity differences in countries across emerging Asia. Those studied included representative ratios of the population from 16-60 years of age, both mobile phone owners and non-owners.
In Telenor’s Asia markets, the surveyed were asked in online and face-to-face interviews to provide information and agree to a series of questions related to the role of mobile technology in their lives. In Malaysia, the sample size was 500; in Thailand, 1,000; and in India, 2,980.
“TNS undertakes the annual Mobile Life study to put a finger on the pulse of mobile usage across the world and to determine which mobile platforms and services drive consumer engagement today and which are most likely to grow in the future,” said Joe Webb, head of Digital, Greater China, TNS.
“For global mobile providers like Telenor, it’s going to be increasingly important to stay informed of consumers’ behaviour on mobile, how mobile finance will shape the industry and the opportunities these changes and trends present.”
“Malaysia is our most mature market in Asia, and [it is] ready for the most advanced mobile technology and fastest connectivity available,” said Sigve Brekke (pic), executive vice president and head of Asia Operations, Telenor Group; and chairman of DiGi.
“We have seen a strong uptrend in the adoption of the Internet in recent years; however, there is still a lot more we can do to enable access and bring the benefits of the Internet to more Malaysians,” he said.
According to another study, by Ericsson ConsumerLab, smartphone penetration increased from 47% in 2012 to 63% this year as mobile data demand skyrocketed in the country. The need to connect to the Internet is one of the key drivers for buying a smartphone, and 17% of the respondents indicated that they would buy a smartphone within the next six months.
Advancing connectivity in a fast-growing market
The TNS study highlights that as the technological sophistication of Malaysia’s consumers grows, Malaysians are becoming more discerning on how their content is provided.
“This is a trend that we think both the telecommunications industry and handset makers should closely follow,” said Brekke.
The top smartphone uses include: Location-based services, entertainment and streaming content, apps and social networks. Malaysians are avid social networkers, with more than half of them logging on to their platforms of choice via mobile at least once a day.
The TNS Malaysia report found that mobile phones now form a key part of how consumers access digital services, with close to 20% of data used via mobile networks. Currently, most people still choose to download and stream data via household networks rather than on carrier networks.
“TNS cites that up to 80% of data traffic is through WiFi, at home or in public, in Malaysia. However, we are seeing more Malaysians subscribing to data plans as they become more dependent on the Internet on the go,” said Brekke.
“To cater to increasing demand, service providers such as DiGi have put in a lot of effort to improve quality of service and coverage, while ensuring we continue to focus on delivering relevant and affordable services,” he added.
Warming up to the ‘wallet’
More than half (53%) of mobile users in Malaysia have conducted banking on their phones, with strong growth opportunities across all demographic segments. Only 22% of those Malaysians surveyed said they were not interested in mobile banking.
Though most still prefer banking via PC, on-the-go tasks like receiving bank or credit card notifications, making simple fund transfers and checking balances are popular functions of mobile banking. Malaysians in their 20s are the most financially ‘mobile.’
In terms of usage drivers of mobile wallets, Malaysians see value in its convenience and potential. For some motivators such as convenience, speed, and not having to carry cash, Malaysians support the use of the mobile wallet by more than 10-point margins above either the developed Asia or global averages.
The mobile wallet represents a major growth opportunity for small businesses, retailers and mobile service providers alike, says the TNS global survey. Paying for products and services via SMS, mobile phone app or by touching mobiles to in-store sensors is now common for 40% of Malaysians.
Purchasing mobile air time, paying bills and buying gas and fast food see the strongest growth potential.
“Particularly for young, working-age Asians, mobile payment options show strong trial and overall interest, and we’re continuing to find new ways to serve them,” said Brekke, noting that Telenor subsidiary DiGi had launched mPOS (mobile Point of Sale), a new mobile credit and debit card payment system.
Additionally, mobile financial products and services will become staples for Malaysia’s large and growing community of SMEs (small and medium enterprises), he predicted.
In terms of mobile commerce, as consumers in Malaysia gain mobile Internet access, their engagement with mobile retail activities are increasing, said the study. Already, Malaysia is near the top of the curve, behind only South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Norway and Sweden.
Malaysia vs Sweden
Sweden is often considered a bastion of high-tech design, progress and technology. A comparison study done by Telenor’s research arm, Telenor Research, found that compared with the Swedes, Malaysians are actually more digitally communicative.
Across the range of mobile communications functions, Malaysia’s ‘digital frontrunners’ (urban 16-35 year-olds with Internet-capable phones) out-use their Swedish counterparts in every category, with the largest difference seen in communications apps.
And at least eight out of 10 Malaysians use a mobile SMS app, whereas only roughly one in 10 Swedes do, the study found.
“Because Malaysians tend to be both price-conscious and technology adept, they choose to communicate across a range of platforms – SMS, application, social media, voice, data, 3G, WiFi, and so on,” Brekke said.
“This flexibility and tendency toward leveraging the mobile Internet – even compared with their Scandinavian equivalents – is a significant development in Malaysia’s telecoms evolution. It shows us just how important a role the mobile Internet is now playing in Malaysians’ lives.”
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