4 Billion Mobile Users Are Coming Online—Is Your Marketing Ready?

Mobile is powering efforts to reduce the digital divide and opening up vast new audiences for marketers

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At this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivered a keynote address that called for increased action to “finish the job of internet access,” highlighting a growing focus on mobile connectivity and the digital divide both from his company and the tech world at large. In connection with this effort, Facebook recently released its second-annual State of Connectivity report, providing insight into the low levels of internet access and mobile connectivity in emerging markets and examining how governments, telecoms, nonprofits, and others are working to bridge that gap.

Internet Connectivity Statistics

Source: Facebook’s State of Connectivity report

It’s a big gap. While 87% of people in North America used the internet over the past three months, that number drops to 19% in Sub-Saharan Africa and 17% when you look at the South Asia region, where approximately 1.4 billion people lack internet access. But while major challenges remain, a lot of progress is happening: the number of internet users worldwide grew by 300 million people between 2014 and 2015, rising to 3.2 billion. That growth is making it possible for millions of people to access information and economic opportunities that would be otherwise out of reach, bolstering standards of living and social change around the world.

What does increased mobile connectivity mean for marketers?

One of the big findings in the report was that nearly all people who have gained access to the internet in recent years have done so via mobile devices. So as the billions of people who currently lack internet access head online, their experience will likely be not just mobile-first, but mobile-only. That means that brands with a robust, forward-looking mobile marketing strategy are going to have a major head start when it comes to reaching this massive audience.

Have you started thinking about how you’re going to reach customers on mobile in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa? Well, maybe it’s time…

How can marketers get ready for increased mobile connectivity in emerging markets?

1. If you’re not taking advantage of mobile, it’s time to start. Check out these tips on how to prepare effectively to use a mobile marketing platform.

2. For brands that have a mobile presence, make sure that your mobile marketing efforts are as effective as possible. That means getting smart about the customer data you’re collecting, personalizing the outreach you send, optimizing your messages with effective testing, taking advantage of multiple messaging channels, and prioritizing relationship marketing.

3. Mobile technology makes it easier to reach people all over the world. To engage your global audiences effectively, make sure that your mobile martech has the ability to customize your outreach to customers to ensure that it’s culturally appropriate and in the right language.

4. Think seriously about non-technological barriers to internet access and how they will affect the ways you can reach these new audiences. More than two-thirds of people without internet access in emerging markets are not familiar with the internet as a concept. How will that change the way they engage with your brand on mobile? Approximately one billion people worldwide are illiterate—what are your options for communicating with them? These aren’t easy questions, but the sooner you start thinking about them, the better prepared you’ll be.

5. Be realistic about the emerging audiences your brand will be able to reach. Engaging emerging mobile users is going to take time and effort, but how much you’ll need to invest to be effective is going to differ significantly from brand to brand. Companies with apps or mobile sites that are intuitive and highly visual (think simple gaming apps or visual-focused apps like Snapchat) will likely be able to appeal to these new customers without making major strategy changes. Other brands may find that reaching and engaging emerging mobile users will require significant adjustments to their app/website, their messages, even their brand promise. If that’s you, think through what changes you’re willing to make and what the probable payoff will be before moving forward. Not every new mobile user is going to be a good customer for you, and being realistic about who you can reach and how will help you make the most of this opportunity.

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