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International mobile adoption outpaces US in first-screen role

While the United States has been quick to accept mobile as a third screen, less developed countries are seeing quicker mobile adoption, in part because of the lack of access to other devices.

A number of recent reports have pointed to noticeable differences in the adoption of mobile technology in different countries. U.S. consumers seem more attached to their mobile devices as a third screen compared to Chinese and British consumers, but interestingly emerging countries appear to be more willing to use mobile devices as their main touchpoint for commerce.

?Mobile technology is interesting in the sense that in mature countries like the U.S. and Western Europe it?s replacing the PC,? said Daniel Weisbeck, CMO of Netbiscuits, San Francisco.

?In the emerging markets, or new countries where they didn?t have an infrastructure for landlines, mobile technology is often the first Internet connection,? he said. ?We?re seeing mobility expanding the Internet itself.

?The use patterns because of that are really interesting because many of these countries are adopting newer technologies and using mobile devices more aggressively than some of the mature countries.?

Emerging countries
Netbiscuits recently reported that Brazil, India and South Africa spend more time doing mobile banking than any other country, with over 40 percent of the country regularly using the service.

In the U.S. on the other hand, around 15 percent admitted to spending more than 30 minutes shopping on their smartphones every day.

According to Mr. Weisbeck, this may be because Americans tend to do commerce-related activities at home on their desktop, while in other countries mobile devices are their sole entry to Internet access.

?In the mature markets, people tend to use their device more for information seeking and augment that with their PC at home more so than in emerging markets or as the primary point of contact,? Mr. Weisbeck said. ?People in mature markets tend to have more devices, so they can utilize their tablet to their PC to their mobile device in a multichannel experience.?

There were some interesting similarities among the ten countries that Netbiscuits surveyed.

Eight of the ten countries surveyed said the most important factor in mobile was speed. UK and Australia, on the other hand, placed the most importance on security.

Another interesting similarity is that almost everyone preferred browsers to native apps.

Mr. Weisbeck advises that marketers focus on making the best mobile site experience before moving on to a native app. The app should augment the browser experience.

Mobile China
Another study from the IAB also showed that U.S. consumers are more likely to use mobile devices as a supplement to other devices, while Chinese consumers are replacing other devices with mobile.

?The Chinese are clearly reporting that other media use, TV, print etc., for basic entertainment functions are being displaced to a certain degree as opposed to the U.S. you have a history of multitasking and multiscreening, so that?s why you always see data that says other media aren?t impacted, it just seems that we?re adding new media,? said Sherrill Mane, senior vice president of research, analytics and measurement at IAB, New York.

?We?re the multiscreening, multitasking folks,? she said. ?What we?re seeing in China is that they could very well become a one-screen society. So much media use is being displaced and the smartphone screen is becoming and entertainment center.?

More than a quarter of Chinese consumers reported that the engaged with TV and print media less because of their mobile device, while less than 20 percent of Americans said the same.

Americans were also more likely to multitask while using smartphones. While watching TV, 51 percent of Americans used their smartphones for Internet communication, with only 10 percent of Chinese consumers doing the same.

Thirty-eight percent of Americans said they used their phone for reading social media while watching TV, only 9 percent of Chinese did. Thirty-four percent of Americans conducted a local search while watching TV, and only 8 percent of Chinese did.

Interestingly, 69 percent of Americans said they would never leave home without their smartphone, while only 6 percent of Chinese consumers said the same.

?That shows you that the relationship with the device is very different,? Ms. Mane said. ?U.S. consumers talked about devices helping them be more efficient. For the Chinese it was very much a gateway to more content, more entertainment, more information.

?With the U.S. it?s more of an extension of the self,? she said. ?It?s the first thing they reach for in the morning. It tells you that there are very different ways that these consumers are using devices.

?It tells you that the societies are so different that my hypothesis is that smartphone and tablet use in the U.S. are an additional progression in more media use, multiscreening, but for China this very much could be an emerging one screen nation.?

UK lags
Even though mobile may still be a third screen for Americans, they still seem to be ahead of the UK in terms of mobile purchasing, according to a report from Judo. 

The report showed that only 22 percent of UK smartphone owners have attempted to make a purchase from their smartphone while 60 percent of U.S. smartphone owners have done so.

It seems that Americans are more willing to try the new payment methods than their British counterparts.

According to Dennis Jones, CEO of Judo Pay, London, the main obstacle for British consumers is security.

?Security concerns are the most common cited reasons for avoiding a first try, despite the fact that mobile payments are equally secure compared to desktop online purchases,? Mr. Jones said. ?When they do attempt to purchase, poorly designed checkout processes particularly around entering card details are the biggest deterrent.?

Mr. Jones believes that Britain will catch up to the U.S. just as it did with ecommerce, but it may take some time.

In the meantime, marketers need to do their best to understand the different markets and cater to the different populations and cultures.

?Understand your target consumer audience and how they engage with you,? Mr. Jones said. ?On smartphones, companies should be thinking about mobile web as an information sharing and customer acquisition channel.

?For customer loyalty and share of wallet growth, building native apps is a must,? he said. ?You have to redesign the shopping experience for the time starved repeat customer on the go and not simply shrink your mobile site."

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York