International Mobile Internet: Is Mobile Growth A Global Phenomenon?

International Mobile Internet: Is Mobile Growth A Global Phenomenon?

22nd April 2015

Global Mobile Web UsageMobile is the topic on every digital marketer’s lips at the moment, as we wait to see just how much Google’s update to consider mobile as a ranking factor will impact the hallowed ranking positions in Google’s search results.

There can’t be many who are surprised by this move – mobile has been getting increasingly important and we only need to look at our own relationship with our smartphone or tablet to see that. But it’s significant that the world’s biggest search engine is really taking it seriously and it’s a major kick up the you-know-what for anybody yet to embrace mobile-friendliness.

Google has confirmed that this update is a global rollout, so the effects can and will be felt all around the world.

If you’re targeting international markets, is mobile actually important?

The answer is clearly yes. The rise in smartphone and tablet usage is a global trend, and you’ll struggle to find a country that hasn’t seen growth in mobile web usage (and traffic to websites) over the past few years.

In fact, in many developing markets mobile devices are often the only means of connecting to the internet, with PCs and broadband being too expensive, or simply not available.

In short, failing to provide a mobile experience will damage your performance, anywhere and everywhere in the world – with or without Google updates.

How much web traffic is mobile?

As I mentioned, in developing countries, particularly in Asia and Africa it is mobile usage that is really driving the increase in internet penetration and this is shown by the amount of web traffic coming from mobile in these regions. ICU Stats from 2014 show that 47.5% and 45.8% of all web traffic in Asia and Africa is mobile, compared to just 34% in Europe and an even smaller 27% in Latin America.


Mobile Web Usage By Region

Image: Webcertain

Breaking this down further by country, we see that African countries are dominating the top positions – with Sudan, Kenya and Nigeria seeing over 70% mobile traffic. Given that Nigeria is now in the top 10 countries for internet penetration – that is a heck of a lot of people using the mobile web.

For other regions, there is less of an apparent trend. European countries show quite diverse behaviour – compare 52% in the Netherlands to just 9% in the Czech Republic and it becomes clear that a one size fits all approach to device targeting is not appropriate.

Mobile and Ecommerce

Ecommerce Behaviour By DeviceFor those businesses selling online, understanding mobile purchasing behaviour is vital to ensure you’re providing the right environment and user experience for potential customers in every market you operate in.

Unsurprisingly, the majority of global online shopping is still done via a desktop computer (almost 85%), and in many developed markets this figure is well into the nineties.  However, there are some countries which buck this trend and see much higher numbers of internet users completing transactions on mobile devices.  Indians and South Koreans make 24% and 25% of their online purchases via a smartphone, while this figure rises to a huge 62% in Indonesia.

But it’s not just the final purchase that matters, but also any research that precedes the ultimate transaction.  Mobile devices are much more popular for this activity, with around 24% global users claiming to research on their smartphone and 10% on tablets.

So mobile could be playing a key role in the purchasing journey of your customers, even if you’re not seeing direct conversions from it.

Graphic: The Amazing Potential of Global Ecommerce in 2015 and Beyond, Webcertain

What About Apps?

No business should just dive into creating an App without determining if there is a need for it, or if it will add value to your audience.

When you operate internationally, you need to think about localisation. It might be enough to just have your App in English, but in most cases you’ll find that you do need to provide a localised version – both language and content – for each market, if you want them to download, and more importantly, engage with it.

You also need to think about App stores and where you’re promoting it. The Apple App Store and Google Play are the frontrunners when it comes to Apps and a presence in both is really a no-brainer. Globally Google Play actually boasts the most downloads; recent figures quoted in the Wall Street Journal suggest 70% more, with demand in emerging markets such as Brazil and Indonesia boosting this growth yet Apple’s revenues are a significant 70% higher.

Apple has struggled outside of the developed markets, with the high price of its handsets seeing many users opting for lower cost devices powered by Android. China was one such market however since the release of the iPhone 6 model, it has gained market share. An important point to note about China is that Google Play isn’t accessible in the country, but there are numerous other App stores, including those owned by local search engines Baidu and Qihoo (Haosou), so if you are serious about promoting an App in China, you will need to investigate the local options.

Mobile Matters

Wherever in the world you’re targeting, there is only one direction the mobile web is headed in and users increasingly expect a smooth, easy mobile experience when they land on a website.  However, as with everything international, it’s important that you treat each country individually and develop a mobile strategy that is appropriate for users in that market and reflects user behaviour and needs.


Written By
Gemma Birch has been working in international search since 2007 and leads WebCertain’s marketing team. She is responsible for managing WebCertain’s online marketing activities around the world as well as organising and programming the International Search Summit.
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