Southeast Asia is the dark horse in mobile

When I meet exec’s in North America and Europe, they often regard Asia as being too foreign – making their experience irrelevant. Perhaps this is true for South Korea and Japan which have very specialized markets; however, in Southeast Asia there continues to be far more similarities than differences.

Southeast Asia has, in fact, had mobile offerings longer than North America. Asians have also supported feature phones and SMS more consistently than Americans and Canadians, in my opinion, because they have large populations of both rich and poor.

The general trend is that everyone is struggling with mobile adoption growth. Mobile is happening – and it’s happening fast – but, it’s still around 2-4% of online. Everyone wants mobile to grow more quickly, and while struggling to support what they have, many companies simply turn mobile on and, wait for customers to show up with little or no promotion.

Similarly, in both geographies, travel and financial services lead the way. These verticals have higher adoption rates and the most mature solutions in each region around the world. Many of these companies are on their second or third major version of their mobile offering. The retail vertical is poised for explosive growth in mobile commerce, and is waiting for retailers to fully commit to the mobile channel.

Research has shown that when you add mobile channels online visits permanently increase, with an even split between mobile web and native applications. This means that those US and European companies that are still wrestling with whether to support transactions on mobile web or native applications – urgently need to step up and deliver on both.

All channels are not equal, however. The Asian execs see similar transaction conversion rate differences to what we see in North America. In particular, we see iPhone native applications having 30 percent higher conversion rates than other channels (including Android native apps and mobile web). We expect this behavior to change over time as devices change, and users and companies, are more experienced with mobile.

Of course, thanks to the sovereign debt crises and the recession, the Asian economies are seeing much stronger growth than the US and Europe. Asian companies are planning their second (and third) acts with mobile, for example, instead of considering new channels or new features, many Asian companies are planning major new lifestyle functionality around loyalty and rewards.

To conclude, around the world, enterprise mobility and mobile commerce are meeting to create new, more strategic employee-facing applications that solve new problems, using the devices employees choose, while still securing company data and streamlining processes.

It’s clearer than ever to me that mobile is driving innovation through all its incarnations and across every channel of the business from bricks-and-mortar, to online and beyond.

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David Eads leads Product Marketing for Kony, the mobile commerce platform vendor. David is a mobile commerce veteran and was the founder of consulting firm Mobile Strategy Partners in 2009. As a blogger and frequent industry speaker, David has been interviewed about mobile for national media outlets like Mobile Commerce Daily, Marketplace on NPR, Inc Magazine, The Toronto Star, and The Christian Science Monitor. Additionally, David also has a decade of technical experience developing enterprise software systems in Java and other languages for UNIX, Windows, and other systems.