While it is no news that China leads the world’s online population, hitting 477 million users as of March 2011, it is interesting to look at the uptake of mobile Internet in urban China and see how that compares with other regions. Forrester’s Technographics® data shows that urban China is chasing Japan closely, with 43% of mobile phone users reporting they access the mobile Internet at least monthly. This number doubles that of the US (although the US number represents all Americans, rural and urban), which ranked as the third market in this study. While my gut feeling tells me that urban China’s mobile Internet adoption is comparable to that of the developed markets, this result is still striking because the smartphone market in China did not kick off officially until the end of 2009.
Just last month, China Mobile, the dominant mobile service provider with 60% national market share, announced its plan to lower rates for both calls and data plans by an average of at least 15%. And on Monday, China Daily reported that the number of China’s microbloggers was forecast to reach 100 million this year and will increase to 253 million by 2013.*
The booming popularity of microblogging in China, coupled with the fact that mobile Internet is becoming more affordable, means that urban Chinese will not forgo the convenience that mobile Internet provides. We know another wave of growth is approaching. It is just the matter of how high the wave can reach.
Whereas in the age of manufacturing, the age of distribution, and most recently the age of information, companies that had the best skills were winning, in this age of the customer, only companies that fully understand their customers’ needs will win over their hearts (and with that, wallet share). And it’s not enough to be customer-centric — in fact, companies should be customer-obsessed. This is not just jargon, it has a real meaning:
A customer obsessed company focuses its strategy, its energy, and its budget on processes that enhance knowledge of an engagement with customers, and prioritizes these over maintaining traditional competitive barriers.
This report is very relevant for market insights professionals because they are the ones that will need to support their organization to understand the (hidden) drivers behind the needs of the customers — and how to delight them. Josh Bernoff shares more of his insights in this blog post, and clients can access the report here.
About six weeks ago, I attended the Mobile Research conference 2011 in London, where a variety of vendors and clients talked about their experiences with mobile as a research methodology. They shared a range of mobile research methodologies, like using text messages in emerging markets, mobile ethnographic studies, geolocation tracking, and mobile behavioral tracking data. You can find most of the presentations here, and if you want to see me in action as roving reporter, you can click here.
During the whole conference, there was a clear line between the benefits and challenges of online research versus mobile research, and how the two can strengthen each other. Then at the end of the second day, someone asked the following question to the audience: “Do you consider tablets a PC or mobile device?” The answer was almost unanimous: a mobile device.
This got me thinking about the whole concept of mobile research in more detail. In fact, I was wondering if something like a mobile research conference would still exist in a couple of years, because the rapid technological developments of smartphones and tablets will blur the line between mobile and online research. Can we, as researchers, continue to define the research methodology in the future, or are the respondents going to do that? This line of thinking led me to ask this question to our community members: Should research be device-agnostic?