Recently, my colleague Olesia Klevchuk published a report about the behaviors of consumers in India, China, Japan, South Korea, and Australia, called 'Understanding The Changing Needs Of Online Consumers In Asia Pacific'. Forrester has been tracking consumer online behavior in Asia Pacific for six years now. In 2011, we polled Asia Pacific consumers in two separate surveys to find out about their use of the Internet for media, entertainment, shopping, communications, and social computing.
This year's Asia Pacific data shows continuous growth in the amount of time consumers spend with online media, including widespread adoption of social activities, as well as growing importance of the mobile phone. For consumers in Asia Pacific, PCs at home and high-speed Internet connections are becoming the norm.
In metropolitan China and Japan, at least nine in 10 adults have access to a computer at home, and almost eight in 10 are already online. In metropolitan India, the numbers are much lower, with only 27% regularly going online. But India is a populous country, and there are currently around 100 million online users, which puts it in third place after China and the US.
Several months ago I hosted a roundtable discussion with public-sector CIOs from multiple Singapore government agencies. We focused specifically on social computing — how it will alter the way public-sector agencies interact with constituents and each other. While the focus was on Singapore, the key takeaways are universal, hence my interest in sharing the findings here.
In the midst of discussing the usual suspects — concerns about security, privacy, risk management, audit, and compliance — we came to a consensus on some key points:
Clearly identify what services or information constituents actually want, not what the agency wants to deliver. A poorly implemented social computing app risks becoming a glorified suggestion box, or worse — “next-generation knowledge management.” In other words, a costly solution looking for a problem. Focus instead on how to actively engage users — using advanced analytics and business intelligence (BI) to deliver value. In some cases, it is as simple as asking instead of assuming.
Combining formal and informal data will be a major challenge.The more effective agencies are at encouraging voluntary, “opt-in” style usage, the more challenging it will be to segregate user-provided information and data from more formal, agency-provided data that must be rigorously maintained and secured. Take this information “sourcing” issue into account when documenting data management policies.
The shift towards the empowered consumer and employee is no more obvious than in Asia - particularly in Singapore, where a recent Google study showed that smartphone penetration is a whopping 62% (compared to 31% in the US). In fact, of the 11 countries in Asia surveyed, four of them (Singapore, Australia - 37%, Hong Kong - 35%, Urban China - 35%) had higher smartphone penetration rates than the US (and amongst 18-29 year olds, 84% of Singaporeans had smartphones, compared to 47% in the US!). With many of the more populous countries having young populations (average age: Philippines - 22.9, China - 35.5, India - 26.2, Indonesia - 28.2 - see World Factbook), the gen Y factor is driving employees to question whether the current way of working makes the most sense.
With so many young, mobile and connected employees, it is no surprise that CIOs across the region regularly complain about the company staff self-deploying devices, applications and services from the web or from app stores. The attitude of many IT shops is to shut it down - interestingly, the whole concept of "empowered employees" is quite "taboo" in some countries across the Asia Pacific region. A CIO recently told me that "smartphones and social media have come five years too soon" - referring to the fact he is planning to retire in five years, and that these technology-centric services are proving to be quite a headache for his IT department!
Q3 is always a very exciting quarter for the market research team at Forrester. Not only do we analyze, write and publish our annual State Of Consumers And Technology Benchmark report (which my colleague Jackie Anderson is very busy with at the moment), but we also start analyzing our annual reports looking specifically at consumers' online behavior. In Q3 we will first publish the US version of the document, followed by European, Asia Pacific, and LATAM versions later in the year. These reports are internally referenced as “the Deep Dive” reports, not only for the level of detail these reports contain but also because of the depth of analysis included. What really makes these reports unique is that they're similar in setup, making it possible to compare online consumer behavior across regions and within regions.
For example, our 2009 APAC Deep Dive report shows that Asia Pacific consumers are active Internet users compared with North American and European consumers but that their interests and activities varied greatly. And within Asia Pacific it's definitely not one-size-fits-all: The following graphic shows for example how the different countries vary in their uptake of media and entertainment activities:
Consumers in Asia Pacific are the most active mobile phone users globally, but does this usage translate into spending money on mobile services? Our Technographics® data shows that South Korean mobile phone owners lead in buying content or services for mobile phones. Each country in the Asia Pacific region has its specific mobile content preferences. Ring tones and ringback tones are the most popular service, followed by games and music.
Mobile content buyers are mostly young technology optimists with higher incomes. There are, however, a few interesting exceptions in different countries. One-third of South Korean buyers fall into the 30-to-39 age bracket; more than half of Indian mobile consumers are highly entertainment-oriented; and about 40% of Chinese spenders are highly career-driven.
In the past few weeks, there have been many conversations about Facebook's privacy changes (and breaches); for example, see this post by my colleague Augie Ray earlier this week. However, what I'm missing in these discussions is how Facebook compares with other social media players worldwide. Although Facebook is the largest social media platform in the Western world, different players lead in other regions. For example, Facebook is struggling to gain ground in Asia Pacific:
With 58% of online adults accessing it, Orkut is the leading social platform in metropolitan India, while 27% of Japanese online adults use mixi; and in South Korea, Cyworld is most popular, attracting 63% of South Korean Internet users. What I'd like to know: how do these networks handle their users’ privacy?
Over the past few months, we’ve fielded multiple requests related to the online shopping market in Asia. Retailers and vendors alike are looking to position themselves for long-term success given the rapid online growth rates in the region: By 2013, for example, close to half of the global online population will live in Asia, with some 17% of the global total coming from China alone. To see how US online retailers are taking advantage of this shift, we took a look at the top 50 online retailers on the Internet Retailer Top 500 list and mapped their transactional sites in Asia. A few observations follow.
Japan tops the list, especially for companies with only one web site in Asia. What was interesting as we worked through the list was that relatively few of leading online retailers in the US operate transactional sites in Asia, and far fewer operate in multiple countries. Several top online apparel retailers, for example, operate a web site for Japan only: Lands’ End, L.L. Bean and Cabela’s have all taken this approach.
Consumer technology companies have the broadest regional reach. By contrast, online retailers in the consumer technology arena tend to have a broader regional presence. Dell, Apple and SonyStyle operate in multiple Asian markets, with Dell and Apple having the most transactional web sites in the region despite Sony's Asian roots. Office Depot also has a strong commitment to the region with eCommerce sites in Japan and China, as well as in South Korea.