In contrast to the oversaturation of smartphone adaptation in the West, Pew Research reports that developing nations are embracing mobile technology at unprecedented rates.

So, the next era of global consumers will not be located in the West but instead in emerging markets. Handset manufacturers, content providers, and, of course, marketers are vying for new customers in China, Russia, Brazil, and Africa.

In short, the race to capture consumer attention across the globe is not only on but mounting.  

Though mobile advertisers and marketers alike must look to emerging markets to gain momentum, they must also look to every aspect of mobile smartphones to be successful. After all, mobile phones are the most commonly used devices in emerging regions, trumping tablets, laptops, and PCs.

Because the majority of the world's consumers are actively going mobile, to reach them marketers must turn to mobile as well. Mobile content, device types, and points of access differ from market to market, however, so important considerations must be kept in mind.

Cultural Idiosyncrasies

To achieve success in reaching consumers in emerging markets, mobile advertisers must actively work to appropriate the cultural idiosyncrasies of each individual market. Those distinctions often offer the keys to unlocking consumer sentiment and desire.

To demonstrate this point, recent research from our Cracking the Emerging Markets report (PDF) shows the following.

  • Brazil is one of the fastest growing areas of mobile connection worldwide, and that growth is only accelerating due to major global events, such as the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics.

    In Brazil, the most effective days for mobile campaigns are Fridays and Mondays, the bookends of the weekend. As far as the campaigns themselves, messages including "Lucky" and "Selected" spur consumers to action, and the morning—around 9AM—is the nation's golden window of opportunity. Furthermore, marketing campaigns are much more effective when prizes include smartphones, such as the iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S4.
  • In Nigeria, the peak engagement time is the afternoon. In this country, 3PM is the best time to reach consumers; Tuesdays and Saturdays have proven to be the most successful days for advertising campaigns. Also, our data reveals that the most coveted prize is free airtime, as mobile campaigns that offer it receive an uptick of 100% more interactions.
  • In Cameroon, the peak engagement time is similar to Nigeria: the afternoon. However, the main difference between the two countries is that consumers are more likely to respond to exclusive offers and deals.

Those distinctions are vital to note, and show that there is no one formula or model that ensures a fruitful marketing effort via mobile. In turn, advertisers must pay strict attention to the true desires of consumers in each market.

Barriers to Entry

One of the biggest challenges facing those seeking the attention of emerging market consumers is gaining access. For instance, developers have an outstanding opportunity in emerging markets to create apps that are not readily accessible right now because of their Western formats. Developers must therefore adjust their mechanics, just as markets must beware of such roadblocks.

To further illustrate this point: In the West, streaming video and content apps are quite popular, and consumers can quickly and easily pay for services via app stores. However, many emerging markets don't have access to banking or credit accounts, and therefore do not have access to these app types.

Additionally, developers and marketers must address problems that might arise due to data access. Many phones simply cannot support data in the same way that Western phones can. Here, businesses need to enact creatively simple—as well as modest—advertising approaches.

Other Considerations

The smartphone boom already exists in emerging markets. High demand is present. Here are important questions to keep in mind:

  • Who will offer devices and content to different customers in the most compelling ways?
  • Who will reach each distinct customer base first?
  • Can operators in these diverse markets move quickly enough to strategically position themselves as a significant part of the value chain?

There is no one way to engage consumers. It depends on the market. This is a major challenge, as marketers must allocate resources to come up with solutions appropriately. For instance, tactics that flourish in Brazil might not work nearly as well in Turkey, Mexico, or Nigeria. After all, many cultural factors, such as language, motivation, sentiment, and timing, impact success or failure.

* * *

2014 will be a year to watch, as developing nation consumer bases continue to expand. We're poised to witness a tectonic shift in how developers and networks understand the needs and desires of consumers across the globe, and so how marketers extend their reach.

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image of Vasileios  Tziokas

Vasileios Tziokas is a marketing and PR manager at Upstream, a mobile monetization company.

LinkedIn: Vasileios Tziokas  

Twitter: @TziokasV