The importance of emerging markets is growing exponentially. Providers of smartphones and wearables have to adapt to new requirements in the field of customer care. At the same time, the product range is getting bigger: Innovative IoT applications are becoming available to the masses. And the first network operators are starting the commercial rollout of 5G – a key technology that could turn the mobile world upside down.
1. Mobile Growth in Emerging Markets on the Rise
The growth of mobile internet connections in emerging markets is progressing unabated. While only one in four internet users in Japan go online via their smartphone, in India this figure is around 80%. In emerging markets, the smartphone has established itself as a central access device to the internet. As a result, demand for mobile devices is increasing. There will be around 330 million new mobile subscribers in India alone by 2020. This makes India the fastest growing smartphone market in the world, followed by Latin America, where 260 million new smartphones are expected to be sold by the end of the decade. While growth in mature markets is levelling off, emerging markets are expected to hit the ground running in the next year.
2. Diverse Markets Require a Differentiated Go-to-Market
The new global diversity demands new go-to-market strategies for manufacturers of smart mobile devices and consumer electronics. Especially in the area of customer care, the requirements of customers differ considerably depending on the country. Rehearsed global standards rarely meet the needs of new target groups in emerging markets. From our experience of working with leading brands such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung and Xiaomi, we know how challenging it is to implement a globally differentiated customer care approach that is tailored to the needs of local markets. Very few manufacturers are in the position to implement this with their own infrastructure, which is why the importance of comprehensive solutions in the area of after-sales business process outsourcing (BPO) will continue to grow in 2018.
3. Consumer IoT Merges With Consumer Electronics
Connected devices, often referred to as consumer IoT, are becoming mainstream. Former IoT niche products are merging with consumer electronics products forming one single device. Put simply, the connected fridge and the intelligent smart TV will capture the mass market in 2018. The results from our study Smartphone and IoT Consumer Trends 2017 confirm that demand for connected consumer electronic devices is growing in the three-digit percentage range. In addition to intelligent home appliances and security systems, this figure also includes virtual reality goggles and drones. However, as an IoT control center, the smartphone remains the central device – and this in turn speeds up the trend towards high-end devices. Whoever uses a smartphone as the heart and brain of their IoT world just needs the best features and highest performance. Devices exceeding the $1,000 limit will soon be the rule, not the exception.
4. First 5G Implementations Within Reach
Expectations are high: The new 5G technology is expected to be up to 100 times faster than the previous 4G or LTE standard. This will enable new application scenarios such as autonomous driving and the commercial use of drones e.g. for nationwide parcel delivery. While experts predict the first 5G networks to be available in Japan and South Korea next year, the worldwide breakthrough is expected to take up to three years. The US Telco giants AT&T and Verizon are maintaining a low profile. China Mobile could launch 5G in 2019, whereas Deutsche Telekom will not launch before 2020. Nevertheless, the introduction of 5G is within reach and, as a new key technology, it will enable the mobile and IoT worlds to take a quantum leap forward.
5. Smartphone Usage and Dependency on the Rise
As smartphones become integrated into everyday life, dependency on them also increases: A quarter of Millennials check their phone over 100 times, half at least 50 times a day. 85 percent of all users always have their smartphone at hand. More than a quarter of people wear it on their body, even at night. Most people cannot imagine life without smartphones – and with the further interconnectivity with other devices and services, people will use them even more intensely and dependency on them will increase. This creates new requirements for manufacturers: If a device stops working because of a fault, quick help is needed. Smartphone providers who focus on this aspect of the customer experience will have a unique selling point. While customers may find a waiting time of up to three days acceptable for a device repair, the actual average repair time can be up to three weeks. There’s a lot to do in 2018!
Kimberly Meyer is Head of Global Marketing & Communication at B2X.