It’s no big secret that Asia is considered to be the smartphone centre of the world. As many market firms have shown in their respective research reports, the region is the fastest growing in terms of adoption globally of these devices.
For example, a recent GfK study showed that 120 million units of smartphones were shipped in seven countries in Asia alone, including Malaysia from September 2013 to August 2014.
But perhaps what may come as a surprise is the fact that almost more than three in ten smartphone users in Malaysia exclusively use their devices as the only means of accessing the Internet, according to a new joint study by Google and TNS.
Revealed last month by the search giant and the global market research firm, the survey entitled The Consumer Barometer noted that some 35% of smartphone users surveyed in Malaysia exclusively depend on their smartphone to get Web-connected.
This figure is deemed to be highest in the world, making Malaysia the No 1 country in the world when it comes to smartphone Internet access exclusivity, said Sajith Sivanandan, managing director of Google Malaysia.
“Malaysians love the Internet and their smartphones, and the combination of these two trends is what sets it apart from the world,” he said a media briefing to announce the findings recently.
Sponsored by Google and conducted by TNS, the global survey polled 150,000 interviewees across 56 countries globally and was done in the first quarter of this year. More detailed information about the survey can be found here.
Aside from this distinction, Sajith said that Malaysia and four other countries in Asia – Singapore, Hong Kong, China and South Korea – are the only nations worldwide to be using their smartphones more than computers as the primary device for accessing the Internet.
According to Sajith, this is an “amazing” distinction because no other countries outside Asia are showing this trend – not even from advanced nations in Europe nor the United States.
“It’s amazing to see Malaysia in the top five global mix. No other countries, including those from western nations, have this distinction. This shows that Asia has truly leapfrogged the West and the notion of the ‘desktop-based’ Internet in favour of a mobile-first landscape.”
But as distinctive as this may sound, Sajith had a warning too for those who are facing the consumers, namely the businesses that serve them.
“This is a massive wake up call to any business in Malaysia without a mobile-optimised site or app. In 2014, this is no longer a viable approach.”
By not having a mobile-optimised web presence, Sajith said any business is effectively slamming its door on the face of its customers.
Sajith said this is especially true of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), who often depend on online channels to boost sales and revenue.
According to him, there are about 700,000 SMEs in Malaysia but only about 100,000 of them have a web presence.
“There is therefore a huge scope for another 650,000 or so SMEs to have an online presence, and that too needs to be optimised for the mobile,” he explained. “It’s vital for every business, especially SMEs, to think about being ‘mobile first’ in the context of a consumer’s daily life.”
So what else did the Google-TNS Consumer Barometer report show?
For starters, the number of connected devices per person used by Malaysians stood at 1.2 devices, a trend that has risen in the last three years.
Also, 41% of Malaysians research products on their smartphones before buying compared to countries in Western Europe. For example in the UK, the figure stood at 21% and Germany, 20%.
Besides this, 28% said they researched products on their smartphone in-store; 26% did location-based research and 25% shared product photos on their smartphone.
Over half (55%) of Malaysians use their mobiles to listen to music, half (50%) play online games and almost seven out of ten (67%) Malaysians watch online videoS on their phones.
In terms of what are the most popular items purchased online, flights are the most popular items for Malaysians to buy online with 86% saying they last bought their flight tickets online and 75% had last booked their hotel stays online.
This was followed by apparel and clothing (42%), cinema tickets (37%) and insurance (26%).
Overall, Sajith said Malaysians are at the forefront of this trend, using the Web to shop, their smartphones to access news, look for local businesses, listen to music and watching videos.
“In Malaysia the shift to mobile has happened and cannot be ignored — savvy businesses need to catch up with the consumer to stay relevant in this fast-paced environment.
“At the end of the day, it’s up to Malaysian businesses to satisfy that hunger with all the innovation and creativity that’s out there.”