The digital revolution in Asia

Below is a short snippet from a Wall Street Journal interview with Nirvik Singh, chief executive officer of WPP-owned ad agency Grey Group Asia-Pacific.

WSJ: How is digital affecting your business?

Singh: The blogosphere is becoming more important to marketers. Consumers are talking to other consumers and making up their minds on the Internet. I think the big challenge in Asia is going to be what really is digital. Between India and China you are going to have several hundred million handphones which will technically be digital. I think the way consumers will consume entertainment or advertising or interact with their banks will be on a smartphone.

Indeed as stats from Nielsen revealed (as blogged here yesterday) China is already in the midst of its mobile internet revolution and yet it is already one of the world’s most active mobile internet markets, with 38 percent of Chinese mobile users going online through their device – in real world figures that is around 300 million mobile internet users.

The US, on the other hand, has a far greater pool of smartphones and advanced handsets, yet just 27 percent of the country’s mobile subscribers user mobile internet.

Somewhat saturated in the West, social media is growing rapidly in Asia, for example the region dominates Facebook’s list of fastest growing markets.

Coupling the two together, gives a very distinct and unique marketplace unlike that in the west.

While, adding to the complexity, ‘Asia’ as a term is far less accurate than ‘The West’ given the huge cultural, financial, geographical and technology differences which exist in the region.

For example: Japan’s advanced, domestic-dominated mobile and new media market is hugely different to Thailand’s lagging mobile market and digitally divided popular, while Singapore acts like a Western state (more here) – in technology terms – with far greater advancements and more mature consumer behaviour than its neighbours.

That is just a brief look at three countries within Asia.

There is no doubt Asia is growing more important, but treating the continent as one entity and failing to localise will only miss the opportunity.