India: Now Vast Mobile Proving Ground For Marketers

While I was in India on a business trip, Mary Meeker presented her much-anticipated annual list of Internet trends for 2015 in which India plays a major role as an emerging mobile marketplace.

Coincidence or not, reading Meeker's insights while in Goa, Mumbai, New Delhi and Agra gave me new perspectives on the future of digital marketing and where innovation will come from. (Hint: probably not mature markets like the U.S., U.K. or Japan).

Three movements are coming together to brew an ecommerce revolution:

-- Internet penetration in India is skyrocketing. Even with a relatively small 19% penetration, the user base is massive. Meeker estimates India has 232 million users, up 37% over 2013, making it the No. 3 market in the world behind the U.S.  and China.
-- Smartphone use is booming, especially in rural and traditionally poorer areas without wired access or more costly laptops and desktop computers.
-- A huge, and growing, wave of Indians from historically lower classes are moving up to the middle classes, acquiring spending power and Internet access.



This confluence of changes is creating a market that is vastly different from more Westernized countries and has many implications and opportunities for marketers across all channels, including email marketing.

Even though India's collective spending power and Internet penetration is lower than comparable populations in mature markets, the sheer number of people in the user base is off the charts.

India also leads the world in adding new users: more than 62 million in 2014 alone. The Internet and Mobile Association of India estimates the Internet population will reach 350 million people this year, which would push India past the U.S. in total Internet population.

India currently trails Western countries in sophisticated marketing technology adoption and practices, but I predict it will catch up and surpass mature markets in certain disciplines in the next 24 months.

India is a vast marketing experiment in which mobile drives innovations out of necessity. Mobile shopping and transactions have to be as friction-free as possible because it's the only way this growing sector of users can buy online.

In my previous Email Insider, I cited Myntra, a leading Indian fashion retailer that recently killed its website, doing business now only via its mobile app. Before going 100% app-based, Myntra said 95% of its traffic and 70% of its sales came from mobile devices.

Mobile-app-only strategies might not be standard for many years. Still, marketers must track developments and innovations that will drive mobile ecommerce growth in India and other emerging nations.

For email marketers, India and other emerging markets represent a major opportunity for market expansion and subscriber growth.

These stats from Meeker's presentation highlight those opportunities:

1. The U.S. has the largest gross domestic product of the top 15 "established" Internet markets but one of the lowest growth rates, at 2% year-over-year in both 2013 and 2014.

2. India leads the top 10 most mobile countries with 41% of its ecommerce activity occurring on mobile devices. It beat China at No. 2 and the U.K. at No. 3. The U.S. is No. 6 on the list behind Australia.

3. India is second only to Nigeria as the most mobile country on the planet, with 65% of Internet traffic coming from mobile.

4. India is the No. 1 or No. 2 market on several leading global sites:

-- Facebook: No. 2 market, with 112 million users
-- LinkedIn: No. 2, with 24 million users
-- WhatsApp: No. 1, with 70 million users
-- Twitter: Fastest user market growth

5. India contributes 7% of the world's gross domestic product, lower than Europe (17%), the U.S. and China, and Latin America (9%), but its percentage is increasing while Europe and the U.S. have shrunk.

As Internet and mobile phone access slows significantly in mature markets like the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Europe, emerging marketing like India, China, Brazil, Mexico and others hold tremendous opportunity.

How local brands and ecommerce companies adapt and innovate to serve these booming mobile-only consumer bases bears close watching.

Until next time, take it up a notch.

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