Southeast Asia (SEA) has seen astonishing growth in mobile penetration over the last few years. In Singapore the figure is around 82%, while Malaysia’s estimate for 2020 is at about 94%. In Indonesia, mobile penetration in 2020 is estimated at 70% of the population, but is on the rise as experts expect it to reach 90% in 2025. It’s clear that mobile marketing represents huge potential for brands looking to make inroads in the region. 

According to a Forrester report, mobile is the main channel that consumers in Southeast Asia use to shop online. Mobile also plays an important role when consumers shop offline. They research products and services on their smartphone while shopping in a physical store — comparing prices, looking up product info and reading customer reviews. These mobile customers are attractive to marketers since they are at the higher end, spending more. According to a study, high- and mid-range spenders make up the majority of online shoppers in SEA. More than 60% of respondents said they would buy from multiple brands or are open to trying other brands.

Recognizing this trend, marketers are devoting an increased proportion of their budgets to mobile advertising. According to Forrester’s Asia Pacific Predictions 2021, the region’s video ad spending will increase from $21.3 billion in 2018 to $53.7 billion in 2023 — and mobile accounts for 69% of video ad spending. 

We explore how startups are using content marketing to scale in Southeast Asia

With massive budgets — and huge new audiences — at stake mobile marketers need to make the informed decisions.  Here are our tips for solving the challenges that face mobile marketers in Southeast Asia:

Four tips for mobile marketing success in SEA

  1. Focus on ASO and build out your app store profile: App preview videos not only autoplay in the App Store Search results, they have recently been appearing on autoplay in the Google Play search results as well. For lesser-known apps that have received a lot of visibility from general keywords, a promo video is a great way to quickly explain to users what the app is about and encourage them to install. Tags help Google understand what your app is about and might impact where your app appears in the store, in the Similar Apps cards, search suggestions, browse and so on. To find different ways to increase your app’s visibility, it makes sense to take a closer look at these Google Tags. And for those apps or games that have gained popularity during the lockdown, there is an opportunity to translate this influx of installs and usage into positive ratings and reviews. Take the time to craft a review strategy that prompts users to leave a review at the right time, as this can have a lasting impact on your keyword visibility.
  2. Take ad fraud seriously: From fake installs to click spam, ad fraud has emerged as a major issue for mobile marketers. In Southeast Asia as a whole, Adjust has rejected around 10.5 million fake app installs between January and August 2020. These fake installs can hinder marketers from identifying the channels that are performing well. Marketers are tricked to think that they have more app installations than reality, and pay for installs that do not exist. If you want to make sure your marketing budget is being used wisely, it’s imperative to take fraud seriously. The best way to stay on top of this problem is to enlist a good attribution provider, who can tell you, with pinpoint accuracy, where most valuable traffic is coming from.
  3. Take a hyper-local approach: While the Southeast Asia mobile market looks destined to continue its remarkable growth, it is crucial that marketers understand the market is anything but homogenous. The region has a host of different cultures and languages, and consumers here are just as diverse when it comes to their tech habits.  Marketers can’t use a “one size fits all” approach, and instead need a local strategy per market. Apps themselves must be aligned with the cultural nuances of each Southeast Asian market and be tailored to its diverse cultures.
  4. Retention: Once you’ve acquired a user, the challenge is not only keeping them engaged, but retaining them for the long haul. This is especially true for users acquired due to COVID-19 related lifestyle changes. Here are some common ways to solve this challenge. 
    1. In-app retention incentives — Creating a mechanism for incentivizing users to open your app regularly is a powerful tool. Some great examples of powerful mechanisms can be found in games (e.g., Brawl stars’ daily quests), entertainment (e.g., Blinkist’s free daily pick), and wellbeing (e.g., Headspace’s streak days). These mechanisms keep the users engaged by providing a currency (loyalty points, for example) only valuable for these who are using the application.
    2. CRM workflows using push notification and in-app messages — Not all users will create a habit organically; some need to be reminded. By managing your in-app communications with your users, you can help them use your application and shape usage towards actions that generate habits. For effective communication, you should make sure to request the right permissions for push notification and optimize the number of communications while not irritating your audience.
    3. Paid retargeting campaigns — Some of your users will not respond to the tactics mentioned above and will churn from your application. In this scenario, you should decide whether to give up on the user or retarget the user to win them back.

Marketers know that data is often behind good decisions — and that’s never been more true. As user behavior has shifted with the pandemic, and everything we thought we knew about users has changed, data has become more important than ever. If you keep this in mind when implementing our tips, you will be well on your way to mobile success in SEA. 

This article was contributed by Shawn Bonham, President APAC at Adjust.

About the author

Shawn is responsible for Adjust’s operations in the Asia-Pacific region. His primary goal is to develop Adjust’s reach throughout the market, exercising over two decades of experience in building effective sales & business development operations across the world. He speaks both Japanese and Mandarin. Bonham has been with Adjust since 2014, most recently in the role of Chief Revenue Officer and before that as Managing Director for APAC and India. He opened Adjust’s six offices around the APAC region over the intervening years, and in his new position, will be responsible for growing teams in China, India, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia. Prior to joining Adjust, Bonham was Managing Director, JAPAC at mobile analytics platform Upsight, and also held roles at NVIDIA and Havok.