Upward mobility: the rise of mobile in the region

In September, Omnicom Media Group’s research consultancy Integral, in partnership with Google and Resolution MENA, launched a White Paper in the region entitled ‘Upward Mobility’.  The objective of the paper was to explore the growth of mobile in the MENA region, with particular emphasis placed on the UAE and Saudi Arabia. In order to gather insights that are as accurate and quantifiable as possible, a variety of the data sources were used. This included face-to-face and written interviews, surveys and other external studies.


























The research brought to light many interesting facts and figures. Below is my take on 5 of the key insights:

4 hours+:The amount of time smartphone users spend on mobile daily

There’s no doubt about it- smartphones are beginning to take over our lives. Barely an hour passes in a day when a person is not glancing at their smartphone, either checking a new notification or willing one to appear. They have become an extension of ourselves. With technology evolving at the speed that it is, there isn’t much that our smartphones can’t do. And with the habit of having them constantly at our fingertips quickly becoming the norm, it’s fair to say that it the primary device that we connect with in our lives today. According to Nielsen, in Q4 2013, Android and iPhone users over the age of 18 in the US spend an average of 30 hours and 15 minutes on their smartphones per month. In the Middle East, the time spent is 4 times higher. Taking this into account, brands and agencies need to work together to cater specifically to this unique region. The time spent on smartphones here, especially when compared to the US, cements the importance of mobile as an advertising platform. They essentially go wherever the people go, so for a brand, this platform can no longer be ignored.

3:The average number of internet enabled devices consumers in the UAE have (Google)

The proliferation of mobile in the UAE should come as no surprise. With consumers having multiple internet-enabled devices, it is important for marketers to ensure that digital marketing strategies are fluid to deliver messages to all of these devices. Brands can no longer devise advertising assets specifically for one platform and in silo. Traditional offline and digital advertising shouldn’t be treated as specific disciplines. In this increasingly connected world, all platforms overlap, so communication by brands needs to be consistent while also ensuring that the messaging is adapted to the platform. To ensure maximum impact, marketing material needs to be adapted to the environment in which it will be seen.

86%: Use their smartphones while watching TV (UAE)

It is clear that users multitask, consuming multiple forms of media simultaneously. For marketers, the question now is: how can brands use this insight to connect with their consumers? The study showed that smartphones are used mostly during commercial breaks. What if brands could leverage this? The second screen is the way forward. The line between online and offline media is blurring. Now the challenge is for marketers to come up with innovative ways to capitalize on both mediums. This progression in the TV viewing experience is resulting in brands and their agencies having to be increasingly creative with their campaigns. People no longer have the attention spans that they used to, so brands and their agencies need to work closer together to create a holistic strategy that is innovative in the way that all the different platforms work together. A consumer’s smartphone is the one constant in their daily activities, so mobile should be at the heart of marketing plans.

50%:YouTube viewership in Saudi comes from mobile (Google)

Video on mobile is big. However, quantifiable evidence to back up this statement has only become available recently. With Saudi Arabia being the biggest market in the Middle East, this statistic is significant. Video is no longer solely associated with TV. In fact, 40% of Facebook users only access it on their smartphones. With content being such a general term (from TV commercials to spoofs and cat videos), marketers need to consider what they are pushing on every platform and make it relevant to their audience. From the kind of content to choosing the right platform to push it out and the media strategies being used to amplify it, marketers need to ensure that the right approach is taken with each and every platform. For example, YouTube pre-rolls let a user skip the video after five seconds, therefore the first five seconds of any video needs to be enticing if you want users to continue watching. At the same time, a two-minute video as a pre-roll will not result in users continuing to the end. The platforms that are used to push out content should no longer be an afterthought; they need to be considered at the inception.

33%: the share of mobile transactions in the overall e-commerce market in MENA in 2015 (PayPal)

The Middle East has been slow at introducing e-commerce in the region compared to the likes of Europe and the US. Within the last few years however, there has been a noticeable increase in online shopping sites being set up that cater specifically to the region. People in this region are more suspicious of online portals and are reluctant to give away their personal details. The mobility of smartphones has resulted in 30-40% of users researching prices and product details while shopping. The ease at which a consumer can obtain information about a product has resulted in a shorter path to purchase. Brands can leverage this opportunity by strengthening their presence, and as a result, their sales. The question is, how can brands speed up the process of increasing e-commerce in the region? It is still a growing business in this market and as brands and marketers work together to increase trust levels, the propensity to spend online will also increase, so brands should be prepared.