I often meet mobile marketing startup founders and one of the questions I usually ask is – What markets are your targeting? This is the response I get too often – ‘Our presence is online. The product is scalable. We are targeting the globe’. I’m not surprised because I had a similar marketing strategy a year ago (or actually no targeting strategy at all as I think about it now).

After a year of extensive research, targeting exercises, and Adwords optimization, we have come to realize that our target audience is much smaller than we had estimated in our initial pitching deck. This revelation was a good thing because it allowed us to focus our marketing dollars on only those users who actually wanted our product and were more likely to subscribe to our advanced plans.

The US, as a target country for mobile marketers, remains attractive in most cases due to a large population of smartphone users and high market maturity. But apart from the US, which markets should you prioritize and target? Identifying high volume markets is the first step but marketers can further narrow down their target audience by studying the behavior and preferences of the consumers.

To show what we mean, we did a few calculations on the data aggregated in the ‘Our Mobile Planet‘ report by Google. We got real good insights on how mobile marketers can identify and segment their potential markets. Given below are some interesting results from our research:

1. 400 Million smartphone users in high-penetration markets alone

At a broad level, a mobile marketer is looking for a consumer who fits the following profile – a smartphone user who actively uses the mobile device for basic as well as advanced activities such as email, research, gaming, instant messaging, and social media communication. This kind of user can be found in most countries across the globe but in good numbers, these fall primarily in markets that have a high smartphone penetration (such as the US and UK).

Other broad-level factors that can be important for targeting are market maturity, adoption level of mobile activities, and PPP. For example, a smartphone user in the UK is more likely to tap an NFC tag than an IPhone 6 owner in India. Similarly, a customer in the US is more likely to pay for a SaaS tool than a customer in Hong Kong.

For the sake of simplicity, we have considered only three consumer-level factors at this point – the consumer should own a smartphone, should live in a country that has a high-penetration of smartphones, and should be fluent in English. These filters leave mobile marketers with a total market size of approx. 300 million smartphone users in 14 countries. The number jumps up to 400 million users from 14 counties if the product can be multi-lingual.

The graph given below depicts the numbers by country:

mobile marketing consumer landscape

2. Email, Adwords, and In-App ads most favorable marketing channels

Even if it is clear which countries you should target, how will you know which is the most effective channel for your product and business? Should you go for Google Adwords or invest in email marketing? What about in-app advertising?

The answers to these questions primarily depends on your product and the behavior of your your target audience. For example, if you are an app or mobile game developer, then in-app advertising makes more sense or if you have a successful blog, then emailing your subscribers will get you the returns. To make these decisions, you need to first understand the behavior of your target audience. Here is a quick snapshot on how the 300 million target consumers (in English-speaking high-penetration markets) are spending their time on mobile devices:

mobile marketing consumer landscape

Amongst the activities that have a scope for mobile advertising, email has emerged as the most popular activity closely followed by use of search engine and mobile apps.

3. Restaurants and stores most favorable outdoor locations to target smartphone users

Let us assume in-app advertising is not relevant for your business. You would rather have an outdoor promotion but would still like to engage your target audience using their smartphone device (in-store marketing via QR Codes, NFC tags, etc.). In such a case, how do you decide which outdoor location is the most effective?

Consumers behave very differently in different target markets. For example, smartphone users in Israel, Singapore, and Ireland are more likely to use a smartphone in a Cafe/Coffee shop. Public transport users in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Israel are more likely to use a smartphone compared to their counterparts in the US. Here are some insights that will help you optimize the location of your ads by target market:

mobile marketing consumer landscape

mobile marketing consumer landscape

mobile marketing consumer landscape

mobile marketing consumer landscape

4. Open rate of mobile ads highest in Hong Kong, UAE, and Singapore if freebies are included

For marketing your product, a particular target market (say the UK for example) may seem like an attractive option to use mobile ads based on the data we have analyzed till now. But are smartphone users in the UK even open to receiving mobile ads or are you simply burning ad dollars on meaningless impressions? The point is that the analysis does not stop here. You may need to dive a bit deeper in the data pool to understand how to increase the conversion rate of your ads. For example, the graph given below provides insights on consumer preferences which will allow you to optimize your ad offering for each target market:

mobile marketing consumer landscape

Sophisticated mobile ad networks will allow you to filter and narrow down your target audience but it is you who has to specify the values for each filter. The key learning here is that even if you are targeting the ‘globe’, you will still need to assess and optimize your market opportunity, ad message, and marketing channel through extensive research on consumer behavior and preferences.

If you too have an insight to increase the conversion rate of mobile ads, feel free to share it in the comments below.


Gautam Garg is a Co-founder and the CEO of Scanova. He is a QR Code enthusiast and a big fan of inbound marketing, CRO, and usability. When taking a break, he likes to go trekking and eat spicy food.