Insights

MENA is the world’s second-largest mobile phone market

October 7, 2015
smartphone MEA

The fifth annual edition of eMarketer’s Global Media Intelligence Report, produced with Starcom Mediavest Group, analyzes recent developments in MEA. It includes demographic and media usage information on audiences in Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.

internet penetration MEA 2015

Overall, 416.9 million people in the Middle East and Africa are expected to use the Internet at least once per month in 2015. In 2019, that number will approach 575 million. Predictably, Internet penetration remains far higher in wealthy states such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Females accounted for nearly 59% of residents aged 15 years and older who accessed the web with a mobile phone in 2014. Females also outnumbered males among smartphone owners in Saudi Arabia, by 55.7% to 44.3%.

The report shows that the Middle East and Africa (MEA) has the world’s second-largest mobile phone market. eMarketer estimates that just over 606 million people in the Middle East and Africa will have at least one mobile phone this year, and the total will pass 789 million in 2019.

mobile phones MEA 2015

Smartphone usage in many Middle Eastern markets jumped again in 2014. According to Ipsos MediaCT, 79% of Saudi Arabia’s entire population used an advanced handset last year; in UAE the corresponding figure was 91%, a gain of nearly 20 percentage points in a single year. In Kuwait, penetration rose from 49% to 86% in just two years, Ipsos reported.

The smartphone population in MEA will pass 106 million this year. In 2019, that share is expected to reach 22.0%, as the number of residents with a smartphone approaches 174 million.

So here are a few things that regional brands should be working on:

Improve mobile user experience:

Understanding the importance of user experience is crucial as shoppers are using their smartphones more and more for pre-purchasing activities such as comparing prices, but also to help shop while in a store (browsing product information or finding promotional offers). You should create a great user experience for your visitors and provide them with the information they want easily, even if that means changing up your navigation or building a complete mobile version of your website. Ask yourself “if someone came to my website on their phone, what do I want them to see first and what do I want them to do before they navigate away?”

Focus on mobile advertising:

Although search, social media and advertising might be a priority on mobile, brands should not disregard email marketing as 48% of emails are opened on mobile and 22% on desktop. On the other hand, knowing that in-app mobile ads perform much better than mobile web ads, brands should invest more in these types of ads following performance and usage.

Adapt to mobile search behavior:

Location based: Clearly, people accessing the Web on mobiles are interested in things around them. Search engines already do a great job of customizing search results according to the user’s location, but the least you can do is to specify your business’s location on various search engine’s webmaster settings if you’re a local business for example.

Search display: Another aspect of mobile search results is the number of results you can digest at one moment. On a typical mobile phone, you would see a maximum of 3 or 4 search results: This means getting to the top ten is no longer enough, you need to be in the Top 3.

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