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Southeast Asia Led as a Mobile-first Consumer Economy in 2020, says InMobi Report

Published on February 19, 2021
Southeast Asia Led as a Mobile-first Consumer Economy in 2020, says InMobi Report

The region added 40 million new internet users during the pandemic, witnessing a steep surge from non-metros

Singapore, 19 February 2021 - The massive digitization that Southeast Asia witnessed in 2020 triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic saw it lead as mobile-first consumer economy, said InMobi’s Annual Mobile Marketing Handbook 2021 – considered as the ultimate destination for digital marketers and brands for insights on mobile marketing. COVID-19 dramatically reshaped life as we know it and permanently shifted the consumer landscape to a mobile-first world last year. Sheltering at a place, always on the hunt for new information (and distractions), and longing to stay connected with near and dear ones, consumers relied on their one constant companion – mobile. According to the report, titled ‘Marketing in the era of Mobile’, Southeast Asia (SEA) accounted for 11% of global app downloads (as of Q3 2020). While Indonesia was the leading country with a global share of 4%, it was Malaysia that drove growth in downloads during the pandemic charting an year-on-year increase of 34%, the highest across all Southeast Asian countries. 


Key Highlights: 

  1. 321 million new internet users added globally in 2020 
  2. $143 billion spends in the worldwide app store in 2020 
  3. 4.2 hours of daily time spent on mobile by the average users in 2020 
  4. 37% spike in average daily hours spent per device between 2019 and Q2 of 2020; Second globally in terms of time spent on mobile 
  5. Southeast Asia accounted for 11% of global app downloads in Q3 2020. 
  6. 30% of Southeast Asian consumers have increased their online spending due to the pandemic and 47% have decreased their offline purchases 
  7. Almost 50% of digital consumers on education, groceries, and lending were first time users as an aftermath of the pandemic.  
  8. The gaming audience in Southeast Asia comprises of 14% female and 12% male Gen Z gamers, and 25% women and 14% men between 45 to 54 years of age.  


COVID-19 has accelerated rapid digital adoption and the shift to online in the country. Globally, there has been a significant increase in app downloads, the time spent on mobile, and consumer mobile spending. In SEA, during the lockdown, time spent online increased by almost 30% when compared to the pre-lockdown period with 94% of new digital consumers intending to continue using digital services post-pandemic. 30% of Southeast Asian consumers have increased their online spending due to the pandemic and 47% have decreased their offline purchases. 


The Southeast Asian Consumer Mindset: Stay Online, Stay Connected  

Consumers are increasingly moving to mobile, more so after the onset of the pandemic. They have not only found connections and comfort by going online but also availed various digital services that have made their lives easier and better. The region’s digital consumers expect to spend more time at home after restrictions are lifted, and they have discovered new apps that they intend to continue using. They are buying more essentials online and are favouring value for money and trusted established brands. While consumers expect to carry on with their newly adopted habits post the pandemic, mobile continues to play a pivotal role in the lives of the consumers and drive robust growth for the digital economy.  


The Top 3 Consumer Trends on Mobile: Gaming, Video and Commerce 

Through the course of last year, we have seen 3 big trends emerge in the form of 1. Gaming, 2. Short-form Social Video and 3. Mobile-first shopping experiences.  

In 2020, the gaming industry is at the forefront of entertainment, growing rapidly with 2.7 billion gamers across the world. Gaming has witnessed a great revolution with the advent of smartphones, reaching billions of weekly downloads during the pandemic and seeing a sustained growth since then. Southeast Asia has become one of the most viable gaming markets around the globe. With the dominance of premium publishers, such as the SEA group (formerly known as Garena), mobile is poised to account for 69.4% of all gaming revenue in the region. Indonesia, especially, has emerged as a bright spot in the region, with the government hosting e-sport competitions. 


Short Attention Spans, Shorter Videos  

Southeast Asia occupies a unique seat on the world stage as a meeting point for both Eastern and Western tech media giants. Be it any short-form video app, they have all enjoyed immense popularity with these apps having been downloaded more than 200 million times in the region alone. Despite the short nature of these videos, they drive deep engagement with users. The average time spent on short-form apps per user is close to an hour, standing at 52 minutes. In fact, 20% of respondents in an IPAC survey shared that they spent more than 3 hours per day on short-form video apps: that’s the length of 2 feature films. 


A Mobile-first and Nonlinear Shopping Journey  

South East Asian internet economy is expected to exceed $100B GMV this year. SEA’s e-commerce economy has majorly accelerated due to newly formed online habits and raised it to the US $62B in 2020. E-commerce has emerged as a key growth driver in 2020 across Southeast Asia as more shoppers moved online, and this seems to be a permanent shift in the habit. By 2025, this sector is expected to boom further and rise to US$172B which is a 23% increase.  

The connected Southeast Asian lives in a world of divided attention across these multiple devices and is constantly multi-screening. The steps between awareness and purchase for the connected Southeast Asian consumer are many and varied, and often nonlinear. 27% of consumers learn about products through offline media, 95% explore and research on desktop & mobile, and 26% buy the product in a physical store. Consumers refer to at least three to four information sources pre-and post-purchase. The customer journey isn’t what it used to be: one no longer sees a TV ad, walks into the store, and buys a product. 


The Era of Mobile Marketing Maturity  

“2020 has undoubtedly been a tremendous inflection point for the global community. While some may look forward to returning to business as usual, marketers must reconcile with the endlessly paraded phrase of New Normal and that a few key emerging trends are here to stay,” said Rishi Bedi, VP and GM, Southeast Asia, Japan and Korea at InMobi. “Mobile has truly emerged as the de-facto platform enhancing the lives of both consumers and marketers alike, especially in moments that matter the most. Brands must be cognizant of the fact that mobile is the one true channel that can drive full-funnel efficiencies from awareness to conversions and beyond. While brands have been on the path of building resilience long before the pandemic struck, they can only find their footing as they closely consider how to build on their Mobile Marketing Maturity.” 


About InMobi   

InMobi drives real connections between brands and consumers by leveraging its technology platforms and exclusive access to mobile intelligence. Its Marketing Cloud creates new paths for brands to understand, identify, engage and acquire connected consumers. As a leading technology company, InMobi has been recognized on both the 2018 and 2019 CNBC Disruptor 50 lists and as one of Fast Company’s 2018 World’s Most Innovative Companies. For more information, visit