Hong Kong offers rich smartphone pickings

People use smartphones for different things. If you’re a smartphone user in Hong Kong, chances are you use it for search, social networking and comparison-shopping. Online shopping, not so much.
That’s according to Google, which previewed results of an upcoming global smartphone survey on Tuesday in Hong Kong. The full results – which cover 30 markets worldwide, including 11 in Asia – will be posted online in a couple of months. But Ryan Hayward, Google’s mobile product marketing manager for Asia-Pacific, says the findings in Hong Kong indicate that smartphone usage is creating serious opportunities for local advertisers, developers and merchants.
On the advertising front, 78% of smartphone users said they have noticed mobile ads on their handsets (even though just 26% notice them all the time), with 47% spotting them on mobile search engines and 40% on apps.
Meanwhile, after seeing mobile ads, 25% of users visited the website of the advertiser, and 23% said that they would click on mobile ads to learn more about a particular product.
Interestingly, smartphones are extending their influence into the bricks-and-mortar retail world. According to the survey, 37% of Hong Kong smartphone users use their devices to compare or learn about products in stores, and 22% said they’ve decided not to buy a product they otherwise might have bought after using smartphones to comparison-shop.  
“That raises interesting implications for marketers, because now not only do they have to do a lot of work to get their products on retail shelves and promote them, they also have to deal with the possibility that a customer is going to use their smartphone to try and find a better deal,” Hayward says.
As for actually buying stuff online via smartphones, less than a quarter of users in Hong Kong have ever done so – and those that have typically buy things like movie tickets, financial services, cosmetics, clothing, travel, apps, transportation and electronics, among other things.
However, Hayward insists there’s a huge potential for online shopping in Hong Kong, with 33% of respondents saying they would be willing to make an online purchase using a smartphone. The reason most haven’t, he says, isn’t a question of security fears so much as the fact that most web sites with e-commerce functions aren’t optimized for smartphones yet.
“It’s not yet a good shopping experience on the phone,” he says. “Once web sites are optimized to make it easier, more people will shop on smartphones – it's just a matter of time.”
Hayward added that payment and billing methods can be a barrier as well. “If it’s a site where you already have your Visa card or some payment account registered, then you’re more likely to buy something. If you have to spend a lot of time entering bank or credit card details, that’s a big barrier. Basically, the less liquid the currency, the greater the barrier.”
Also, while the smartphone hasn’t yet surpassed the PC as the primary internet access device in Hong Kong, it’s catching up fast, Hayward says. The survey found 56% of smartphone users use their mobile phones to search every day, compared to 81% of people who still do search on PCs. “There’s a gap, but it is narrowing rapidly,” Hayward says.
The gap is even smaller for social networking sites – over 40% of users visit social networking sites every day, compared to the 43% who visit social networking sites on PCs.
Other findings of note:
  • Hong Kong smartphone users use their phones mostly at home and at work with 63% and 56% using their devices at these respective locations during the week.
  • 29% of users watch or share video clips.
  • Hong Kong smartphone users are likely to be doing other things while using smartphones, such as listening to music (54%), reading newspapers or magazines (46%), watching TV (41%), using the Internet on other Internet enabled devices (32%), reading books (27%), watching movies (26%) or playing video games (19%).
Google partnered with Ipsos Research to conduct the survey, which gathered over 30,000 sample responses between March and July 2011 from the 30 markets covered.