Mobile LatAm: A tech hungry market

An insight into LatAm’s mobile phone users and penetration

This is a contributed piece by Sandra Sinicco, CEO of Grupo Casa

The exponential growth of smartphones in Latin America has created a community of more than 500 million tech-hungry users constantly looking for new apps and solutions that allow them to be better connected, as well as make their lives easier. This regional hotbed is also witnessing the fastest growth in terms of internet usage anywhere in the world.

[image_library_tag b568bf1a-5ef5-4316-98a1-299d3df5b7af 434x529 alt="latam-mobile-usage" title="latam-mobile-usage" width="434" height="529"class="center "]

The digital age has well and truly taken a hold in the LatAm region. Research by ComScore and IMS Internet Media Services in May found that mobile phones and iPads are the first kinds of digital screens that the majority of people will familiarise themselves with in Brazil, with an average of at least 20 different apps installed on their devices.

However, while this presents rich potential pickings for those that are targeting tech users, any company that is looking to benefit from what South America’s biggest market has to offer will need to pay attention to some key issues before arriving in the region.

Early adopter LatAms love downloading all sorts of new apps for free, even if they are in English. The same can’t be said when it comes to paid for apps. As and when apps do need to be paid for, companies would do well to bear in mind that Apple has a greater success rate than Android – but not by much. LatAms don’t care about sharing their data and would rather do that than part with a few pennies, no matter how incredible an app may be.

This kind of behaviour can have a significant impact on companies who do want to use the region as a springboard, who are looking to use it to accelerate their user base numbers to provide the necessary scalability that is going to be of interest to investors.

Right now, apps or software that can help save time and money are particularly in demand. Since most cities in the LatAm region still lack reliable sources of public information, having a means to share information on a social level is paramount to people, which is what’s driving interest in these types of apps. Take ‘Waze’, as by way of an example, the second most popular app in Brazil. It addresses the fact that Brazil is a place that is rife with traffic jams, where there is a huge shortage of road signs and coordinated traffic systems so people have no idea how long it is going to take them to get from A to B. In four years the app went from 300,000 users just in the São Paulo area to more than 10 million nationwide, and is continuing to expand its reach at an incredible rate.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that homing in on social stereo-typing isn’t enough to guarantee tech success. There have been a number of music and football apps – both topics that are close to every Brazilian’s heart – that have failed because the app creators did not factor in one key insight into user habits; 78% of smartphone users in Brazil are on Android and only 19% on iOS. They all launched on the wrong platform.

Having this information is vital. Like the lure of free apps versus paid for ones, asking Brazilians to part with their money is a tall order; an iPhone in Brazil costs 3 times as much as it would in the USA, so if you are planning to launch something as an Apple-only option you need to be prepared that the only people who may be downloading your product are the privileged, wealthy minority.

The region does present huge opportunities for tech companies; 50% of purchases are now made through smartphones and almost 39% of users visit online stores Google Play and/or Apple Store once a day. The growth of apps is likely to continue to grow even further over the next decade as mobile adoption continues to grow the world over. For those tech businesses that are looking to take advantage of this trend and to expand on a mass scale, the LatAm region can be a powerful potential ally in strategy plans – providing the right insights and strategies come into play.