Avenida 9 de Julio with two of Buenos Aires most famous landmarks: the Obelisk and Evita Peron’s silhouette on the building of the Ministry of Social Development
During the week of September 17, I represented dotMobi at the first Dominios Latinoamerica conference in Buenos Aires, an interesting event aimed at promoting the domain and hosting industry in Latin America along with helping local companies find out more about ICANN accreditation, trends in domain registrations and how to market domains and hosting services more effectively.
I had the honor of closing the event with remarks about the explosive growth of mobile in the region and how it’s radically changing the way people find products and services as well as how business owners should take this into consideration when planning their online marketing strategies.
Walking around the city, I found confirmation of many of the facts and statistics I had discovered as I was preparing for my presentation, among others from Google’s excellent Our Mobile Planet website.
Countries like Brazil, Mexico and Argentina are today among the fastest growing Internet markets in the world, and mobile is playing a strong role in bringing more and more people online. Argentina, for example, is rapidly approaching a mobile penetration rate of 144% with a steady 6% yearly growth rate in the number of mobile subscribers. Prepaid accounts are still the predominant type, with many people holding several SIM cards from different operators to take advantage of the various promotions.
Currently, smartphones only account for less than 25% of all phones and the market is fragmented, with Android as the leading platform, followed by Blackberry: this is particularly true in Argentina where the requirement for mobile phones to be manufactured locally has made it practically impossible to buy an iPhone in the country.
Social networking is by far one of the favorite online activities in Latin America, also thanks to the promotions that make it cheaper to access sites like Facebook or Orkut (a social networking site very popular in Brazil). According to comScore, Internet users in Argentina averaged 10.7 hours on social networking sites in December 2011, followed by Chile (9.5 hours per visitor), Peru (8.7 hours), Colombia (7.6 hours) and Mexico (7.1 hours).
Mobile users are also beginning to rely increasingly on their mobile devices to find and buy products online, and almost 25% of them regularly entrust their mobile phones to find the best restaurant or bar around them. Many popular e-commerce sites like MercadoLibre now automatically present mobile-friendly versions of their sites to help mobile shoppers find a good deal even as they kill time using the free wifi at a Subte (Buenos Aires’ metro) station waiting for next train. Also public service companies nowadays offer very useful mobile services, like the mobile site of the Buenos Aires airport that saved me from missing my return flight.
The first of many juicy steaks and Malbecs enjoyed during my trip to Argentina.
Although this paints a promising picture and the market conditions seem ideal, there is still a very visible disconnect between users expectations and the availability and quality of mobile-friendly content. Many small businesses in Latin America do not have an online presence at all, and — in many cases — the ones that do still tend to present large desktop sites to their mobile visitors. While this may sound like bad news in the short term, on the positive side this represents an amazing opportunity for service providers in the region to offer solutions. I was happy to see a strong interest and a lot of questions about our goMobi solution from the audience at “Dominios Latinamerica.”
I have no doubt I’ll soon see a growing number of goMobi sites in Spanish and Portuguese across South America the next time I’m walking around the streets of San Telmo looking for the perfect parrilla.