Mobile mania

Mobile mania

No longer just a communication tool, cellphones are in a world of their own

Almost everyone in Hong Kong has at least one mobile phone, but they don't just use it to make calls. We spoke to Mercer Ng Chun-hang, marketing manager at mobile advertising provider Hotmob, about recent trends.

In the name of the game

On the bus, MTR, or even while walking, many people have their eyes fixed on their mobile phones tapping away furiously. What are they doing?

Ng says most of them are gaming. A 2012 mobile apps usage behaviour report published by his company and Nielsen (a US-based market research company), shows that game, news and social media apps are the top three most-used varieties.

Many game apps can be downloaded for free, but players may still end up spending a lot of money in the end.

"Game apps make a huge amount of money off die-hard fans," says Ng. "When a popular game hits the market, it can attract up to one million downloads in the first month; but people come and go quickly.

"After a month, only 10,000 players remain. Although the game is downloaded for free, players need to pay for weapons or to skip levels in order to finish the game. Of those 10,000 remaining players, only about 1,000 loyal fans will be willing to spend money. If they spend HK$1,000 to finish the game, that's HK$1 million in revenue [for its creator]."

Ng is concerned about the trends. "Being addicted to games is nothing new, but with mobile games the situation is getting worse because people can simply pick up their phone to play wherever and whenever they want," he says. "There is no need to turn on a computer or games console.

"I think some young people are spending far too much time and money on their phones, which hampers their social lives."

Taking charge

The demand for app downloads is increasing. From 2008 to 2011, there were 20 billion downloads globally at the Apple App Store. In 2012 alone, that same number were downloaded.

Most of these apps are free; when companies decide to charge, however, as WhatsApp recently did, it may spark controversy.

"I think users need to understand that it costs a lot to operate the app," Ng says. "If the app is free, it has to bring in revenue from other sources. It might have more advertising, which will affect the user's experience; or it might have to limit its services."

Mobile marketing

Like internet users, app users are bombarded with adverts, but Ng says those on mobile phones are less intrusive. "The click rate of mobile adverts is three times that of internet adverts. Users seem to react better to mobile advertising better because only one ad pops up on the screen, compared to the several that appear on a website," he says.

Clicking on a mobile ad will usually link you to a company's Facebook page, rather than a sales pitch.

"Retailers like to give incentives, such as free samples, to encourage users to like their Facebook. Then they deliver messages or product information through the social media site instead of promoting their products through the advert," says Ng.

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