Smartphone ownership and e-commerce usage in 14 Asian cities

Mar. 14, 2017
  • Research
  • Global HABIT
  • The smartphone has become the device of choice for Internet users in 14 selected Asian cities.
  • Social media and messenger apps are the most widely used services on smartphones. Users are turning to their smartphones for more diverse reasons, marked by increased use of search sites to find information, news-watching, use of video services, and use of camera and video functions.
  • East Asian cities (Seoul, Hong Kong, Taipei, Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou), along with Singapore, have the most active e-commerce shoppers.

To support marketing communication in the global market place, Hakuhodo has conducted its Global HABIT survey of sei-katsu-sha each year since 2000. Conducted in major cities in Asia and around the world, the survey polls middle- and high-income earners. We have analyzed data from the most recent Global HABIT survey (conducted in 2016) from a variety of perspectives to discover hints on potential opportunities in the global marketplace.

In this report, we present the Ownership and Usage of Information Devices by Sei-katsu-sha*1 in 14 Asian Cities.
14 cities covered: Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul, Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Singapore, Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Metro Manila, Ho Chi Minh City, Delhi, and Mumbai

1.The smartphone is definitively the most widely used mobile information device in the 14 Asian cities.

Smartphone penetration in recent years has been nothing less than astonishing.
Smartphone ownership is rapidly approaching 100 percent across Hong Kong, Taipei, the three Chinese cities (Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou), Seoul, and Singapore. Even in Delhi, which had the lowest ownership rate in the survey, almost two-thirds (63.9 percent) of the survey respondents owned a smartphone. We can say conclusively that the smartphone has completely replaced the feature phone as the mobile information device of choice.

2.The smartphone has surpassed the computer as the most common Internet access tool.

With the rise in smartphone user numbers, the majority of people now access the Internet from smartphones. In all 14 surveyed cities, people accessing the Internet from smartphones outnumber those accessing from computers. The biggest gaps between the two groups were seen in Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Jakarta, Mumbai, and Delhi. These cities are likely to migrate to smartphone-centric environments without passing through a period when computer Internet access is the norm. Occasionally in emerging nations, a new technology will propagate almost overnight, without the step-by-step take-up seen in economically advanced nations. Smartphone penetration very likely fits this scenario.

3.Smartphone usage has diversified enormously, and smartphones have become indispensable in daily life as a communication and information- sharing tool. The higher the ownership rate in a city, the greater the number of functions used proficiently.

Non-work-related smartphone usage encompasses a wide variety of Internet services.
Although communication services—exemplified by social media and messenger apps—are central, news-watching / reading, information searches, video-sharing and video-watching are also very common, as is using smartphone camera and video functions. Not only is the base of users spreading outward, users are also becoming proficient with more and more services. That a broad range of services are used in cities with higher smartphone ownership rates is to be expected, but the same diversity is seen in cities with relatively low ownership rates. It is certain that as users gain more experience with owning smartphones, they will become more proficient with more functions even in cities with slower smartphone take-up.

4.E-commerce has widely permeated life in East Asia and Singapore.

Although e-commerce markets have been introduced in every country, the increase in information devices that can access the Internet has undoubtedly acted as a powerful tailwind to e-commerce expansion. The survey questioned respondents about their use of online shopping, ticket reservations, food delivery, and online auctions. The answers revealed vibrant e-commerce usage in cities that have long had high smartphone and computer ownership rates, whereas mainstream e-commerce take-up is still a few years away in cities with lower ownership rates.

*1 Since the 1980s, the centerpiece of Hakuhodo’s philosophy has been sei-katsu-sha insight.Sei-katsu-sha, which literally means “living person,” stands in contrast to the word Japanese marketers typically use for consumer, shohisha. “Sei-katsu-sha” expresses the holistic person—an individual with a lifestyle, aspirations and dreams. All the branding work we do in partnership with our clients follows from sei-katsu-sha insight.

Read news release

Back to News & Insights