Samer Saad, Regional Manager for the Middle East at AppsFlyer, explains why mobile app marketing will have an even more critical role to play this year.
Mobile continued to go from strength to strength in the Middle East throughout 2021. Although the year was still dominated by pandemic restrictions and lockdowns, mobile apps became increasingly important for brands as they looked to engage with their customers in convenient and flexible ways. Brands like Careem, Talabat, and Starzplay Arabia have all rapidly grown their user base by delivering exceptional mobile experiences.
This isn’t a trend limited to a few stand-out companies, however. Indeed, a recent AppsFlyer report titled “State of Mobile App Strategies in the Middle East,” found that 66% of regional enterprises are putting mobile strategy at the top of their corporate agendas to drive customer engagement. In a mission to drive growth on mobile, nearly all surveyed indicated an intent to increase their spending on mobile marketing. Looking forward, we explore some of the key trends that will dominate mobile in 2022.
A shift from user-level data towards aggregated data
In our survey, Middle East mobile marketers showed some lingering concerns over privacy in a region where regulators, both local and foreign, continue to restrict the gathering and processing of personal data. Examples of current consumer privacy protections, with which regional businesses must comply, include the European Union’s GDPR and Apple’s update to iOS 14.
Some 39% of our regional respondents cited increasing pressure to guarantee consumers’ privacy as a major barrier to effective mobile marketing. And some attribution solutions may not be up to the task of providing strong privacy and security-compliance features that will allow organizations to live up to their industry and legal obligations while gaining actionable insights from their apps. Highly regulated industries, such as BFSI, will find themselves turning to multitouch attribution tools and partners that can scale data analysis while giving options in a privacy-first world.
One such option is to use aggregated data, a mishmash of meta-data and behavioral telemetry that reveals useful trends from non-personal information. Another method is to use data clean rooms, where data from different sources inside and outside the business is shared without compromising user privacy. Actionable insights remain possible, but brands and networks collaborate without sharing user-level data. In parallel, machine learning will come to the fore, delivering predictive capabilities such as the ability to measure incremental lift more accurately, while also offering privacy-related technologies.
A surge in mobile investment
The pandemic was a significant accelerant of mobile transformation, particularly in the retail and finance sectors. And as with most pandemic-induced trends – such as the establishment of remote work and the heightened focus on ESG – there is every reason to believe that this will continue when we put COVID behind us.
Across the region, about 90% of enterprises currently have a mobile app in play, according to survey respondents. In the United Arab Emirates, 38% of businesses have made the move to invest in a mobile attribution solution, and some 62% intend to move to multitouch attribution approaches (to analyze the individual contribution of each marketing channel to installs and revenue) by 2025. In 2022, we expect to see further investment spikes such as these in both mobile and mobile marketing as more businesses come to terms with the relative declines in web and brick-and-mortar engagement.
An intensification of focus on the mobile customer experience
Around two-thirds (66%) of Middle East businesses are prioritizing the leverage of mobile for customer engagement and 69% believe offering a rich mobile experience is vital to satisfy the expectations of increasing numbers of digital-native consumers. So, we expect 2022 to be a year of intense focus on improving UX to drive engagement. Firms have never had a problem joining the dots between engagement, brand loyalty, revenues, and profitability. But they are now realizing that this chain can be strengthened by optimal mobile experiences. The precise enhancements will be from a broad range – more rapport-building marketing copy; the elimination of user-journey bugbears such as pop-ups; and the introduction of new elements to screen design, to improve navigation and information. People must love using an app to keep using it. Unresponsive, confusing screens with a multitude of distractions will not work for the impatient and discerning digital native.
A rising prevalence of ‘super apps’
Sometimes, mobile apps do many different things for us. Across Asia, we have seen the rise of the super app. Users of China’s WeChat can message friends, pay bills, order food, and shop from a single mobile source. Uber now offers Uber Eats – ride-hailing and food delivery. In 2022, we expect to see more of these super apps. Social media giants like Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram will likely lead the charge as they add payment services, shopping, and other CXs into their apps. But in a region like the GCC, which has a young, digitally savvy population and a burgeoning entrepreneurial spirit, the idea of a super app start-up emerging amid programs like Highway to 100 Unicorns – a collaboration between Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) and Microsoft – is not to be dismissed.
The road ahead
The next 12 months will be defined by successes and failures. The pandemic has created certain realities that cannot be ignored without regional enterprises risking their brand reputation and eventual decline. By remaining mindful of emerging trends, businesses can navigate the mobile marketing landscape with greater ease, adding value and ensuring longevity.
This article was published in Communicate's latest issue.