Smartphone adoption in Vietnam has hit 36 per cent, up from 20 per cent a year ago, according to the internet giant's annual Consumer Barometer. In Indonesia, penetration now stands at 28 per cent, double last year's figure. Thailand is now at 40 per cent, up from 31 per cent last year.
“The surprising element to me is how fast things have moved in terms of penetration,” said Julian Persaud, managing director, Google Southeast Asia. “This trend is manifesting itself in several different ways.”
Many respondents report that a mobile device is the only connected device they own. In Malaysia over a third of users said a phone was their only device for going online, and in Vietnam this is true for almost a quarter of the respondents. In Singapore, the figure is at 16 per cent and in South Korea and Hong Kong it is 14 per cent. By contrast, Western countries demonstrated single-digit figures, with Germany at 7 per cent and the UK at 6 per cent.
Conversely, Asians reported having more than one gadget. Nearly eight out of 10 Singaporeans use two or more connected devices, a trend that’s picking up in the rest of Southeast Asia too: 12 per cent in Indonesia and 35 per cent in Malaysia.
In Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam, 30 to 40 per cent of people go online while watching TV, and over 75 per cent do it with a smartphone. In Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam, more than 80 per cent are looking at things unrelated to what's on TV.
Google’s annual Consumer Barometer, in conjunction with TNS, is a global study of consumer trends across 56 countries and 150,000 people. For this leg of the research, Google researched 14 countries across Asia-Pacific.
Two of the top five smartphone nations come from Asia with Singapore reporting adoption at 85 per cent, followed by Korea at 80 percent. Others in the region aren’t far behind as Malaysia, Taiwan and Hong Kong are now over the 50 per cent mark.
“It’s amazing to see Singapore in the global number one spot. This is a massive wake-up call to any business without a mobile-optimised site or application,” Persaud noted. “In 2014, this is no longer a viable approach; you’re effectively slamming your shop door in the face of your customers.”
Once online, consumers in the region use search extensivelt. Nine out of 10 Singaporeans search for information at least once a month, a trend that holds across Asia with Vietnam at 93 per cent, Japan at 96 per cent, and Malaysia at 76 per cent. Among smartphone users, 88 per cent in Singapore, 92 percent in Vietnam and 91 per cent in Japan searched at least once a month.
If search is ubiquitous, then shopping is really starting to take off: 69 per cent of Singaporeans said they conducted research online before purchase, while in Malaysia 8 out of 10 people reported doing the same. Among smartphone users, nearly half of Singaporeans, 40 per cent of Vietnamese and 41 per cent of Malaysians reported using a smartphone to conduct pre-purchase research, compared to just 28 per cent in the US.