The handheld revolution

Less than ten years ago, in 2007, the Apple iPhone was launched, forever transforming communications – and the digital route-to-market – by placing the power of a multi-functional computer in people’s hands. In the subsequent decade, smartphone manufacturing has become a highly competitive sector, with ever-more advanced adaptations of Apple’s smart innovation – mostly using the Google Android platform – being produced and supplied by leading Asia-based players, such as Samsung, Huawei, Oppo, Xiaomi and Lenovo.

Today, users of all ages are dependent on smartphones. Combined with the expansion of wireless internet access, the smartphone enables businesses, consumers and families and friends to establish new formats for human contact – at any time, and any place. 

One of the outcomes of ubiquitous smartphone usage in Asia is the growth of m-commerce. Online marketplaces quickly recognized that the smartphone is the preferred mechanism for connecting to the internet, and reconfigured their sales interfaces to the small screen.

The service sector quickly followed: taxi bookings, restaurant orders and retail payments are captured via hand-held devices, and growing demand is being facilitated for consumer healthcare products, herbal and nutritional supplements. Seamless 3G and 4G mobile networks mean that traveling within or across borders is no longer an impediment to enjoying uninterrupted connectivity – reducing the geographical complexities in the process of researching and sourcing new manufacturing products, textiles, components and materials.

Users are used to comparing prices, scanning QR code promotions, accessing digital coupons and reading product reviews. Smartphones are also changing the way brand messaging is presented. In Asian cities, consumers breeze down high streets, through subway stations and airports with eyes clamped to their smartphone screen – while ignoring the ad billboards that once ensured a captive audience.

Consequently, public advertising in Asian cities has moved onto outsized HD video screens in areas where viewers do not use their phones, such as beside highways and on skytower facades, and – of course – onto smartphones themselves. In Malaysia, brands such as Panasonic are using the exteriors of airplanes as a differentiated platform to attract consumer attention. 

Networked portable devices can utilize smart infrastructures, cloud computing and critical customer and product data to enhance customer service. Smartphone apps for field sales representatives deliver real-time access to a customer’s procurement and service history, enabling them to instantly create a tailored promotion on-the-spot. Sales and marketing teams also use real-time transaction data to provide a competitive edge in sales negotiations and tender bids. Customers can also access tools that enable them to remotely check their own profile and credit limit, view the latest supplier prices and promotions and place orders directly with their fingertips.

A new patient-centric approach to healthcare in Asian markets is combining advanced diagnostic procedures, qualitative and quantitative research, data gathering and analytics to provide tailored and personalized treatment programs. A more structured understanding of patient information and intelligence enables real-time management of the pricing, demand and supply of healthcare services, and innovations in new medicines and treatments.  

The range of data contained within the app enables particular markets or customer segments to be easily identified. Comprehensive, structured data combined with the application of smart technology enables account managers to benefit from time-sensitive insights about customer behaviors, client requirements and competitor activities just by touching their small screen.