Charalambos Psimolophitis

Mobile Trading and the Growth of Emerging Markets

Our industry owes so much to the personal computer that it can be easy to fall into a kind of Western-centric thinking when it comes to the tools and services we offer our clients. We have been privileged to witness the evolution of the PC, many of us with first-hand experience of several generations of machines and operating systems, much before the advent of smartphones and tablets. We have also seen the development of the Internet, from painfully slow dial-up connections to the broadband we enjoy today. Having lived through these changes we often make the error of assuming that information technology has been developing uniformly across the globe. This is certainly not the case and our mobile offerings are where this will become most evident in the years to come.

You might be surprised to learn that Japan, one of the world’s most technologically advanced societies, has been a relatively late adopter of the smartphone. The results of a survey released last July showed that as recently as 2012 smartphone ownership among Japanese Internet users was as low as 28.2%. The PC and laptop, of course, reign supreme in Japan, a country that has enjoyed high speed Internet access since the early 2000s. Japan ranked second only to South Korea for average broadband speeds in the 2014 Akamai State of the Internet Report, and yet it is only in the last year or so that smartphone adoption has really picked up, the same survey showed that it reached 46.1% of Internet users as late as June 2013. The first-mover advantage couldn’t be clearer here; Japan also boasted the world’s first large-scale mobile Internet network as far back as 1999, and so part of the reason that Japanese consumers have been dragging their heels when it comes to smartphones certainly has something to do with the solid mobile web services they have enjoyed for the best part of 15 years.

The developing world, having arrived relatively late to the party, is looking as though it may just skip the PC/laptop phase altogether in lieu of more affordable smartphones and tablets. A great example is the non-profit One Laptop per Child project, which has been struggling to deliver a $100 laptop to children in the developing world since 2006. All this while market forces seem to be solving the problem organically; 2015 looks set to be the year of the $50 smartphone, not to mention that we are already inundated with low cost Android tablets, many of which have been retailing for under $100 for some time now.

In India smartphone sales grew by an astonishing 229% (YoY) in Q3 of 2013, and as the price gap between feature phones and smartphones continues to shrink it’s only a matter of time before the balance shifts in favour of the smartphone once and for all. The explosion of low-cost tablets in India is even more impressive with a staggering year-over-year growth of 901% from 2011 to 2012, while PC sales were actually shown to contract by 25% in Q1 of 2014. It should come as no surprise then that the greatest number of searches for “mobile trading” are coming from India.

Xiaomi, a Chinese smartphone manufacturer successfully undercutting the big boys in the space such as Samsung and HTC, has been doing a roaring trade in countries like Malaysia, the Philippines and India. The company recently announced that it has sold 26.1 million smartphones so far this year, a 271% increase from last year (which at 18.7 million was a 160% increase on the year before). In fact, Xiaomi sold more units in the first half of 2014 than throughout the whole of 2013.

The above examples illustrate how different nations use information technology in different ways. There is a tendency in our industry to treat mobile apps, or even the mobile versions of company websites, as something of an afterthought, an add-on to the “full” internet that we browse properly on our laptops and home computers. Failure to appreciate local browsing habits at this crucial stage could cost us dearly when it comes to attracting clients in emerging markets. This is why at FxPro we have taken special care to overhaul our websites in order to make the user experience that much smoother for mobile and tablet users. In addition to our web-based platforms and mobile trading apps, we have also recently launched an app version and Google Chrome extension of our ever-popular trading tools, making their features easily accessible for our Android users. Smartphones and tablets are fast-becoming the web devices of choice for much of the world, this means that for many of our prospective clients our mobile and web-based trading facilities are likely to be the only access they have to our trading services. We expect the importance of mobile to continue growing as new markets come online and we intend to be ready for them when they do.