Euro Mobile Web 5 Years Behind Japan

When it comes to mobile services, Japan is still ahead of Europe by a whopping five years, even though operators in both regions introduced mobile Internet services at roughly the same time in the late 1990s.

According to the research from analyst firm Forrester, European operators need to wean mobile users off basic services such as SMS and focus on what users need on the go, their desire to communicate and access to timely and location-relevant content.

The Forrester report says that 52 per cent of users in Japan use the mobile web regularly, compared to a miserable 10 per cent of their European peers.

Forrester analyst and author of the report, Niek van Veen, said Europeans have become used to simple out-of-the-box solutions. "Consumers in Europe are happy with their existing SMS service, they need to be encouraged to use more sophisticated tools."

Operators in Japan have moved far away from mobile internet basics such as mobile portals and email services, whilst Europeans stick to what they know and depend on, SMS and voice.

This could be down to lack of education at point of sale.

According to the report, 39 per cent of European mobile users who have never used any mobile internet services don’t see any value in using them.

The report suggests that product managers should work closer with sales and independent retailers, not only by offering one-day training courses to educate staff, as is the norm, but to let them trial handsets, learn how they work first hand rather than via a manual. It also suggests using stores as education centres by bringing in mobile internet experts.

Van Veen says "this is historical because when operators in Japan began offering customers mobile email, European operators stuck with SMS. It’s what Europeans were exposed to at inception so it’s more difficult for them to think of alternatives."

Van Veen also highlights user’s fear of data rates as a negative influence "If you are scared of getting a big bill, chances are you will be reluctant to use online services. Flat rate packages, where there are no surprises, is a very important factor in this."

"Operators are now playing with flat rate fees," continues Van Veen. "Vodafone has an all-you-can-eat offering in Germany and 3 is leading the way with its X-Series… if they are serious they will move forward with this type of plan… because ARPU is still falling but they are still being very cautious."