Thanks to low-cost, low-end electronic devices, inexpensive data plans and simplistic apps that make McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE:MCDD) picture-bearing cash registers look downright complicated, newcomers to technology – those the industry calls the “next billion” will not send text messages.
Instead they will use voice activation, voice-to-text messaging and images to do their communicating. Primarily this will be because they are less-educated and in many cases illiterate.
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A Whole New Customer Base
Companies like Alphabet Inc.’s (NASDAQ:GOOGC) Google, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPLC) and others are finding they have to rethink the products and services they provide to reach this new customer base. In countries like India these new customers are already avoiding email in favor of texting via voice recognition apps.
Another hallmark of this new marketing area is the need for cheap (or free) Wi-Fi, limited storage and data plans and devices that are cheap and can take advantage of all the above. For that reason, Google’s Android operating system rules and Apple is left out in the cold with about 3% market share in India.
Gearing Down For The Masses
Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FBB), which has more than 200 million active users in India has built a light version of its Facebook app that works well in emerging markets. The strategy seems to be working. In the year through June use of Google’s YouTube in India more than doubled while Gmail use fell 15%.
Facebook has also sponsored free Wi-Fi hot spots across India to promote its brand and encourage users to log on. In the meantime, the company regularly has “2G Tuesdays” in its Menlo Park headquarters. This allows developers to experience slow connections like the ones that exist in emerging markets and see how their apps work on those connections.
Toward A Kinder Gentler World
As it spreads its tentacles and social media offerings into Third World countries, Facebook also has taken on a new mission. The company recently said its focus would shift from making “the world more open and connected” to giving “people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”
Toward that end Facebook’s “Lite” version offers users access to the app in 100 languages. It also offers users in particularly dangerous areas a feature called “Safety Check.” This feature lets people check in with loved ones and with their Facebook network to let everyone know they are safe.
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The Stats And Predictions
As goes the Third World, so goes the developed world. At least that’s what experts predict. These experts think the use of voice-activated digital assistants will grow almost 130% this year. Google thinks more than half of search queries will be voice activated.
Imaged-based platforms like Snap Inc.’s (NYSE: SNAP) Snapchat filters and Google Lens, which use machine learning or real-time user generated images, are making it possible for users to avoid typing in locations, temperatures, store hours or other details. New companies are forming that will use AR and VR content to replace the written word.