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Mideast mobile use still growing as Google launches data service

The Internet giant believes that by providing this platform of free data and information, that consumer can be better served

Peter Harrison

Published: Updated:

Internet giant Google Middle East this week launched its facility “Think With Google” across the region, which will provide data that can help local companies maximize business opportunities collected from studying the behavior of browsers in the region.

The site provides insights into consumer behavior that can be used by the marketing industry. As well up to date research, ‘Think with Google’ also provides tools such as Google Trends, which uses real-time information to gauge consumer search behavior.

The service is already widely available in other parts of the world, and with the fast growth of smartphone use in the Middle East, the region was the logical choice for the facility's expansion.

In what might seem to be surprising findings for some, Google’s research has found that 31 percent of all Saudis use three mobile devices or more, and in neighboring UAE, that figure is even higher with 28 percent using four or more.

The research has also revealed that 53 percent of people in the UAE “go online using a smartphone more often than they do using a tablet or desktop.”

According to the website emarketer.com the UAE has the biggest mobile phone user penetration for the entire Middle East and North Africa region.

In research published in February this year, the website said the UAE enjoyed the biggest smartphone user penetration, at 64.6 percent of mobile phone users.

The report added: “eMarketer estimates that this rate will rise to 74.6 percent by 2018 - more than 15 percentage points above second-place Saudi Arabia, which will trail by around 10 points this year (2015).”

The growth in the region – and especially in the UAE – is not a new phenomenon. In 2014 the consumer research company Nielsen reported: “Smartphones have become central to consumer’s lives and are an inseparable twin for most. With 78 percent of people in the UAE owning at least one smartphone, the country has easily one of the highest smartphone penetration rates in the region.”

With such high penetration into the online market, it is a wonder that PCs and Macs are even still available in the high street stores.

But Google spokeswoman for the Middle East, Joyce Baz told Al Arabiya News: “This is not the death of the PC, but the growth of mobile. The opportunities are definitely with mobile.”

She said Google was continuing to focus ‘more and more’ of its efforts onto mobile.

According to new a new set of research by Google, called ‘Moments That Matter,’ 87 percent of smartphone users in the region have used their devices while shopping for specific products.

In the UAE the majority of smartphone users have said their shopping choices were influenced by information they gathered from their devices while at the store.

While many might think that Youtube is just a good source of cute babies and funny puppies, the report found that 83 percent of under 35s said they believed that they could find a video on any subject on YouTube that they want to learn.

According to the “Think With Google” report, nearly half of Saudis using tablets (49 percent) and 45 percent of Saudi smartphone users watch videos on YouTube on their devices every day.

In the UAE, just 16 percent of YouTube views are on tablets, while the figure stands at 28 percent for those using smartphones on a daily basis.

According to Baz this data that is available can be used to help businesses identify where there is a market in the region, to ensure that as people search, using mobile devices, that locally relevant information is found most easily.

Baz explained: “One thing we do know is that when people go to their mobile phones today it is no longer an online session - it is a continuous online journey. People go to their mobile phones with intentions, whether they want to learn, whether they want to buy. Whether they want to do something.

“The way we look at this at Google is intent to the moment and there are four of these: ‘I need to find, I need to know, I need to do and I need to buy’.”

While some have suggested in recent times that the growth of the Internet could ultimately lead to the demise of small businesses, such as high street stores, Baz said the opportunities gained from such data collected by Google, could ultimately help both the consumer and the business to make better informed decisions

She explained: “Once a business understands what the signals are that are coming from mobile usage, then it connects with them (the consumers) in a more meaningful way. And that’s a win-win for everybody.”