Monday, June 18, 2012

Market for mobile apps in Spain

BARCELONA -With 51% penetration of smartphones, Spain holds the second position worldwide (after UK) according to Comscore (see chart above) in terms of smartphone share.Germany, with 37% smartphone penetration, lags behind not only Spain, but also, UK, France and Italy.

This may come as a surprise in the current period of economic uncertainty, and is certainly a reversal of the current ranking of financial strength within the European Union. However, as someone who is out in the field meeting existing and new Spanish customers for mobile app development, it comes as no surprise to me.

I have witnessed growing demand for mobile apps across the board in the last 12 months in Spain, from sectors as diverse as manufacturing, tourism and e-commerce. There is a concrete realisation that a mobile presence is essential for growth for bricks-and-mortar businesses as much as for web-based services. This was not the case merely 2 years ago, where mobile investment was questioned and often considered a "nice-to-have".

Admittedly, there is a long way to go still. Mobile Channel Manager roles within companies are extremely rare in Spain (I am yet to meet one) and few companies ring-fence mobile development spend within either their IT or marketing budgets. Additionally, there is the old chestnut of job protectionism in Spain still acting as a barrier to growth. In the case of mobile, it means that entire companies are hostage to their in-house development teams and find it difficult (due to internal politics) to use external suppliers. This is the case even where internal resources are clearly insufficient to meet the requirements of mobile development.

But change is coming fast, economic woes or not, as several companies are already making good on their investment in mobile and the debate is no longer "should we invest in mobile" but rather "when shall we invest". E-tailer Privalia is one such case, with their mobile channel growing within a short space of time from a few percentage points of overall sales to close to 15%. We are talking sales here, so the return on the investment is transparent for all to see.

Demand is strong for HTML5 mobile web development (either mobile websites or web apps) though there is still a gap  between what the customer expects and the reality. HTML5 appeals for its lower cost and across-the board availability. However, making web apps look and behave like native apps is costly and supporting a wide set of mobile browsers adds even further to this cost.

Over the last 2 years, companies' expectations of development costs have increased roughly by 100% and while we are still short of, say, UK mobile app budgets, I predict that in the next 12 months they will creep up further by 50%. Economic stagnation or not.