The developed world is increasingly saturated by apps, in-trend start-ups and new social media innovations, making it progressively harder for new businesses to compete in a crowded marketplace. Business transfer agents are spoiled for choice in a dynamic first-world digital landscape, while gaining an exit is becoming a harder proposition as user numbers have to be divided between various competitors in individual segments. However, there are some developed markets that still offer opportunities for strong growth in digital users, due to an underdeveloped Internet user base, population expansion, or economic growth. Here are three that are set to expand at emerging market rates:
Singapore is somewhat of a rogue advanced economy, surrounded by nations in the Asia Pacific region that have significantly weaker levels of development. This unusual geopolitical environment has made the laying down of international telecom cables and co-development of digital infrastructure difficult. However, the isolation factor has been a major driver of domestic innovation, with strong start-ups in segments such as apps and devices evolving under a supportful government. Singapore is also home to pockets of low-income populations and underconnected areas, which are beginning to benefit from strong state policy initiatives.
However, due to an already highly mature e-commerce landscape, Internet retailing growth going forward will be around mid-level in comparison to fellow developed markets.
Australia faces some of the most complex logistical challenges when it comes to digitalisation. This huge market is divided between cities separated by vast rural areas. The large input costs necessary to lay networks across arid areas have prevented a nationwide broadband Internet plan. However, strong economic growth is increasingly encouraging commercial operators and the government to connect second-tier cities and rural communities with fixed and wireless networks. By 2014, broadband access has been provided to a number of rural communities, including those in Central and North Queensland, New England and the Mid-North Coast. The National Broadband Network (NBN), a public-private initiative, plans to provide 91.0% of Australians with download speeds of up to 50.0Mb/s by 2019, with services being prioritised in remote locations.
Australia has a highly progressive digital core group of Internet users, which are primarily located in urban centres such as Sydney and Melbourne. However, the opportunities lie in expanding social media, digital media services and smartphone connectivity to residents outside of urban hubs.
Hurt by decades of underinvestment, high unemployment and an economy ravaged by the global financial downturn of 2008-2009 and the subsequent eurozone sovereign debt crisis, Italy is a country that has not reached its full digital potential. Low IT skills among the labour force and the prevailing digital divide between the industrial north and rural south impede further development of the telecom sector. However, this environment offers significant opportunities in a Western European region suffering from oversaturation in telecom services. An economic recovery and the falling costs of telecom products are likely to rejuvenate demand for digital products.
Italy’s primary undertapped digital markets are in the south of the country, with a large proportion of elderly consumers still not signed up to telecom services. Targeting this demographic with e-commerce offerings across segments such as online travel bookings, e-health services and financial retirement plans offers the most promise.
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