Instagram is trialling a slimmed down version of its image-sharing app in Mexico, dubbed ‘Instagram Lite’, in order to reach consumers whose limited access to data and the latest devices have previously excluded them from the network. “We are testing a new version of Instagram for Android that takes up less space on your device, uses less data, and starts faster,” a spokesperson for the company confirmed in an official statement.
Much of the new app’s features are the same as classic Insta; users will be able to filter and upload photos, post updates to their Story, and find new content via the Explore tab. However, in order to reduce data usage, the video sharing and direct message functions have been removed, as has the recently introduced IGTV channel.
Parent company Facebook has already launched an equivalent ‘Lite’ version of its social network app for users in emerging markets, and other tech companies are pursuing similar experiments. For instance, not long ago Spotify introduced a ‘Lite’ equivalent of its music streaming service in Brazil.
Brazil and Mexico are two of 12 “velocity markets” as identified by Ogilvy’s Velocity 12 report; countries characterised by a rapid pace of economic growth and social change, which are expected to become majority middle-class markets in the next ten years. While a number of V12 markets have only gained widespread connectivity relatively recently, and still face myriad infrastructure challenges, consumers living in these space should not be considered naïve; they have essentially leapfrogged the desktop generation and become highly savvy, mobile-first digital citizens.
“Marketers need to be ready to interact with these socially connected consumers, who are far from ‘emerging market’ newbies when it comes to brands,” says Kent Wertime, CEO of Ogilvy Asia-Pacific. “People in velocity markets are embracing technology as a tool to accelerate further change in their lives, and are fully connected to a global grid of commerce, influence, and social interaction.”
Companies like Instagram and Spotify bringing pared-back iterations of their apps to V12 markets presents brands with an exciting chance to connect with a previously untapped base of consumers who are hungry for content that they feel will enrich their lives. The most powerful and swiftly growing consumer groups within these markets are young Muslims, who feel largely unrepresented in existing brand communications, and young women, whose empowerment is a driving force behind V12 social and economic development — these overlapping segments constitute massive brand messaging opportunities.
While Lite apps are designed primarily for use on 2G networks, tech companies may be surprised to learn that they also have a potential audience in developed infrastructures, specifically among individuals who find themselves frustrated with the increasingly crowded, fussy user experience brought on with the advent of Watch, Stories, and Marketplace features.
“In a tech world of constant change, it can be hard to convince yourself that something simpler is better, but in this case it just might be,” writes Molly McHugh at The Ringer. “What if the thing that could save social apps from themselves – and user frustration – is a downgrade?”
McHugh points to Pew research which indicates that approximately 20 per cent of Americans don’t have home broadband, and only access the internet through their smartphones and accompanying data plans. It stands to reason, then, that a less data-hungry alternative to original recipe Facebook and Instagram would surely appeal to these consumers as much as to new users in V12 countries.
“Lite apps are a way to enable the whole world to access at least a fraction of what the full versions of apps are capable of; they essentially travel back in time to serve populations with internet connections that are incredibly dated by today’s standards,” McHugh continues. “But simpler social apps just might have been better, and maybe users will find more than just answers to internet access, software bloat, and data consumption.”
Whether seeking to cater to the continually evolving expectations of the new generation of V12 consumers, or hoping to reconnect with jaded users back home, it is incumbent on marketers to get to grips with both the limits and the possibilities of this low-bandwidth medium.
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