The insiders guide to mobile Web and marketing in Sweden

3G (third-generation) high-speed mobile networks got a head start in Sweden, thanks to the issuing of licenses to those operators prepared commit to extensive roll-outs, rather than just handing them out to the highest bidder. Next, Sweden saw introduction of the world’s first 4G (fourth-generation) networks, back in 2009 – today the majority of Swedes are covered by a superfast 4G data network. Swedish consumers have quickly embraced the smartphone: more than 80 percent of handsets sold in 2012 were smartphones and that’s expected to rise to 90 percent this year.
Great mobile networks, together with wide availability of smartphones (and other 3G devices) and attractive data plans, has led to an explosion in mobile data use. Stats from PTS, the Swedish regulator, show that in the first six months of 2012, Swedish people consumed 73,300 Terabytes of mobile data (73 percent more than a year before). The visitor numbers to the top mobile sites are jaw-dropping: according to the KIA Index, Aftonbladet’s mobile news site receives 2.6 million unique visitors per week, that’s equivalent to 26 percent of the Swedish population.
This has all helped to ignite an innovative mobile market, which hasn’t gone unnoticed – at Cannes (the World’s major marketing/advertising awards), last year, Swedish companies picked up nine Mobile Lions, second only to the United States (which has a population 33 times larger than Sweden).

• Your guides to Sweden are Per Holmkvist, founder and strategy director, and Jessica Ekberg Collin, planner of Stockholm’s award-winning mobile agency Mobiento.
• mobiThinking also contributed to this guide.
• This guide was published in March 2013.

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Q1: How mobile is Sweden’s population?

Sweden is a highly mobile population.
• There were 13.7 million mobile subscriptions were in use in Sweden in June 2012, according to the Swedish Telecommunications Authority, PTS (1H, 2012). With a population of 9.5 million people, that makes mobile penetration at least 140 percent. Note the number of mobile handsets in use will be less than the number of subscriptions, as some will be mobile Internet dongles for laptops and other connected things.
• Mobile subscriptions outnumber fixed-line subscriptions 3:1.
• Mobile Web use is commonplace and growing fast. PTS finds that of 13.7 million mobile subscriptions, 9.6 million (70 percent) are used for data. Of these, 2.1 million are standalone broadband contracts without calls (i.e. for laptops or tablets); 4.2 million are mobile phone subscriptions that included at least 1 GByte per month data usage; and a further 3.5 million are used for calls and data, but did not include add-on data subscription. In the first six months of 2012, Swedish people consumed 73,300 Terabytes of mobile data, which is 73 percent higher than a year before.

Q2: What are the characteristics of Swedish mobile market?

Sweden is a world-leading market in terms of mobile usage, mobile penetration and mobile smartphone penetration.
• The majority of mobile subscribers are on post-paid contracts (68 percent), rather than pre-paid (e.g. cards etc); and the majority are private customers (77 percent), rather than business customers, PTS research shows.
• Smartphones are very popular in Sweden. In 2012, 3.8 million mobile phones were sold in Sweden. Virtually all of these were 3G handsets and 80 percent were smartphones, according to MobilTeleBranschen (MTB), a Swedish telecoms association. MTB predicts that in 2013, over 90 percent of phones sold in Sweden will be smartphones. The trend is towards handsets with large screens, powerful processors and better camera functions. Manufacturers are also expected to launch new models in 2013, with 4G/LTE (fourth generation; Long Term Evolution means faster mobile data) and NFC (Near Field Communication is a contactless technology that enables mobile payments and other uses), which will facilitate the launch of new services.
• Sweden has one of the highest smartphone penetrations in the world. According to estimates by Tomi Ahonen (using data from Informa/Netsize and Ipsos/Google), Sweden had a smartphone penetration of 52 percent in 2011 (only Singapore and Hong Kong had higher). It is fair to assume that has increased since then with smartphone sales skyrocketing in 2012. Smartphone penetration is highest among younger people (15-34 year-olds), and in urban areas according to survey data from Mobilsverige (in Swedish).
• On average, Swedish people change their phone every 26 months (MobilTeleBranschen (MTB)) – which is why smartphone penetration is considerably less than the number of smartphones sold.
• Among smartphones, iOS is currently the most popular (48 percent), according to Google surveys, ahead of Android (36 percent), though Android is gradually increasing in popularity. Why is Apple’s share so much higher in Sweden than elsewhere in the world? This is probably down to the strength of Apple brand and ecosystem in Sweden. It’s possible that Swedes see Android as more techie, which also might explain, in part, why iOS is particularly popular with women.
• Swedes are consuming more and more mobile data. Since 2009 data consumption has grown 263 percent, according to Mobilsverige. This is partly due to the proliferation of 3G handsets – virtually all handsets sold in 2012 were 3G handsets (MTB), or even 4G, and partly due the excellent mobile broadband network coverage, both 3G and 4G (see below for more details).

Q3: What distinguishes mobile in Sweden from a) the rest of Europe? b) other leading mobile markets worldwide?

Sweden is distinguished by its high smartphone penetration (see above for details) and pervasive and speedy mobile broadband infrastructure. This has facilitated the growth of mobile Web, mobile marketing and innovative mobile services.
• 3G coverage in Sweden is among the best in the world. As of August 2011, 99.6 percent of the population was covered by a 3G network, according to PTS. The regulator, PTS, must take much of the credit for this. Rather than auctioning 3G licenses to the highest bidder – as happened in most countries – PTS awarded licenses to the networks according to commitments to coverage of Swedish population (rather than area).
• The world’s first 4G/LTE network was introduced in Sweden in 2009. This time licenses were auctioned, in 2008, but still 50 percent of the Swedish population was covered by 4G networks by 2011, according to PTS. (Compare this to the UK, where the first 4G network was only introduced in late 2012). Research by OpenSignal (February 2013), which uses crowd-sourcing to test network speed, finds that Sweden has fastest 4G networks in the world, more than twice as fast as the US. However, active 4G mobile subscriptions are still relatively small (not helped by the lack of LTE/4G devices from popular handset manufacturers, such as (Apple). By June 2012, there were 83,000 (PTS) 4G users.
• Sweden is noteworthy for technological innovation. For example, both the pioneering music service Spotify and VoIP market leader Skype were born in Sweden.
• Sweden’s agencies receive many awards for their mobile work. Most notably out of a total 54 Mobile Lions at Cannes in 2012, nine went to Swedish agencies (17 percent). Only the USA won more.
• Swedish consumers also tend to be early adopters, eager to try out new technology, which makes it a popular country for international companies, such as Netflix, to try out international expansion.

Video case study: Pick n Play, by McDonald’s Sweden/DDB Stockholm, winner of two Bronze Mobile Lions at Cannes 2012 and Silver Egg at Guldägget 2012.

Q4: How do Swedes use their mobile devices?

According to a Google survey of 1,000 Swedish smartphone users in 2012, the most popular activities are: taking photos or videos (82 percent), browsing the Web (78 percent), sending and reading email (76 percent), using apps (76 percent), searching (76 percent) and accessing a social network (72 percent).
Google also found that:
68 percent of all smartphone users in Sweden do not leave home without their smartphone.
71 percent surf the mobile Web on their smartphone every day.
• A Swedish smartphone user has, on average, 31 apps on their phones, but only uses 12 on a monthly basis.
• Swedes send, on average, 117 SMS messages per month, per mobile subscription, according to PTS (1H 2012) this is less than a year ago – which may reflect greater use of non-operator messaging services such as iMessage, Viber and chat apps. On average, they send 1.6 MMS per month.

Q5: How does mobile Web usage compare to fixed Internet usage? When will mobile overtake PC access to the Web?

• According to Google, 20 percent of all Google searches in Sweden come via mobile. That reflects an increase of 400 percent in two years. It is estimated that Swedes will do as much browsing on their mobiles as on their computers/laptops by 2014.
• The largest Websites in Sweden are seeing more and more of their visitors come from mobile. The most read newspaper online in Sweden is the evening paper Aftonbladet, with 5.3 million unique visitors to the PC Website each week, according to the KIA index (week 10, 2013). That is 55 percent of the Swedish population. Aftonbladet’s mobile news site is also massive, and Sweden’s largest, with 2.6 million unique visitors per week, or 26 percent of the population. That’s more visitors than most Swedish PC Websites achieve. Aftonbladet also has a mobile app that has 0.2 million visitors – which suggests that Swedes prefer to read the news on the mobile Web, rather than via apps.

Q6: What are the key mobile marketing activities for companies: mobile Web, mobile advertising, text campaigns, opt-in lists, applications?

• Many advertisers in Sweden have jumped into developing apps before developing a mobile strategy or even a mobile-friendly Website. Not only has this resulted in many pointless apps, it has also been hampering growth of m-commerce. According to Google’s research 62 percent of smartphone users browse the Web for product information, but only 29 percent make purchases using their phone – which may be due to companies being slow to build m-commerce sites.
• According to Google, quoted in ComputerSweden, as few as 20 percent of top Swedish companies have a mobile-friendly site, despite warnings from experts that Swedish consumers have a low tolerance of Websites that are not mobile friendly.
• Those companies with mobile sites or mobile-friendly sites are seeing great results. See the stats in Q14 below. And there are some excellent examples, such as the responsive-design site from SVT, the Swedish national television broadcaster.
• Messaging is still a highly effective marketing tool, and SMS broadcasts and push notifications are commonly used as a part of companies’ CRM programs.

Q7: What is driving growth? What’s holding it up?

Currently consumers, device manufacturers and mobile operators are the ones driving growth. Advertisers and publishers are trying to catch up. The growing smartphone penetration and accompanying increase in mobile data usage by Swedes (detailed above) must push companies to increase and improve their presence in the mobile channel.
If companies do not meet the expectations from mobile users, it will slow down the development of the mobile channel.

Q8. What role do mobile operators play in the mobile ecosystem?

• There are four major mobile operators in Sweden, sharing 97 percent of the market (PTS). TeliaSonera is the largest (39 percent of subscribers), then Tele2 (31 percent), Telenor (17 percent) and Hi3g (10 percent).
• Operators play a key role in mobile marketing by continuing to increase mobile bandwidth and speed. Also flat-rate mobile-data subscriptions have been an important driver of the uptake of mobile surfing.
• The Swedish mobile operators also have joined forces in creating WyWallet, a mobile wallet which allows subscribers to make SMS purchases, make transfers to individuals, make online purchases and make wireless payments in-store. However this service has come in for some criticism, see this article (in Swedish). Unfortunately new rules imposed by the operators to help encourage customer uptake of WyWallet has had a significant impact on the, hitherto thriving, premium-SMS market, impacting charitable donations, among other services. According to Aftonbladet (in Swedish) the Red Cross has lost 92 percent of its SMS-based donations since the new system was introduced in February 1, 2013.
• Today most mobile Web is off-deck, and mobile operators are no longer dominant players in mobile advertising. However, operators realize the value of their subscribers’ data, which can be sold (anonymously) to publishers to enrich their advertising targeting.
• Unlike other countries, Swedish operators do not offer services where third-party advertisers can send messages to opt-in subscribers. Sweden as a country is quite restrictive and hesitant to third-party advertising via SMS. However, brands do have their own loyalty programs where they send SMS to their own opt-in subscribers.

Q9. What role does the Swedish government play in the mobile ecosystem?

In a fast-moving industry, such as mobile marketing, regulation has a hard time keeping up with the pace. Hence, many regulations and standards in this area are quite general, and centre on “industry best practices”. Such are developed by industry organizations like SWEDMA (Swedish Direct Marketing Association) and KOMM (The Swedish Association of Communication Agencies).
The Personal Data Act is an important piece of legislation from a mobile and digital marketing perspective.
Swedish governmental agencies use the mobile channels themselves as communication channels. For example, the Foreign Ministry has an app that provides users with current information about specific countries.

Q10. What associations/industry initiatives are helping to push forward mobile best practice, standards or industry-specific initiatives such as m-health, m-banking, m-learning etc?

Useful initiatives/resources for mobile markers include:
• Google’s Our Mobile Planet gives agencies and advertisers a good oversight of mobile trends in Sweden (and other countries). Also the multiscreen research is very important to the evolution of the industry, providing advertisers and agencies with accessible information form a credible source.
Mobilsverige (in Swedish) is another useful resource set up by media site TV.nu, media agency Maxus and the Association of Swedish Advertisers. Mobilsverige aims to be focal point for interesting facts about mobile marketing in Sweden.
Awards help to promote best practice:
Guldmobilen (The Golden Mobile)
Guldägget (The Golden Egg), which added a mobile category in 2012.
Mobile health initiatives:
• The EU is funding a research project focused on remote mobile doctor services. This is an experiment to see if health can be improved in rural areas using mobile technology. It enables people to measure their blood pressure at home and then send the results to the doctor at the health center using their phone.
Mobile banking initiatives:
• Several major banks including Danske Bank, Handelsbanken, Länsförsäkringar, Nordea, SEB and Swedbank have launched Swish. This is a mobile-app-based person-to-person transfer service that allows people to send money (e.g. to pay for a purchase) to another Swish user.
• Many banks have also launched mobile banking sites and mobile apps see for example: SEB mobile site; SEB iPad app; Handelsbanken mobile site and Handelsbanken app.
Mobile charity initiatives:
Sweden was one of the first countries to make SMS donations to charities VAT-free, back in 2005. Since then, most NGOs in Sweden have embraced SMS, both to facilitate donations, but also for other marketing activities, and donor acquisition. Examples include: Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) and Situation Sthlm. However the future of this channel is now uncertain following the introduction of WyWallet, by the Swedish mobile operators, see Q8 above.

Q11. Which industries/sectors have shown the most interest in mobile Web/services/marketing in Sweden?

The media, retail, automotive and bank/insurance industries have probably shown the most interest in mobile marketing over the past five years, however second generation movers are now catching up. Examples of mobile sites include:
• Media: Aftonbladet; SVT; Göteborgs-Posten (GP); SVD.
• Retail: H&M; Lindex; KappAhl; 7-Eleven.
• Automotive: Volvo; Lexus; Audi; Mercedes-Benz.
• Financial services: AMF; SEB; Nordea; Handelsbanken.

Video case study: Volvo on Call (Sweden), by Volvo Cars/Mobiento, winner of two Bronze Mobile Lions at Cannes 2012, and Best M2M Award at Guldmobilen 2012.

Q12. Which companies (or sectors) are not using mobile, or not using mobile enough, that really would benefit from using mobile? Why?

• In countries, such as the US, tablets are increasingly being used in education, but mobile technologies are not used to the same extent in Swedish schools – though things are improving. Some schools in Sweden are currently testing the use of tablets as a teaching tool. Additionally individual teachers take their own mobile initiatives, including letting students take photographs of the whiteboard with their smartphones after the lesson is over. Mostly these initiatives seem to be focused on the students in mind; it would be good to see more mobile initiatives focused on making the teacher’s life easier.
• Hospitals are also lagging behind when it comes to making more use of the mobile. Documentation, knowledge-sharing and communicating with patients could all benefit from using mobile.
Why do these two sectors not use mobile more heavily? It is probably a combination of lack of financial resources, as well as the institutions being quite traditional and staff generally not being so tech savvy.

Q13. What mobile campaigns stand out particularly?

The story is best told by the Swedish mobile award winners for 2012 at Cannes Lions; Guldägget (The Golden Egg) and Guldmobilen (The Golden Mobile).

Cannes Mobile Lions:
Pick n Play (two Bronze Mobile Lions) – McDonald’s Sweden/DDB Stockholm. Watch the video case study.
The Sound Of Football (Bronze Mobile Lion) – Pepsico/Carlsberg/Åkestam Holst Stockholm. Watch the video case study.
Volvo on Call (two Bronze Mobile Lions) – Volvo Cars/Mobiento. Watch the video case study.
Autodance (Bronze Mobile Lion) – Ubisoft/CP+B Gothenburg. Watch the video case study.
Point and Fly (Bronze Mobile Lion) – Scandinavian Airlines/CP+B Gothenburg. Watch the video case study.
SMS is King/Situation Stockholm (Bronze Mobile Lion) – Situation Stockholm/Mobiento. Watch the video case study.
Tram Sightseeing App (Bronze Mobile Lion) – Västtrafik/Forsman & Bodenfors Gothenburg. Watch the video case study.

Guldägget (The Golden Egg):
Tram Sightseeing App (Golden Egg) – Västtrafik/Forsman & Bodenfors Gothenburg.
Pick n Play (Silver Egg) – McDonald’s Sweden/DDB Stockholm.

Guldmobilen (The Golden Mobile):
Aftonbladet (Best mobile news) – Aftonbladet.
Skandiabanken (Best mobile banking) – Skandia.
MatHem (Best mobile initiative) – MatHem.
Eniro På Sjön (Best mobile utility) – Eniro.
Healthy Heroes (Best mobile health) – Warmbreeze Studios.
iZettle (Best mobile payments) – iZettle.
Volvo on call (Best M2M) – Volvo, Mobiento.
McDonalds McWrap (Best mobile marketing) – McDonalds, Apegroup.
Minecraft (Best mobile innovation) – 13th Lab.

Video case study: Tram Sightseeing App, by Västtrafik/Forsman & Bodenfors Gothenburg, winner of a Bronze Mobile Lion at Cannes 2012 and Golden Egg at Guldägget 2012.

Q14. What are the most popular and/or best mobile and m-commerce sites in Sweden?

There are no stats for internationally popular sites such as such as Google and Facebook, but Sveriges Annonsörer (advertising industry association)’s produces the KIA Index listing the visitors to the most popular mobile Websites, mobile sites and mobile apps (or at least for those companies for which data is available) each week. The index is focused on media sites that sell advertising space, so there will be some omissions, but is considered the de facto standard of traffic measurement in Sweden and an invaluable resource for media buyers.
As documented in the table below, the most popular mobile sites in the KIA index are the newspapers Aftonbladet and Expressen, then the search engine Hitta, then the classified directory Blocket. The most popular mobile app is the TV schedule TV.nu, followed by Hitta and Aftonbladet. For most publishers, the mobile sites receive considerably more visitors than the mobile apps – with TV.nu being a notable exception.
Swedish m-commerce sites (which aren’t covered in the KIA list) include: Stadium (sports and fashion clothing retailer); Ticnet (Ticketmaster) (events ticketing); and Clas Ohlson (home/DIY retailer. No revenue levels have been made official are available for any retailers, so we don’t know exactly how successful each is.

KIA Index of top mobile publishers in Sweden (week 11, 2013)
Rank Mobile site Unique visitors
per week
  Mobile app Unique visitors
per week
1 Aftonbladet Mobil 2,592,309   TV.nu mobile app 1,155,613
2 Expressen Mobil 723,744   Hitta mobile app 329,250
3 Hitta Mobil 687,653   SF Cinema mobile app 260,711
4 Blocket Mobil 677,895   Aftonbladet mobile app 230,510
5 SVD Mobil 447,098   Klart mobile app 190,059
6 FamiljeLiv Mobil 288,582   Eniro mobile app 147,213
7 Sveriges Radio Mobil 279,392   Tradera iPhone app 123,677
8 Eniro Mobil 257,604   SvenskaFans app 85,714
9 Dagens Nyheter Mobil 230,439   Hemnet iPhone app 78,409
10 IDG Mobil 98,167   Göteborgs-Posten iPhone app 73,093
Source: © KIA Index (Week 11, 2013)   Via: © mobiThinking

Q15. Who are the key players in mobile Web/marketing in Sweden, in terms of:

a) Mobile agencies or creative agencies: Doberman; Mobiento; Monterosa; Portably; Crispin Porter + Bogusky; RGA.
b) Mobile content providers: Fragmented market, many small players.
c) Mobile advertising networks: Adiento (adQuota); Widespace.
d) Mobile search engines: Google; Hitta; Eniro.
e) Mobile network operators: Telia; Tele2; Telenor and Hi3G.
f) Other providers of essential mobile services: iZettle; Swish (see above) for mobile payments.
g) Associations: Komm (Swedish Association of Communication Agencies); Sveriges Annonsörer (Association of Swedish Advertisers), which produces the KIA Index; IAB Sweden; SWEDMA (Association of direct/interactive marketing companies); MORGAN Forum (Association of mobile content providers).
h) Must attend mobile events: SIME Stockholm; Mobile Future.

Video case study: Autodance, by Ubisoft/CP+B Gothenburg, winner of a Bronze Mobile Lion at Cannes 2012 and the Brand on Mobile Award at Meffys 2012.

Q16. Where should people go for more information – please include useful online resources, books etc.?

Our Mobile Planet (Google).
The Mobile Playbook (Google).
Kia Index (Sveriges Annonsörer).
IAB Sweden.
Mobilsverige (in Swedish).
Guldmobilen (The Golden Mobile).
Guldägget (The Golden Egg).
The Mobile Book (in Swedish).
PTS (Swedish Post and Telecom Authority).

Is there anything else we need to know about mobile in Sweden? What mobile hotspot should we profile next? Please comment below or email editor(at)mobiThinking.com.
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Image credits: Sweden flag ©: Peter Wemmert via Shutterstock. Stockholm silhouette ©: Alexandra Gl via Shutterstock.

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