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Consumers and The Absolutely Amazing Growth of Global Connectivity

Since 2001, and in varying forms, Mary Meeker with the venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, Byers has published an annual report on global Internet trends.  I really enjoy seeing this report every year as the analysis provides a fascinating glimpse into the growth of the Internet, its influence on how we as humans interact with Internet-enabled devices and with one-another, and how the Internet is driving significant innovation across every segment of the global economy.

This year’s report, Internet Trends 2015, was released on May 27th and, as usual, it offers some amazing perspective on just how far we’ve come when it comes to the influence of the internet.  Consider a few of these amazing statistics from this year’s report:

  • The number of global internet users has increased from >1% of the global population in 1995 to 39% of the global population in 2014
  • By year-end 2014 73% of the global population owned a mobile phone, compared to 1% of the global population in 1995
  • In 1995 the top 15 Internet companies had a combined market capitalization of approximately $17 Billion USD.  At year-end 2014, the combined market cap of the top 15 Internet companies was $2.4 Trillion USD

To me, these statistics are just amazing.  And, speaking from a consumer products perspective, it’s fascinating to think about how the incredibly fast adoption of enabling technologies are empowering consumers, dramatically changing their expectations and rapidly disrupting long-established norms for consumer engagement.

For example, consider how adoption and use of mobile devices is influencing consumer behavior and preferences.  According to the findings, in 2008 the average adult in the U.S. spent approximately 2.7 hours per day using the Internet, and 80% of that time was spent via a desktop or a laptop computer.  Year-to-date in 2015, average daily internet has grown to 5.6 hours per day.

Since 2008, the amount of time spent using the internet on a desktop or laptop computer has barely changed – from 2.2 hours a day to 2.4 hours a day – while the amount of time using the internet via mobile devices has grown from roughly 20 minutes per day to 2.8 hours per day, or 51% of the total daily Internet use among U.S. adults.

What does this mean for consumer reach and engagement?

First, it’s fundamentally changing how companies are thinking about reaching consumers with advertising, information and offers.  According to the study, 18% of all U.S. ad spend is still focused on traditional print media, where people spend only 4% of their time.  By contrast, people now spend 24% of their time consuming media via mobile devices but corresponding ad spend in the U.S. is only 8% of the total ad spend, representing an approximately $25 Billion USD opportunity to shift advertising spend to a new medium.

But, shifting that spend will be more challenging than adjusting spend in one category in favor of spending more in another.  The ways in which consumers will expect that advertising to reach them, inform them and enable them will be dramatically different than in traditional print.  Ad formats will have to be optimized for mobile, which means fast, interactive, relevant and engaging and, increasingly, linked directly to other interaction opportunities such as click to buy or access to service and support at what the report terms “the moment of interest.”

Likewise, reaching and engaging consumers won’t be as simple as “print” or “mobile” but, rather, in a more granular context of where and how consumers are using that mobile device, and what they’re doing on that mobile device.  For example, consider the rise of mobile messaging through text and chat.  According to the report, 6+ of the top 10 mobile apps globally are messaging apps, and messaging leaders and growing incredibly rapidly.  WhatsApp alone grew 60% YoY vs. 2014, has 800 million messaging app users and now sees 30 billion messages per day posted.

This is just one of many examples, but it demonstrates both the complexity as well as the sheer magnitude of the opportunity to reach and engage consumers in entirely new and innovative ways; to move beyond impressions and mentions to much more meaningful measures of sentiment, engagement, advocacy and more. Add to this other trends relating to user generated content, changing patterns of Internet use among millennials, and growing Internet adoption rates in emerging markets, the reality of a ‘just in time economy’ where consumers can truly get what they want, where, when and how they want it may not be that far off in the future.

I’ll comment on some of these additional trends in future blog posts but, in the meantime, what’s your view?  We’d be very interested to hear about your company’s experiences and best practices when it comes to engaging with the increasingly connected, mobile and social consumer.

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