For at least the past decade, developments in digital marketing – and technology in general – have served to disrupt virtually every industry. Whether you manufacture a product or deliver a service, your business undoubtedly has been roiled by digital developments, and their impact on the expectations – and buying behavior – of your customer base.
Keeping apace with forthcoming developments can help any business better prepare for what’s to come – altering practices to successfully navigate this digital-first world.
That’s why I wait with anticipation each year for the release of Mary Meeker’s insightful – and robust (344 PowerPoint slides) – Internet Trends Report. Mary Meeker is the head of the venture capitalist firm Bond, a spinoff of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. She has been publishing reports on the Internet since 1995 when she was at Morgan Stanley.
Companies who have reviewed Meeker’s annual tome of top tech trends have often found solutions to keeping up in these rapidly changing times. I am happy to spotlight for you some of the most relevant trends, and how they may affect your business in the coming months.
- Data is the Engine for Growth: Meeker’s deck consistently drills on the theme: winning new business requires the ability to leverage data. Data is the key to understanding the customer, managing connections via multiple channels, improving the customer experience and optimizing growth.
- Personalization is Preferred over Privacy: Despite security breaches that have afflicted all types of business and government entities, 91 percent of customers still “prefer brands that provide personalized offers/recommendations,” while 83 percent remain “willing to passively share data in exchange” for personalization. Governments have recently stiffened regulations to address consumer privacy (ex. European Union’s 2018 General Data Protection Regulation) – thus contributing to consumers’ mindset around their willingness to share data.
- Products And Services Are Evolving Exponentially: Technology allows for the automation of tasks that previously were resource intensive. This means services like personalization, ecommerce and payment can all happen in an instant. For a good example of the speed of change, look at Instagram. Instagram started out in 2011 as a photo sharing app, then added data-driven discovery in 2015, then video in 2016, and ecommerce in 2019 – quite an evolution in just a few years.
- Freemium is the Most Effective, Low-Cost Acquisition Tactic for Subscription Businesses: Positive experience with a product or service remains a top driver of growth. Free trial is the largest influencer, at 42 percent, in coaxing prospects to try new online subscription services. Clearly, developing a good user experienced can have the most impact on growth. Freemium examples include Dropbox, Slack, Wix, SurveyMonkey, Zoom, and Spotify.
- Mobile Usage Exceeded TV Usage For the First Time Ever: Americans now spend more time (226 minutes/day) on their mobile devices than watching TV (216 minutes/day) - so businesses need to ensure they have a mobile-relevant approach when making investments in technology, as well as when developing advertising, creative, media spending and engagement strategies.
- Media Consumption is Omni-Channel: Americans consume content from multiple media channels at one time. They spend an unprecedented average of 6.3 hours a day interacting with digital media, such as mobile, computer, and other connected devices. In fact, 88 percent of the audience is on a second digital device while watching TV (try watching TV at home with your teenager - you see this statistic first hand). And 71 percent look up information related to content they are watching. This multi-platform engagement provides new marketing opportunities, and we are seeing new services (for example, Xandr) enabling businesses to leverage this behavior.
- Ecommerce Has Surpassed Physical Payments: Customers are not just spending time online -- they are buying online. Ecommerce constitutes a growing share of all retail sales – today, hovering around 15 percent. Additionally, digital transactions make up 59 percent of payments. Having the ability to pay for products and services using digital channels is critical.
- Google and Facebook Continue to Dominate Ad Dollars: Internet ad spending continues to grow, with Google and Facebook getting the lion’s share. But companies like Amazon, Twitter, Snap, and Pinterest are gaining share. Even though Amazon may not be considered an ad leader, it has replaced Google as the No. 1 place for product discovery for consumers and is continuing to gain ground as the discovery platform for business products.
- Video and Voice Replace Text: Images and voice continue to replace text as the means by which people communicate. Technological enhancements, like faster WiFi and better phone cameras, have accelerated this trend. The pending national deployment of 5G is expected to further elevate the influence of video and voice services. Marketers must 'de-text' and shift to these preferred methods to reach and engage audiences.
- Programmatic Ads Surpass Direct Media Buys: Programmatic ads now represent 62 percent of digital display adversting. This type of advertising leverages data and artificial intelligence (AI) to provide better targeting, relevant content, and enhanced functionality such as commerce-based ads. With programmatic ads, advertisers purchase media based on targeted impressions versus a more scattershot approach. MarketingWeek explains in this example: “Rather than buying a million impressions on ABC in one go, and committing to that over a period of time, a brand can buy a million impressions, but split across multiple publishers or media owners, targeted at a particular audience segment.”
- Interactive Gaming Is an Influential Communication Form: There are more than 2.4 billion active global gamers, including games such as Fortnite and Pokémon. Gaming platforms today are where people play, talk, text, watch, and learn. Corporations are increasingly using “gamification” techniques to engage with customers, motivate employee behavior, and even lead fundraising efforts. For now, China seems to be leading the way in developing game-based technology for business (ex Belle app used to drive sales among store managers).
- On-Demand Merchandise And Services Are Experiencing Explosive Growth: Whether it be business services, merchandise, transportation, housing, or food delivery, on-demand is disrupting industries, having more than doubled in scope in just two years, and are multi-billion dollar businesses. Keys to on-demand success include integrated payments, easy-to-use logistics, comprehensive service offerings and, of course the use of data, to continue to improve performance.
For business executives, staying relevant in this time of innovation and rapid technological advancement can be challenging. Thankfully, we can leverage consumer and marketplace data, such as the annual Internet Trends report, to develop and modify business strategies to optimize growth.