Key Mobile Takeaways From Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends Report

Mary Meeker’s landmark 2016 Internet Trends Report was released at the start of this month. This year’s edition is a stat-packed, 200+ slide report that delves into the evolution of the internet, highlighting emerging trends, newly budding companies, game-changing technologies and much more. But what does all this mean for mobile and where it’s headed? We’ve extracted some highlights and key takeaways so you can get a quick sense of it all:

Smartphone Usage on the Rise as Sales Slow

Smartphone usage continues to climb, while global unit shipments have decelerated (10 percent growth versus last year’s 28 percent) due to looming market saturation. Here’s a look at the landscape:

  • There are now 3 billion internet users globally, with steady growth of 9 percent year-over-year.
  • Asia-Pacific, the largest global market (and recent driver of growth), has grown from 34 percent smartphone penetration in 2008 to 52 percent in 2015.
  • Globally, the average mobile user has 33 apps, 12 of which are used daily. However, 80 percent of time is spent in just three apps.
  • Android phones have gained significant share compared to Apple’s iOS. Android market share grew from 4 percent in 2009 to 81 percent in 2015, while iOS grew from 14 percent in 2009 to just 16 percent in 2015.

For companies looking to developing markets to drive continued sales, the report highlights that smartphone cost is proportionally a much bigger burden in those markets. For example, the cost of a smartphone in Ethiopia is 47.6 percent of the average annual income. In a developed country like Japan, that number is a mere .6 percent. This will make continued growth in developing markets harder and harder under the current models.

Millennials as the Drivers of Change

The generational force of the Millennials (ages 20-35) is fueling technology change, as the group now accounts for 27 percent of the United States’ population. What’s more, millennial spending power is expected to grow significantly over the next 10 to 20 years, which means they’ll be in the driver’s seat for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, the newly-dubbed Generation Z (ages 1-20) is bringing new preferences and demands to the table. As Meeker pointed out, this group is a new breed of content consumer — they’re comfortable with as many as five screens (as opposed to millennials, who opt for two), communicate through images and create content regularly.

Both Millennials and Generation Z are the most engaged on visual social platforms, with Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram leading the way. This presents new opportunities for businesses, as product discovery increases on visual platforms like Pinterest, and users seek out imaged-based marketplaces, such as OfferUp.

Voice: The Next Big Thing?

Want to enhance the experience for today’s (and tomorrow’s) users? The next big thing on the horizon is voice. Meeker predicts that voice will soon be the most efficient form of computer interface — it’s fast, easy (keyboard-free), personalized and data-driven. For those that don’t think voice commands will ever catch on, the report suggests that accuracy rates are approaching a tipping-point. As accuracy nears 99 percent it’s thought almost all users will adopt the technology. And today, most major platforms around the world are well over 90 percent accuracy.

As accuracy has increased, so has usage — 65 percent of smartphone owners in the United States reported using voice commands in 2015, up from 56 percent in 2014. What’s more, voice search is gaining traction. In June 2015, Apple reported that Siri handles more than 1 billion search requests per week and as of May 2016, 1 in 5 searches on an Android device are made by voice.

Mobile is Fueling Advertising Growth – with Opportunity to Spare

Mobile advertising grew 66 percent year-over-year versus just 5 percent on desktop. Even so – there’s still huge untapped opportunity for mobile advertising. According to Meeker, advertisers continue to over-focus on legacy media. Mobile accounts for 25 percent of total media consumption time, but only 12 percent of advertising spend. This leaves a $22 billion mobile ad opportunity in the United States alone.

Although the opportunity for mobile advertising is there, it is not without obstacles. Mobile ad blocking is up 94 percent, which means advertisers should look to integrate ad content naturally, by focusing on making them brief, humorous or entertaining, and in-context for the user. Even user-created content can be a powerful advertising tool. One customer’s viral Chewbacca mask video drove app downloads for Kohl’s, which temporarily became the leading app in the U.S. iOS App store.

Messaging as a Platform

Last year’s report called out the messaging phenomenon, and the growth has only continued to surge, with WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and WeChat leading the charge. That’s largely because messaging apps have evolved into full-fledged platforms that are becoming more sophisticated and all-encompassing experiences. Users now use messaging to engage with brands (via bot or direct chat), play games, watch videos, pay friends and more.

As businesses move to where the users are, messaging has evolved from social conversations to business interactions, where users can perform transactions and seek out customer service. For example, Hyatt, which began offering customer service on Facebook Messenger in November 2015, allows users to check for room availability, make reservations and order room service via messaging. For younger consumers (born between 1981 and 1999), the preferred method of business contact is by internet, web chat or social media. This is a big shift from previous generations, which prefer to conduct these interactions by phone.

Messaging apps are increasingly becoming a platform in their own right – a second home screen with burgeoning capabilities, rivaling those of the OS and designed to keep users engaged for longer.

Data-Driven Experiences Inspire New Products and Services

The market is exploding with new data generating devices (think smart homes, gaming systems, social networks, connected clothing, apps, smart cars, health sensors, drones…the list goes on). With users connecting to an increasing number of “things”, data has become a new growth engine that is powering new products and services. As the infrastructure to handle all this data has matured, the opportunity now is interpreting and presenting the data to users in a way that will improve lives or business efficiency.

A new wave of internet-enabled brands is on the rise. These emerging companies tap into data to create rich, personalized experiences that are accessible across any device. Take Stitch Fix, for example. This new-aged retail company uses its website and mobile app to create a unique customer experience for each user. Stitch Fix constantly analyzes user actions and preferences to improve and tailor the user experience. With a constant stream of user data, the company is regularly improving its experience algorithms which drives high customer satisfaction. The number of clients who purchase the majority of their clothing from Stitch Fix grew from 30 percent to 39 percent year-over-year.

The Easy Road is Behind Us, But…

One of the overarching themes of this year’s report was the sobering story told by the global macro-trends presented:

  • Global GDP growth is slowing, with 6 of the last 8 years below the 20-year average;
  • China and emerging Asia is maturing – now at 63% of global GDP (up from 18% in 1985);
  • Global debt is high and rising faster than the GDP;
  • Population growth rate is slowing with birth rates down 39% since 1960.

Taken together, these stats mean that the major growth drivers of the past couple decades will be difficult (impossible?) to repeat. Meeker’s report bluntly states that the easy growth is likely over. That said, it also means that the opportunity is that much more significant for those that find new ways to harness technology to innovate and create efficiency for consumers and businesses. The internet will be at the core of this and data-driven experiences might just be the ticket.