Internet Trends for Marketers

Last week I gave a talk entitled Internet Trends for Marketers at our free meet-up in London (sign up here if you would like to hear about the free meet-ups we run).

Since I'm aware that not everyone can make it to London for a meet-up, I thought I would revisit the same talk in a G+ Hangout on Air. You can watch the recording on YouTube.

If you'd prefer to discuss it in the comments, read on...

I wanted to step back from the actionable tips that I often focus on and spend some time thinking about where the internet is going. I think those of us that work online have a great intuitive sense of this, but I found it amazing how dramatic some of the trends are. It was only as I brought together numbers from a few different sources and visualised them together that I could build an over-arching mental model.

The summary, in my opinion, is that while we spend a lot of time talking about “SoLoMo” (Social, Local and Mobile) that is one part of a broader trend that I simply called “everywhere”.

My core claim is that while it’s true that mobile web usage is growing at a spectacular rate, it’s also becoming more and more like what we currently think of as “desktop” usage (whether on a laptop or traditional desktop). At the same time, “desktop” usage has features that look increasingly like traditional “mobile”.

Before I get too deep into that, I wanted to cover off some of the broader trends. I was blown away by some of the growth in smartphone and tablet ownership and usage (mainly sourced from Mary Meeker’s State of the Web presentation) - and I’m speaking as someone who worked in the mobile industry before getting into internet marketing and who has been anticipating the “year of the mobile” since about 2003.

Remember how the iPod changed an industry? I was living in London when it launched and it was incredible to see the speed with which the tube became full of people wearing those distinctive white headphones. This chart shows the sales of the iPod in its first ten quarters:

iPod growth

We know that the iPhone was a big deal, so we might anticipate that it equalled or even outperformed iPod sales. In fact it makes them look flat (this chart compares the first ten quarters of iPhone sales against the first ten quarters of iPod sales - as will the subsequent few charts):

iPhone growth

What about the iPad? Once again, we know it was a big deal. If you’d have asked me before I knew the answer I would have forecast iPhone-like growth. I know it was revolutionary with few competitors (at the time) but it also came with a hefty investment, was a more niche purchase and the spend couldn’t be hidden away in a big monthly contract payment. In fact, I’d have been wrong - it grew way faster:

iPad growth

What really blew my mind was seeing Android surge past even the iPad (I know that “Android” isn’t a single kind of phone, but as we look at the upcoming changes in internet usage, all of this is indicative of the important trends):

Android growth

This exponential growth has continued:

Continuing Android growth

In the context of my broader claims about a convergence of usage everywhere, it’s interesting to look at these numbers in context of all personal computing. The following charts tell the story of my childhood through to the present day:

Before I was born, systems I've never used

My childhood - Amiga, Atari, Commodore and Windows

School and university - two horse race

Still a two horse race today

But if we add in smartphone and tablet technology, we see a stark indication of the revolution currently underway:

Unless you include Android and iOS

Of course, during this time, the total units shipped grew astonishingly quickly. This animation does a great job of showing all these variables at play at once (note the logarithmic scale):

It's incredible to see the huge amount of growth still to come from Android. When we dig into the usage stats (and particularly the e-commerce stats) we see a disproportionate share coming from iOS (iPhone and iPad) devices relative to their market share. Some have used this data to argue that iOS devices are fundamentally more suitable for online purchasing. I read the data a different way - based on andecotal evidence that many people "accidentally" own Android devices - to say that as more people actively seek out smartphones (an undeniable trend) we will see skyrocketing levels of payments from "mobile" devices.

I am arguing, however, that to look at the trend as “growth in mobile” is to look at only half of what is currently happening. I argued in my presentation that the trends in mobile are mirrored by the trends in desktop usage:

Desktop and mobile are changing together

I think that “instant on” for “traditional” PCs could cause dramatic behaviour changes. We saw the change in behaviour when internet access went from being dial-up to always-on broadband - even before the speed was dramatically different. It’s easy to forget, while surrounded by digital natives who always have a computer on, that when observing “normal people”, one of the biggest behaviour changes brought by the iPad / iPhone is the ability to get online right now. This change of behaviour is persistent even at home. Phone and tablet usage has grown at home in part because of the perceived immediate convenience outweighing the fiddliness and smaller screen.

I am much less excited by an internet-connected fridge (a supposed benefit of the internet since the late ‘90s) than I am by instant-on, wireless display streaming (see for example AppleTV AirPlay mirroring) making it as easy to stick something on the TV via the web as via terrestrial / cable TV channels.

In the presentation (around slide 17) I include some stats on internet connection speed that I found surprising:

Trends in internet connectivity speeds

As a result of all this thinking about structural changes, I'm forecasting that the internet of the next ten years will:

  • Look more similar on more devices
  • Be faster everywhere (duh!)
  • Still be heavily based on text for reading and writing (see slide 10 onwards)
  • Be more seamless for:
    • Buying
    • Sharing
    • Filtering what we consume
So, what does this mean for us as marketers? In my presentation, I: I'd love for you to check those out and join me to discuss them in the comments.

You can check out the recording of the Hangout on YouTube.

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About the author
Will Critchlow

Will Critchlow

Will founded Distilled with Duncan in 2005. Since then, he has consulted with some of the world’s largest organisations and most famous websites, spoken at most major industry events and regularly appeared in local and national press. For the...   read more