Over half the world’s population is already connected to the net, and while that growth might be slowing, it’s still very much on the rise.
At the same time, tech startups are continuing to make their services available at lower and lower prices, with many of them adopting free or freemium models that don’t cost users a thing. But these models typically require the storage and use of large amounts of data, and that in turn means that data protection is more of a hot topic than ever before.
Just take a look at Europe’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) to see how data and the way it’s stored is under scrutiny. The result is a landscape in which there’s a “them versus us” mentality where tech companies and legislators see each other as enemies instead of working together towards a common goal. After all, it’s in a company’s best interests to keep its users (and their data) safe.
It’s a constantly changing landscape, and that makes it difficult for people to stay on top of it. With that in mind, we’ve decided to share some of the current top trends that are shaping the development of the Internet based on a recent research by Mary Meeker 2018 Internet Trends. Let’s go.
Growth is set to slow
Despite the fact that the number of overall internet users is continuing to grow, year on year growth is on its way down, with virtually no growth at all when it comes to smartphone shipments. Still, overall internet penetration has doubled from 24% in 2009 to 49% in 2017, passing the 50% mark this year. But now that we’ve hit that halfway mark, it’s going to be much harder for the growth to continue.
The good news, for digital companies at least, is that the average American adult is spending more hours on digital media than ever before. Desktop/laptop use has stayed fairly steady since 2012 at just over two hours per day, but mobile usage has doubled from 1.6 hours to 3.3 hours at the same time.
While all of this is happening, devices are getting faster and cheaper, while the number of global WiFi networks has increased by ten times in as many years. It’s getting simpler and easier to carry out messaging, e-Commerce and more, and that means that emerging markets will continue to adopt a mobile-first approach to everything from making payments to staying in touch with friends and family.
Digital becomes the new norm
When people were asked to categorize their last ten everyday transactions, only 40% of them were made in-store while 60% took place online. Mobile payments in particular are taking off, especially across China where over 500 million people are already using mobile devices to move money. This switch to digital has also been accompanied by cryptocurrency growth including an almost 4x increase in the number of Coinbase users.
Meanwhile, the amount of time that global users spend consuming video on mobile devices is set to increase from around five minutes per day in 2012 to over half an hour per day in 2018 and beyond.
As more and more people adopt a mobile-first approach to searching, it’s also not surprising that voice search is continuing to grow in popularity. The accuracy of Google’s voice recognition software and the number of available Amazon Echo skills have continued to increase at an almost alarming rate, and we shouldn’t be surprised when the trend continues in the months and years to come.
One of the major trends over the last few years is the ongoing move towards more personalized content and marketing materials. As users provide more and more data, Internet companies are in the perfect place to take advantage of that, but they’ll have to do this in an era of increased regulation.
For technology companies — and companies in general — there’s a real need to balance innovation with the need to store users’ data. Consumers don’t mind brands having access to their data, as long as they’re not misusing it. And if there’s one thing that services like Netflix and Spotify have taught us, it’s that people are willing to trade access to their data for a more personalized service and better recommendations.
e-Commerce continues to rise
Perhaps unsurprisingly, e-Commerce is still on the rise in 2018 and beyond, with retail e-Commerce accounting for 13% of all retail sales. It’s also worth noting that Amazon’s ongoing dominance is set to continue with a full 49% of people beginning their product search on Amazon as opposed to a search engine (36%).
Social networking sites are increasingly being used for product discovery, even if only 11% of people buy those products online immediately. A further 44% discover products through social networks and then buy them online from some other retailer, and Facebook (78%), Instagram (59%) and Pinterest (59%) lead the way when it comes to which sites American 18–34-year-olds are using to discover those products.
But it’s not just physical products that are changing hands online. You just have to look at the growth of subscription-based services like Netflix (+25% year on year growth) and Spotify (+48%). Meanwhile, Chinese giants like Alibaba are building ecosystems of their own in much the same way that Google and Facebook are buying up as many relevant companies as they can.