Five internet trends of 2016

Mary Meeker has released her internet trends report of 2016; expect big changes in search, nods toward a mobile-first marketplace, and the rise in ad-blocking leading to better ad-making.

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At Code Conference last week, Mary Meeker, a well-known industry analyst delivered her annual internet trends report; a mahoosive 213 pages of crucial statistics on the state of all things internet.

Here are five top takeaways that marketers should pay attention to.

1. In five years, 50% of searches will be made through images or speech

Meeker predicts that voice search will become the most efficient means of computer input in the near future, due to its hands and vision-free nature that lends itself to an “always on” way of life.

The conversational aspect of voice search creates a personalised user experience by understanding the user’s location and contextual clues from their previous questions, and it’s getting better at doing so. Speech recognition accuracy rose by about 90% in 2016 from 70% in 2010; at the same time, the number of voice searches is also on the rise. Google voice searches, for example, are up 35 times since 2008.

Meeker predicts that once speech recognition reaches 99% accuracy, people will go from barely using voice search, to using it all the time

Image search, however, is still a fairly new concept, but Meeker says it is becoming increasingly important to users, while textual searches are gradually fading out. The surge in popularity toward images goes hand in hand with the growing trend of smartphones being used for storytelling, sharing, instant messaging, and creative expression.

2. Mobile advertising is the way forward

Google and Facebook account for the majority of digital advertising in the United States, together they currently make up 76 percent of the internet ad growth share, and this just keeps on growing. Online advertising enjoyed a 20 percent growth between 2014 and 2015, mostly owed to mobile ads which grew 66 percent YoY, compared to desktop ads which only grew by 5 percent.

Despite these statistics in favour for a mobile-first marketplace, Meeker argues that advertisers are missing the mark because they are not doing enough mobile advertising. Spend on mobile advertising accounts for just 12 percent of most marketing budgets, and yet a whopping 65 percent is still being allocated to traditional mediums, such as TV, radio, and print.

In the meantime, users are spending nearly half (47 percent) of their time online, predominantly through mobile devices.

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3. The threat of Ad-blocking calls for better Ad-making

The controversy around ad-blocking is set to intensify; 91 percent of users have considered using the technology. Meeker points to new findings from PageFair and Priori that show how the technology is being utilised on mobile. In fact, a fifth of smartphone users currently have ad-blockers apps installed on their mobile, and actual use of the technology shot up by 90 percent in 2015.

For brands that rely on users seeing ads, and brands that rely on ads to drive sales, this is should serve as a real wakeup call to push the envelope on development of more innovative ad formats. If advertisers don’t start putting user experience first, these figures will only become more pronounced. Mary says: “If there has ever been a call to arms to create better ads, this is it.”

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4. Things are slowing down

At 9 percent, internet user growth was flat from 2014 to 2015, and has actually slowed globally, with the exception of India where growth accelerated by 7 percent. Worryingly, it is the easy, profitable growth in places like China that seem to be slowing down. The user growth that is still happening is shifting to places that are less wealthy, but far more challenging to gain due to the high technology access costs in relation to income.

This means there is no longer an endless stream of new users we can count on for engagement, so marketers really do need to focus on providing better online experiences to today’s savvy audiences. Meeker said “New internet users are going to continue to be harder to find…Easy growth is behind us.”

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5. Video is leading the way

Video is evolving, at a rapid pace. Through the last century, video has gone from linear TV to on-demand, online, and live streamed. As a result, it has become a game changing channel for personalised, direct, and real-time communication. Today, Snapchat and Facebook particularly – with around 10 billion daily video views each – are making aggressive gains in the market with inventive features that enable consumers and brands to create and promote their own live videos, as well as providing marketers with innovative opportunities to reach those consumers.

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What this means for marketers

The internet trends report helps highlight the many challenges marketers face, as well as uncovering key opportunities for those brands that are willing to innovate, adapt work processes, and provide a better user experience.

As consumers gain better access and control over their choices, marketers need to come up with creative solutions to engage their target audiences in unique and personalised ways. Armed with evolving technologies and a wealth of data to tap into, the industry is working hard to grow the skills essential for marketing success in 2016 and beyond.

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