Mary Meeker, a partner in the Silicon Valley based venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), has become a bit of a legend in the tech industry as a result of her yearly ‘Internet Trends’ report. The report compiles the most critical stats and technology trends, revealing in broad terms where the internet and related technologies are and where they are going. Here we look at a few of the key take aways that were included in the report.
Global internet adoption is slowing: The global internet adoption rate was flat year-over-year at 9%, reaching 3 billion users or 42% of the world’s population. Bucking this trend is India, where adoption rates continue to soar, increasing from 33% last year to 40% this year; India has now surpassed the United States as the world’s second largest internet market behind China. Meeker says it’s becoming harder to acquire new Internet users globally given such a high percentage of people in developed countries are already online. Whilst less developed countries represent potential growth targets, internet users in these countries are more challenging to gain because of the high cost of smartphones relative to their incomes.
Rise of voice interfaces: Meeker predicts that voice will become the most efficient form of computing input, essentially because it’s easy, convenient, hands-free and instant. Voice lends itself to an “always on” way of life. Humans can speak 150 words per minute, for instance, but can type only 40 words per minute. The conversational aspect of the medium lends itself to personalised experiences with computers understanding context from previous questions the user has asked and the user’s location. 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. Today, most major platforms around the world are well over 90 percent accuracy.
Messaging as the new mobile home screen: Over time, messaging apps could become the home screen of choice on mobile devices. Given that 80% of users’ mobile time is spent in three apps, and the average global mobile user accesses just 12 apps daily, this is certainly feasible. The most commonly used apps in 2016 globally are Facebook, WhatsApp and Chrome. Messaging will shift from being simple social interactions to increasingly expressive over time and will include more and more business-related interactions. Meeker lists WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and WeChat as the current messaging leaders.
Data will drive customer engagement: Meeker’s report demonstrates the intelligence behind the evolution of data analytics. The market is exploding with new data generating devices – wearables, gaming systems, social networks, 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. For better customer engagement this means wherever a customer is doing something there’s an opportunity now to learn something about them, and then use that insight to offer the customer more value.
The era of “easy” growth is over: One of the overarching themes of this year’s report was in relation to slowing economic growth. Meeker says this is due to the decline of five of the biggest growth drivers of the last two decades:
- – Global GDP growth is slowing, with 6 of the last 8 years below the 20-year average of 3.8%;
- – Global debt is high and rising faster than the GDP;
- – Connectivity growth is slowing;
- – Interest rates are plummeting;
- – The global population is aging and growing more slowly (birth rates are down 39% since 1960).
Taken together, these stats mean that the major growth drivers of the past couple of decades will be difficult to repeat. Meeker’s report bluntly states that “easy” growth is likely over.
Conclusion: There’s a lot of information to digest in Internet Trends 2016. One of the key lessons we can take from it is the need for businesses to remain relevant in this time of significant technology change. Startups clearly have an advantage here as they can start with a clean sheet of paper, while established organisations are often reliant on technology choices that were made decades previously. However, this shouldn’t stop organisations from considering the massive economic, technological and cultural shifts we are experiencing and assessing what they can do within their own organisation to make the most of them.
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