There are now more internet users in India than the USA. E-commerce is now 10% of all retail sales in the US. And we are reimagining what a car is. Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends presentation is a mine of facts, data and insight. For marketers, three observations stand out from this wealth of data.

1. Many trends see technology catching up with how we naturally like to behave

There is a temptation to think that technology is about the new, about changing behaviour and giving us new ways of communicating. But looking at the 2016 trends it is clear that in many areas, technology is just enabling us to act in the way we want to; often in the way we used to. Video is a prime example of this. The Trends charts the shift from live (linear TV) through on-demand and back to live again. The growth areas and experimentation in video are in live formats – from Periscope to Facebook and YouTube live. What we are seeing is different people enabled to broadcast in this way, but more people discovering and tuning in to live (linear?) video content again. It can be easy for marketers to think that technology and digital is always about the new, but it can equally be about the

2. Images continue to grow rapidly

Whilst live video is a significant trend, the role of imagery in digital communications continues to grow. We are now sharing over 3.2 billion photos every day; Snapchat and WhatsApp account for about 1 billion each and are the fastest growing image sharing channels in recent years. Images have become the norm for how we like to communicate and are increasingly being monetised. The rise of Pinterest shows the role of imagery in product discovery and purchase – 55% of people who use this platform say they do so to find products (cf just 12% for Facebook). Images are the norm for the way consumers communicate, and for the way they want to discover content. They should be the norm for brand communications too.

3. Messaging apps are growing in size and in scope

Mary Meeker’s presentation gives some clear and good examples of how messaging apps are being used in markets including Thailand to help support the purchase process. Globally the penetration of messaging apps continues to rise considerably, with WhatsApp at 1 billion monthly active users, and both Facebook Messenger and WeChat at over 750 million users. But alongside this growth in penetration, perhaps more interesting for marketers is the way in which we are able to use these apps to communicate and transact with brands (on one hand) and to use new forms of expression (on the other). Messaging apps are not just about having text-based linear conversations, but are increasingly the ecosystems through which consumers can interact with friends, contacts and brands in many ways and for many purposes. They are a key channel for all brands to understand and to be considering, but they are not just a replacement for a telephone call, for example, or an email. They are more expansive than that.

Matt Rhodes

About Matt Rhodes

Head of Digital Strategy for work. Marathon runner and charity trustee for fun.

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