Top 9 mobile internet trends

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Jason Spero, head of Americas mobile advertising at Google said last year that the mobile web was "driving a cultural change". It’s a view echoed by Dennis Woodside, chief executive officer of Motorola Mobility, the mobile market will "dwarf the PC and all the PC industry has done"  and will "transform almost every industry"  he believes.

In a November update to her famous, annual Internet Trends report, KPCB partner Mary Meeker outlined and analysed the current market data on the worldwide internet and mobile internet industry.  From the dramatic expansion in mobile users through the rise in social networking and mobile commerce to the possibilities of mobile advertising, one thing is certain, mobile is here.  For the many businesses that have been playing a wait and see game with mobile so far, it looks like the results are in.

Here is a short summary of the top trends she identified in her 2011 and 2012 reports and how things look now.

1. Mobile platforms have hit critical mass

Meeker predicts that the global install base for smartphones plus tablet will overtake that of PCs - by the middle of next year!

This growth in devices doesn’t immediately translate into mobile internet traffic, which currently sits at about 10% of total internet traffic, but with a ten-fold rise in the last three years and an anticipated growth of 26  x over the next five years, don’t expect that situation to stay still for long.

Global Smartphone + Tablet Installed base 

Photo Credit:

2. Mobile is global

Five countries in particular are experiencing mobile internet use that is already outstripping desk-based use; China, USA, Russia, Brazil and India make up almost half of worldwide users.  Adoption is still at an early stage in some of those countries, but some are experiencing phenomenal year over year growth as can be seen in the table below.
Global mobile 3G subscribers - Q4 

Photo Credit: KPCB 2012 Internet Trends

3. Social networking is accelerating growth

There has been a big rise in users sharing their locations, communicating via social networks and carrying out local searches to inform and influence their real-world buying habits; what’s more, users are much more active in those behaviours on their mobile networks as compared to their desktop networks.

The industry is seeing different types of platforms like Facebook’s social networking, Apple’s mobile devices and Google search converge.   Meeker calls this SoLoMo, for the combination of social, local and mobile.

Mobile users are driving social features and social features are driving mobile usage.  Marketers need to recognise this symbiotic relationship as well as its social and casual nature if they are to realise its promise.

4. Time Shifting to Mobile Usage

Numbers of page views on desktops are falling while mobile page views are increasing and surpassing previous figures.  A significant amount of time spent on smartphones is new activity such as using maps, games, social networking, utilities and apps.

Now no longer an activity we have to lean forward or even lean back to do, computing is becoming ubiquitous.  With real-time connectivity, 24 x 7 in the palm of our hand, our mobile devices have become extensions to ourselves.  Even so, much of consumers’ time remains untapped.

Developers and marketers are taking the first steps towards offering good mobile content and services, but to fully realise the potential of this cultural shift remaining barriers need to be removed by providing responsive designs that allow users seamlessly to move between various devices and platforms.

Consumer internet White Space 

Photo Credit: KPCB 2012 Internet Trends

5. Mobile advertising – Growing Pains but huge promise

Mobile monetisation is also growing rapidly, particularly for apps as opposed to advertising, but compared to the desktop-focused web it’s really poor.

It’s currently very hard to make money of this mobile traffic, but technology, service providers and marketers are catching up.  Meeker predicts that mobile monetisation levels in the U.S. could surpass those on the desktop within three years.  "It's early." Meeker said, "The screen is small and the ad units haven’t been rolled out effectively yet. We’re still early in figuring out local and social, and I think we’re going to get there".

Material upside for mobile ad spend vs mobile usage 

Photo Credit: KPCB 2012 Internet Trends

6. mCommerce – Changing shopping behaviour

Mobile is clearly becoming a new way people shop … In 2011, we expect Mobile gross merchandise value to double.

John Donahoe, President & CEO, eBay CQ4:10 Earnings call

The strong growth in smartphone use presents the opportunity for retailers to engage with consumers, but it also threatens disruption by empowering consumers to research and compare competitors at the point of sale.  Retailers need to recognize this and act on it immediately by ensuring they provide a robust, holistic user experience; while Deloitte suggests that in the burgeoning app market, "A store that can offer apps with superior power management, security and ease-of-use is more likely to catch the eye of potential customers".

7. Emergence of virtual goods and in-app commerce

A virtual good is an item that is intended to be purchased in-application as opposed to downloaded to your device.   App features, subscriptions, games levels, digital gifts and so on are a $2b industry in the US and are gaining in popularity in China.

Deloitte recommends that brands build functionalities into their apps like social sharing, maps, games and location sharing. Bing Gorden, KPCB Partner suggests:  "'Gamification' of apps is the ultimate way to engage a new generation of audiences".

Monitization shift from paid downloads to virtual goods 

Photo Credit: KPCB 2011 Top 10 Mobile Internet Trends

8. Not all platforms are created equal

Meeker highlights that iPad adoption is now ramping up five times faster than iPhone adoption.  Meanwhile Android adoption is increasing six times faster than iPhone adoption.  Currently 75% of the world’s smartphones are running Google’s mobile OS, in no small part because Google pays attention to browsers, devices, operating systems and fast connections because this is what gets their revenue-earning adverts in front of people.  This has implications for your business’ mCommerce and mobile advertising strategies.

9. Change will accelerate, new players emerging rapidly

Take a look at Meeker’s presentation for some of the many and exciting ways the world is being 're-imagined' by inventors and entrepreneurs powered by new devices and connectivity.  From how we socialise to logistics, culture, science, healthcare, education, not-for-profit to commerce it’s all to play for.

Technology wealth creation/destruction cycles 

KPCB 2011 Top 10 Mobile Internet Trends

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