People rarely get excited by a slide deck. But every year, for over 20 years, those in the tech world hail the release of Mary Meeker's Internet Trends report.
To distill the overall trends from this year's report to one phrase — decelerating growth.
“Growth around the world is slowing, and it’s important for all of us to think about it,” Meeker said.
Meeker, partner at Menlo Park, Calif.-based venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, revealed global internet use flatlining, a slowing of global smartphone user growth, slowing commodity prices, challenges for the ad industry and a shift in how people interact with the internet.
But all is not hopeless.
The report reveals areas for opportunity for businesses that understand and deliver on the demands of their audiences.
Some highlights from the report:
The End of 'Easy Growth'
Global internet use has flatlined according to Meeker, “it’s actually decelerating if you exclude India.” India has surpassed the US to rank as the number two market of internet users behind China.
The report also shows declining global smartphone use, essentially due to the market in developed nations being flooded and the high cost per capita income of smart phones in less developed parts of the world.
What do these trends add up to? "Easy growth" is in the past according to Meeker.
Global government debt has been climbing steadily, population growth is slowing down and global life expectancy is now 72 years. All this means greater risks like an aging population and higher debt, but Meeker points out these factors also leave room for innovative businesses, more jobs and lower market prices — and the internet can power this.
More Online Advertising, But Most Still Misses the Mark
Competition will only heat up in the market Meeker describes.
US online advertising growth is an accelerating business, with Google and Facebook accounting for three-quarters of the rising share of growth.
“Google has proven effective online advertising works,” Meeker said. But in contrast to Google's success, most advertising fails to hit the mark.
Eighty-one percent of consumers mute annoying ads, 62 percent get turned off by pre-roll advertising and 93 percent are considering using ad blocking software.
But some brands deliver effective video ads, which Meeker describes as short, entertaining and authentic with context. Meeker referenced a 10-second Spotify and Furious 7 ads on Snapchat that received millions of views.
Algorithms Drive E-Commerce
On the commerce front, Meeker discussed the intertwining of retail, technology, media and distribution. Retailers no longer deal only in the physical goods they sell, but use the data created by every transaction to create new products and hyper-targeted marketing.
For Meeker, one of these major movers is StitchFix, the online women’s stylist that combines survey data and stylist recommendations with its algorithm to ship unique boxes to every customer. According to the report, 39 percent of customers purchase the majority of their clothes in the box, versus 30 percent a year ago. “It’s a big deal,” Meeker said.
Image-based platforms, such as Pinterest and OfferUp, show increased opportunities for monetization and e-commerce integration.
Meeker also cites the example of Houzz, which combines content, commerce and community to deliver higher engagement rates and increased conversions.
Visuals Win the Day and Messaging Has a 'Secret Sauce'
Visuals as a primary messaging medium continues to rise. Meeker holds up Snapchat as the ideal formula for visual and advertising success, which offers a combination of storytelling, creativity, messaging and sharing.
Remembering customer identity, time, specifics, preferences and context creates the messaging "secret sauce," said Meeker. This “magic of the thread” helped Hyatt and Rogers Communications, for example, drive better customer satisfaction in their messaging.
“The best way to contact millennials is social media and chat. The worst way is telephone,” Meeker said.
Who Wants to Type? Voice Interfaces More Accurate, Popular
Beyond messaging, Meeker says we can expect voice interfaces to take off. For consumers, it’s fast, easy and personalized. Plus, people don’t have to type or enter anything.
“The key to success of voice interaction is 99 percent accuracy and understanding, plus low latency,” she said. According to data from Hound, Baidu and Google, major platforms are already seeing 90 percent accuracy or more.
Voice search broadens the parameters of the "always on" consumer. By freeing search from the keyboard, consumers can use internet searches at will and benefit from the context, localization and personal preferences gleaned from previous searches.
Meeker pointed to two factors to succeed with voice: accuracy and low latency.
Data as Platforms
All of this connectivity will only result in more devices and channels producing and pushing increasing volumes of data to the cloud. Per Meeker’s predictions, the “next big wave” of data lies in leveraging this unlimited data and connectivity and figuring out how to interpret the information to improve lives and enterprises.
Data analytics tools are increasingly built for non-technical users, allowing for greater access and integration of data within business workflows. Meeker points to improvements in several other areas with this increased sophistication in tools, such as CRM, data security and data mapping.
Dig further into Meeker's findings in her 213 slide report here.