Mary Meeker’s highly-anticipated Internet Trends report has just been released. Within it were some takeaways from marketers in the areas of mobile, omnichannel experiences, ecommerce, voice technologies, consumer product recommendations and others. Here is what you need to know.
Before we dig into some of the findings, let's support that "highly-anticipated" claim. Meeker is the head of the venture capitalist firm Bond, a spinoff of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. She has been publishing reports on the Internet since 1995 when she was at Morgan Stanley. Nearly 25 years later, people still care deeply about Meeker’s thoughts. In fact, according to Moz.com, people search via Google for “Mary Meeker” 2,900 to 4,300 times a month and for “Mary Meeker internet trends" 201 to 500 times a month.
Mobile Isn't Going Anywhere But Up
Now to the findings that matter for marketers. “I think one of the most powerful takeaways is the mobile time spent vs. advertising equivalency finally flattening out,” said Greg Swan, director of digital, social and innovation at advertising agency Fallon. “That gap has been huge for years.” In 2010, mobile time spent on media was 8% vs. 0.5% spent on internet advertising. In 2018, those splits are virtually dead-even at 33%.
Mary Meeker's latest research is further evidence that marketers need to be taking a mobile-first approach when developing advertising, creative, media spending, engagement strategy and technology investments, according to Swan. “Legacy channels are still important,” Swan added, “but mobile has caught up with — and even surpassed — the traditional forums we always plan around.”
Related Article: 9 Tips for Boosting Your Mobile Marketing Program
Where Machine Learning, Social Media Supports Mobile
On the subject of mobile, Alex Funk, VP of strategic development at 3Q Digital, a digital and performance marketing agency, noted that in 2016 Meeker’s report found an even ad-spend split of 50/50 desktop and mobile, but it's now almost 2-to-1 in favor of mobile.
“That's a huge swing owing to consumption on mobile far outweighing desktop,” Funk said. “What's helping is instead of standard banner based ads on mobile, we are now seeing, what the report called: better targeting; richer ad formats that are highly relevant; marketers leveraging machine learning/AI to serve better creative; and added functionality like commerce-based ad units for sellers.”
Mobile now accommodates many more of the customer journey touchpoints, Funk added, so there's an ad unit for each stage. “Credit,” he said, “goes to Facebook and Instagram stories for some of that more recent growth, too. Stories are a big growth driver for Facebook and Instagram's ad business as a whole, as the mobile-first ad units get high engagement from users and are highly favored by advertisers.”
Physical Experiences Still Matter
Meeker reported that ecommerce sales have grown, just not as much as they did from 2010 to 2012. In fact, the percentage of year-to-year growth has declined in ecommerce sales from late 2017 to the final quarter of 2018.
Niki Hall, CMO of the Selligent Marketing Cloud, noted that Meeker reported ecommerce accounts for just 15% of all retail purchases, which means consumers are still flocking to brick-and-mortar for purchases. “While consumers are spending a ton of time online — sometimes even on multiple screens as the report notes — real-life experiences are still king,” Hall said. “For marketers, this simply means that brands that provide consistent, omnichannel experiences are poised to fare better than those that take a single-channel approach. That means that a consolidated view across channels, from what a consumer searches online and what they buy in-store, for example, is ever-more important.”
Knowing how customers engage, where, and what the output is can present the holistic view of the customer a brand needs to replicate successful experiences, according to Hall. “For most brands,” she added, “that means putting bigger emphasis and resources into the human channel of marketing — when a customer interacts with a brand rep, whether it’s a salesperson or customer service, or their experiences when they go on social to complain about something very publicly. Brands need to nurture their customer relationships by having that consistent experience no matter where consumers interact with them.”
Related Article: Digital Needs Physical Representation
CAC vs. LTV: Need to Go Beyond Standard KPIs
In her 2019 report, Meeker reported a reality that Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC) can’t exceed Lifetime Value (LTV) for very long. Funk said marketers should take notice because it represents a fundamental shift in the way we think about the performance of ad dollars. “For many years, “ he said, “digital has been judged on either a cost-per-lead or a return-on-ad-spend basis. We are seeing these metrics be deprioritized in favor of customer acquisition costs and lifetime value calculations of those customers. This speaks to the maturity of the market and the need to go beyond standard, siloed channel KPIs.”
Customer Data Strategy Is More Important Than Ever
Meeker’s report highlighted winning strategies for managing and leveraging data. In this century, she found, winning businesses build and use data plumbing tools. They use digital data and insights to improve customer experiences.
What does that look like according to Meeker?
- Collect Data:
- Understand customer wants and improve business processes
- Increase customer input/improve products
- Manage direct customer/subscriber relationships
- Improve consumer decision-making
- Manage Connection:
- Organize internal and external communication
- Communicate with customers via multiple channels
- Organize customer data across all systems
- Optimize Data:
- Improve analytics/recommendations/personalization
- Respond to customer events at scale
- Discover business insights and optimize fulfillment
- Manage data growth and eliminate inefficiencies
“It's clear that every business now needs a robust customer data strategy,” Funk said. “No longer is a web analytics platform and a CRM enough firepower to really collect, segment and leverage customer data to improve customer experiences and feed insights into the larger marketing org. Real-time audience management is a crucial tool for today's marketers, and the role of data science and activation is paramount in a digital-first world. New data privacy rules make some of this more challenging but also present opportunities for marketers to get it right and build trust with their audiences.”
Related Article: The 360-Degree Customer View: Fact or Fiction?
Video Growth Means More Work for Marketers
You may have heard it before but it bears repeating: video consumption keeps growing. Meeker found, for instance, 59% of Gen Z users cite YouTube as their preferred learning channel. Overall, there is 4.5 billion annual hours of how-to video viewership.
“Companies need to evolve beyond just saying we need to do more ‘video marketing’ and realize that it's becoming the single most important category for reaching audiences online going forward,” said Seth Kravitz, CEO of PHLEARN. “As a marketer that's already used to integrating video into every new campaign we launch, I was surprised in Mary Meeker's presentation to see the absolute explosion of video consumption across all age groups and platforms. It's not just millenials and Gen Z, it's not just on YouTube, but short video consumption in particular appears to be growing rapidly across all social media platforms and generations.”
Brands need to start producing multiple versions of each ad they produce, adopt it to each platform and run different lengths of the same video on those respective platforms as well. “It's going to take real investment,” Kravitz said, “and making it a priority, not just a small piece of the marketing mix.”
Consumers Like Recommendations, Freemiums
No matter how good your marketing is, it's probably not better than your target's friend's, a Facebook post or word-of-mouth endorsement. Meeker reported that in an ecommerce setting, someone's recommendation was the top choice (23%) for trying a new subscription box. Meeker cited online styling company Stitch Fix, which reported that 100% of what it sells is based on data-driven, personalized recommendations. Its active clients rose to nearly 3 million in 5 years.
Jeffrey Fleischman, CMO of Altimetrik, said it's important for companies to not only create products consumers value but also be responsive to feedback or face negative reviews/ratings, which could lead to hurting brand reputation and sales.
Consumers also like freemium plans. Meeker found that "free trial/tier" is the No. 1 reason (42%) for trying a new online streaming service. "It’s all about the user experience: freemium models coupled with excellent experience lead to rapid growth, like Zoom for example (which Meeker cited)," Fleischman said. "It’s a great product, works flawlessly, and it’s easy, so much so that anyone using it or invited to use it will be much more likely to subscribe. It’s an old paradigm — make it easy — and success will follow. It’s a lesson that brands need to heed: friction-free experiences will win everyday even if the service is more expensive."
Related Article: Frictionless Customer Experiences Are the Best Customer Experiences
Marketers Need to Have a Voice
Voice-based technology is growing, according to Meeker, and its importance is only beginning to be realized. Amazon Echo installed base is up to 47 million, double growth in one year. "Voice will replace keyboards and will be used to converse with natural language via IoT devices for everything from getting a ride, ordering food, conducting financial transactions, shopping, etc." Fleischman said.
Marketers should note that on-demand, real-time capabilities will merge leveraging voice and 5G to create new business models and ways to connect consumers and brands. "In addition," Fleischman said, "images and videos are replacing text as a preferred method of communication. Marketers must 'de-text' and shift to these preferred methods to reach and engage audiences."