Walt Disney once said, “of all our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language.” Perhaps he was more prescient than anyone realized at that time: Decades later, the onslaught of social media and the emergence of mobile phones have made his assertion seem truer than ever, as consumers have gained the tools to share a picture with the global population in a matter of seconds. Today, the fascination with pictures has come to define communication that spans both the offline and online worlds.
According to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data, sharing visual content is indeed a universal phenomenon — but it is most prevalent in countries like China, India, and Brazil:
Some believe that our obsession with taking and sharing photographs speaks to a modern narcissistic culture. Indeed, Pew Research reports that the majority of Millennial consumers post “selfies” on social networking sites. However, when Ellen DeGeneres’ Oscar “selfie” became the most retweeted tweet ever this week, narcissism was hardly part of the conversation. Instead, Ellen’s post exemplified what can happen when the power of the picture meets the power of social media: large-scale awareness, excitement, and engagement.
Historically, consumers in Asia Pacific have done far more activities on their mobile phones than in other regions. With the increasing availability of affordable smartphones in the region, mobile phones are now the No. 1 device for consuming media for many consumers in Asia Pacific. Similarly, activities like playing games (such as word games and puzzle games), listening to music (both streaming and non-streaming), and using social media are increasingly done via mobile phones, and activity levels are now approaching those of PCs.
In recent months, Forrester’s Data Insights team has been analyzing our Technographics® data for the Asia Pacific version of our annual global series, “Understanding The Changing Needs Of Online Consumers.” For the past seven years, Forrester has been tracking consumers’ online and offline behavior in Asia Pacific. In 2012, we surveyed 16,616 Asia Pacific consumers across two surveys to find out about their use of the Internet for media, entertainment, shopping, communication, and social computing.
With just over a billion people around the world having a smartphone in 2012, and the next billion smartphone adopters joining in within the next five years, smartphones have reached a tipping point. Malcolm Gladwell defines the tipping point as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point” within a sociological ecosystem. A technology hits critical mass when one-fifth of the population adopts it. For smartphones, developed economies witnessed this phenomenon in 2011.
North America and Europe top the global smartphone penetration rates, at 47% and 35%, respectively. However, they are outpaced in terms of the sheer number of users by the Asia Pacific region. In fact, China alone already has more smartphone users than any other country in the world. And our forecast shows that Asia Pacific is also the fastest-growing region for smartphone adoption, projected to increase by approximately 20% per year.
In the Forrester Research World Smartphone Forecast 2012 To 2017 (Global), we investigate the size, speed, operating system (OS) dominance, and user demographics of the competitors in the world’s smartphone showdown. Younger and wealthier adults are the early adopters of smartphones, but there will be a gradual progression toward adoption by lower-income and older adults as smartphones become cheaper and the offerings of basic phones become more limited.
In 1974, an Indian Bollywood Hindi-language film was released with the title Roti Kapda Aur Makaan (English translation: Food, Clothing, And Shelter), referring to the bare minimums of life. If it were to be released today, the director of the movie would need to add the word Internet to the title because access to the Internet has become a necessity for many people over the past decade.
In a recently published Forrester ForecastView report titled “Forrester Research World Online Population Forecast, 2012 To 2017 (Global),” Forrester found that 2.4 billion people across the world use the Internet on a regular basis — i.e., at least once a month — from home, school, work, or any other location via a PC or a non-PC (mobile) Internet access device. This is expected to grow to 3.5 billion by 2017, representing nearly half of the 2017 overall world population of 7.4 billion. Our forecast provides the details of the Internet population in 56 countries across five regions.
Recently, my colleague Olesia Klevchuk published a report about the behaviors of consumers in India, China, Japan, South Korea, and Australia, called 'Understanding The Changing Needs Of Online Consumers In Asia Pacific'. Forrester has been tracking consumer online behavior in Asia Pacific for six years now. In 2011, we polled Asia Pacific consumers in two separate surveys to find out about their use of the Internet for media, entertainment, shopping, communications, and social computing.
This year's Asia Pacific data shows continuous growth in the amount of time consumers spend with online media, including widespread adoption of social activities, as well as growing importance of the mobile phone. For consumers in Asia Pacific, PCs at home and high-speed Internet connections are becoming the norm.
In metropolitan China and Japan, at least nine in 10 adults have access to a computer at home, and almost eight in 10 are already online. In metropolitan India, the numbers are much lower, with only 27% regularly going online. But India is a populous country, and there are currently around 100 million online users, which puts it in third place after China and the US.
Last month George Colony, CEO of Forrester, talked about a “Social Thunderstorm” at the LeWeb conference in Paris. He argued that social is running out of hours and running out of people. What does that mean? Well, the second one is easy: The vast majority of consumers around the world who have access to a computer use social media. And the first one? George goes on to say that Americans are spending more time on social media than volunteering, praying, talking on the phone, emailing, or even exercising.
With so many people spending so much time on social media, it is crucial for companies to understand how their customers use social media. We just released our newest report, Social Media Adoption In 2011, which reveals the latest trends.
The report illustrates how consumers are using social media by applying our Social Technographics® global classification system. The graphic below illustrates this framework. We classify consumers into seven groups based on online activities, and consumers can fall into several different groups. Only Inactives are an exclusive group.
As some of you know, I really have a thing for doing research in multiple countries. I’ve been working in market research for two decades now and have always conducted international research projects — and experienced all the challenges that come with them. But I believe that conducting international research is even more challenging now than it was 20 years ago when I started my research career.
I see three key challenges that market researchers must deal with when doing multicountry projects:
1) How to collect globally comparable data. As soon as the surveyed cultures are so different that you need to adapt research methodologies and localize questionnaires, you’ve lost the chance for global comparisons. How do you walk that fine line between globalization and localization?
2) How to put this data into a local context. It’s really hard to understand the real drivers of behavior in different regions. Just looking at the results and comparing them with those of other countries might result in the wrong conclusions.
3) How to distribute and communicate these results back. Collecting information is one thing, but communicating it back to the local organizations and having them act on it is quite another. Will your local market insights teams use, share, and implement the data that you’ve collected globally?
Next week, on February 28, I will speak at the ESOMAR Insights Conference in Brussels on 'The Evolving Online Consumer' and I'm currently organizing my thoughts around this topic. Looking at the uptake of the Internet globally, the numbers are impressive: In the past five years, the global Internet population has grown from about 1 billion to 1.6 billion, and this growth isn't about to stop any time soon. The Internet population will increase in every country in the world over the next five years, but emerging markets will grow at a faster pace. In 2014, one-third of Internet users will come from Brazil, Russia, India, or China (the so-called BRIC countries).
Companies that want to capture this growing number of online users — and their growing funds spent online — will need to look beyond the markets of North America and Europe and approach their online strategies much more globally. But emerging markets don’t just offer a lot of opportunities; there are also many challenges to consider. On top of the needs and wants of the consumers in the different countries, their online behaviors, and the way they are being influenced (and are influencing others) in their purchase decisions, companies need to understand the social and economic business environments.
In the past five years, the global Internet population has grown from about 1 billion to 1.6 billion, and this growth isn't about to stop any time soon. However, the future growth isn't equally spread across regions. Forrester's ForecastView model shows that the Internet population will increase in every country in the world over the next five years, but emerging markets will grow at a faster pace. In 2014, one-third of Internet users will come from Brazil, Russia, India, or China (the so-called BRIC countries).
The sheer number of online buyers and the increased online spending per capita will position several emerging markets to challenge North America and Europe from an eCommerce perspective. Companies that want to capture this growing number of online users — and their growing funds spent online — will need to look beyond the markets of North America and Europe and approach their online strategies much more globally.
By now, most of you know my love for infographics. A colleague recently pointed me to this great tool of the world bank: The World Bank Data Visualizer.
It has it all: data for 209 different countries, trending, and customizable axes. This is a great tool for everyone who's doing global research and wants to know more about the countries researched, and how they relate to each other.