I had several research questions in mind. Which are the top 20 social networking sites in the US? How many unique monthly visitors do they attract? How much time do visitors spend on these websites? How many visitors access these websites via mobile? Which of these websites are most important for marketers? What is the share of social media spending within total online advertising spending? How much can it grow? What will drive growth? This last question was of particular interest to me. We believe that mobile will be a key driver for social media spending growth. Here’s why:
More users are accessing social networking sites through mobile. As per our forecast, we expect the number of US social media users accessing social networking sites via mobile to exceed 200 million by 2018. Nearly one-fourth of them will be mobile-only social media users; the rest will access social networking sites via both PC and mobile.
The share of time spent on mobile social networking apps continues to increase. Social media apps are among the top apps that smartphone users use. The amount of time they spend on these apps continues to increase.
I recently completed James L. McQuivey's Digital Disruption, which is well worth the read if you have not yet gotten your hands on a copy. The book analyzes factors that allow for the emergence of digital disruptors — individuals who are pushing the envelope of product efficiency by harnessing available digital capabilities. In the book, James mentions that most digital disruptors are under age 35 because these individuals were “the first to grow up in a consumer economy where free things were not simply promotional tools . . . [they] internalized the idea of free from the consumer side, which led to the kinds of rapid digital adoption curves that run through the body of digital disruption like arterial supply lines.”
This is an intriguing point because it hints at young consumers’ evolving expectations of free tools and content. For the upcoming generation, the capacity for digital productivity and entertainment free of charge is less of a privilege and more of a norm. Today, consumers can get what they want quickly and cheaply; therefore, they expect that their needs will be met faster and more frequently than ever before.
This idea is particularly relevant when it comes to mobile interaction. The overwhelming majority of consumers say they only access mobile application content for free. Analysis of Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data reflects this sentiment: While some consumers state they may pay a one-time download fee for gaming or music apps, most would exclusively choose free media:
If you read my blog regularly, it should come as no surprise that I am an ardent fan of using mobile devices — whether mobile phones or tablets — for market research purposes. I have discussed how consumers are already forcing our hand into the world of mobile and that market insights professionals are not conducting mobile market research but instead are conducting market research in a mobile world.
Given this, I was both delighted and dismayed when attending this year’s ARF Re:think 2013 conference. Why was I delighted? There was a marked increase in the number of talks that focused on the role mobile plays — whether as a research technique or how it plays a significant role in consumers’ lives. Of just the talks I attended, which were a lot, almost 60% of them discussed the role of mobile. And a lot of these “mobile” talks were in the main track session. Talking with colleagues who attended last year, it’s clear that mobile has definitely moved front of mind compared with ARF Re:think 2012.
But I was dismayed that it was still just talk, talk, talk. At the conference, I was surrounded by tablets and smartphones, and people were using them all the time. And while we’re living this mobile life, we’re listening to speeches telling us how we need to start thinking about the role of mobile. Dare I say that we need to do a bit more than just thinking at this point in the game? We clearly have to get our act together soon.
This week, Google announced that it will shut down Google Reader on July 1, 2013. In its announcement, Google states that it’s doing this because the usage of Google Reader has declined and it wants to concentrate on fewer products. There was a lot of buzz online about this decision, and some fanatical Google Reader fans put together a petition to keep the RSS reader alive. They garnered more than 50,000 signatures in just a few hours.
This whole debate sparked my interest, and I analyzed Forrester’s Technographics® data to get a better understanding of the usage of RSS feeds over time. I found that Google is right about the decline. Our data shows that it was always only a dedicated group who used RSS feeds at least weekly — about 7% of US online adults in 2008; this had declined to just over 4% last year, with about one in 10 US online adults using RSS feeds about monthly.
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.
The European economy is still struggling for growth after the global recession. While overall GDP growth was positive in 2010 and 2011, it again turned negative in 2012. A slow economic recovery is projected through 2017, but growth is not expected to reach 2007 levels during the next five years. Despite this weak macro-economic environment, spending on social media has continued to grow in Europe and will continue to see double-digit growth over the next five years as well. Why?
The continuous shift of ad spending from traditional media to online media. The megatrend of the past decade — advertising dollars shifting from offline to online media — is expected to continue in this decade as well. Internet advertising’s share of overall advertising spend grew from 1% in 2001 to 22% in 2012 for Western Europe. There still exists a significant gap between the time spent online by consumers and the share of online spend in overall advertising spend, but this gap will decrease over the next few years with the continued shift in spending.
Social media’s increasing share of online ad spend. Currently, display ad spending is nearly four times higher than social ad spending in Western Europe, and search advertising is eight times larger. However, social will experience faster growth than display or search in the coming years. Social’s share of overall online spending will increase as companies spend more to engage with consumers on social media platforms for marketing and sales initiatives.
On Sunday, February 24, TVs around the world were tuned to the 85th annual Academy Awards show (aka The Oscars). While the very first Academy Awards ceremony took place in 1929 — with guest tickets costing only $5 and fewer than 300 people attending the event in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel’s dining room — today the event is broadcast live to millions of fans across 200 countries. But The Oscars’ impressive growth in viewership is not the only thing that signifies the changing times; the technological advances that the awards program has embraced position the event as a leader in the modern-day media consumption landscape.
In 2011, Oscar.com’s supplementary footage offered an overwhelmingly popular second-screen viewing experience; it won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media. Several weeks ago, the Academy launched a second version of the official Oscars app that engages consumers all year round but provides exclusive real-time updates during the dazzling event itself.
The Academy’s mobile development, which allows consumers to connect with supplemental real-time content for an enhanced entertainment experience, is a timely one: Forrester’s North American Technographics® Online Benchmark Survey (Part 2), Q3 2012 (US) shows that 69% of US online adults use Internet-connected devices while watching TV today. Not surprisingly, younger consumers are most likely to turn their devices into TV companions: 61% of 18- to 24-year-old multitaskers use a mobile phone to interact with programming-specific content.
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.
Tablet ownership in Western Europe is set to quadruple in the next five years: The percentage of European online consumers who own a tablet will increase from 14% in 2012 to 55% in 2017, according to the Forrester Research World Tablet Adoption Forecast, 2012 To 2017 (Global). This dramatic growth follows what was a pivotal year for tablets: Ownership doubled in 2012, and one in seven online Europeans now owns a tablet. The recently published Forrester report “The European Tablet Landscape” draws on our Technographics® data and looks at the profile of European tablet owners and their usage patterns. We found that:
Unsurprisingly, tablet owners are tech-savvy. Today, tablets are most popular with 18- to 24-year-olds, with one in four online consumers in this age group now owning a tablet. Of all tablet owners, a high 45% state that they “like technology” and 36% agree that “technology is important for me.”
Income is a driver . . . for now. About 24% of high-income European online consumers have a tablet, compared with 15% of online low-income consumers. But the growing variety of tablets and form factors as well as more competitive pricing will make tablets affordable for a wider range of consumers.
Earlier this week, I attended a briefing with a vendor around analyzing and structuring consumer ratings and reviews; the vendor aims to give companies more guidance during the product development stage or help them understand where a current product is in its life cycle depending on the number of reviews that product is getting compared with its competitors.
The concept is interesting, but it got me thinking about the process of ratings and reviews a bit more. How many people are actually giving ratings and reviews, who are they, and why are they giving feedback?
Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® global online benchmark surveys in Q2 2012 revealed a wide variation between countries in terms of the share of the online population that actually gives feedback. In metropolitan India and China, about three-quarters of online consumers post ratings/reviews of products or services at least monthly; in Brazil, it’s about a third; while in the US and Europe, it’s less than 20%.
However, far more people rely on ratings and reviews than give them — particularly in the US and Europe. More than 50% of US online consumers check ratings and reviews regularly, for example. And consumer reviews and ratings are the second most trusted source of online shoppers when buying a product, after family and friends.