Gen Z to drive video and new mobile interfaces in future Internet.

Venture capitalist Mary Meeker is one of the online world’s best-known names when it comes to evaluating Internet trends and predicting where it is likely to go next – and last month saw the release of her 2016 report.

The overarching trend is that Internet growth is slowing down globally. Internet adoption worldwide was flat between 2014 and 2015 at a figure of 9 per cent, down from 15 per cent growth back in 2009 – perhaps not that surprising when we consider that simply more people are online today than ever before. Three billion users are now online, or 42 per cent of the world’s population.

“Connecting the unconnected” initiatives throughout the developing world are succeeding and Internet penetration in emerging nations has increased accordingly. Adoption in India continues to grow and it has overtaken the US and into second place in the global user market behind China.

Smartphones slowing, but video rising

Smartphone adoption growth is also slowing, with 2015 seeing 10 per cent year on year growth globally compared to 28 per cent in 2014. This is again, perhaps not so surprising - given that so many people around the world now own one. In terms of operating systems, Android continues to make gains over Apple’s iOS, another nod to the rapid proliferation of devices throughout Asia where Android devices dominate the market.

Users are embracing increasingly advanced apps, though the market remains ruled by Facebook and WeChat. Messaging, however, has evolved from basic text communication, with users being progressively inclined to use messaging apps for many more functions – even making it their new home screen. New messaging apps that offer more integrated functionality have gone mainstream. Features like e-commerce, calls, texts, stickers and being able to order goods and services from takeaway food to taxis making messaging apps a one-stop shop for today’s mobile consumer.

Video has been one of mobile’s biggest recent success stories, and it continues to swell in huge numbers, with Snapchat and Facebook leading the way. Both of them had around 8 billion video views per day by the end of 2015. Live video looks set to be 2016’s next big growth area, with autoplay and 360 videos among the innovations gaining traction along with Snapchat’s curated Live Stories. Factor in services like Periscope and Facebook Live and it is clear user-generated content will continue to grow significantly.

New mobile interfaces

As our mobile habits change, so do the interfaces and expected interactions with our devices. Meeker predicts that voice interfaces will continue to grow. Google on Android OS devices already has 20 per cent of its searches coming from voice, while Amazon’s Echo voice-controlled speaker was the fastest-selling speaker of 2015, accounting for 25 per cent of the US speaker market. In five years’ time, Meeker forecasts that 50 per cent of all searches will be via voice or images.

More growth expected in ecommerce

Back in 2000, the Internet accounted for less than 2 per cent of retail sales – today it represents 10 per cent. This is may not be a surprising statistic, but the data shows that 90 per cent of retail interactions are still happening in a store, in person – this represents a big opportunity for retailers to develop their e-commerce offerings.

Next generation of users

Not so long ago business had to learn how to address a new generation of consumers and employers had to embrace them as workers. Those were the so called Millennials, or Generation Y. Now we have Generation Z to deal with. Consumers aged 1 to 20 are a new proposition over and above the tech-savvy Millennials, and enterprises need to learn about them – fast. Forty-eight per cent of Millennials prefer to be contacted via the Internet or social media where the previous generation, Gen X, preferred telephone or email. This is a shift in technology use that Gen Z are almost certain to continue.

In the digital era, future generations will know nothing other than a communications culture based around the Internet, mobile, social and multimedia. Meeker cites Gen Z’s habit for multi-screening and using up to 5 screens at once. The other important difference to note with Gen Z is that they now communicate using images – a significant anthropological shift versus even Gen Y and a further endorsement of the importance of mobile communications to them.

Impact on enterprises

In certain areas technology growth might be slowing up, but opportunities still exist – as long as enterprises remember to keep innovating. Messaging apps are growing rapidly in number of users as well as amount of time being spent on them and many Gen Y and Gen Z users now have messaging apps as their ‘second home screen’. Businesses who want to keep their products and services in front of customers must target these apps.

How users interact with technology is changing too, with voice being one interface shift that looks likely to keep on increasing. Enterprises need to remember that data is now king, and that analytics will play an increasingly important role in developing business strategy moving forward.

So technology remains central to everything we do, and how we live and work. But how we communicate and interact with it is continually changing. Mobility, connectivity and autonomy will drive the digital enterprise forward and those organizations that focus on innovation and providing a better user experience are those that will thrive.

Find out about how Orange helps organizations stay ahead of the curve with the latest innovative ideas. And read more about the digital individual in this series of blog posts.