The primacy of privacy, the rapid transformation of storytelling and of course the inexorable rise of e-commerce — this is what it feels like to live inside the pages of Mary Meeker’s famous Internet Trends report (all 333 slides this year).

In a series of personal contributions below, our readers offer their real-world insights, drawing on their own experiences and expertise.

And it’s a diverse crowd — from Canva founder Melanie Perkins in Sydney to Didier Bonnet, Capgemini’s Global Digital Transformation Lead in London, to Darren Guarnaccia​, Chief Product Officer, Crownpeak in Portland Oregon.

The instructions were simple: choose one slide and tell us why it resonated. Of course, for a group whose only unifying quality is their role as disruptors, it would be foolish to expect them to comply with that guidance.

Instead, most chose themes rather than individual slides and, happily, the result is stronger for it. Contributions have been edited only lightly to comply with house style. Otherwise, the words are their own.

Fittingly we start with Perkins, whose business was the first to receive an investment from Meeker’s new company, Bond. That investment, part of a $US70 million funding round, valued the company at $US2.5 billion.

Melanie Perkins, co-founder, and CEO, Canva: Importance of Design Fluency

We’re living in an age when visual content is increasingly important. Across every industry, we’re continuing to see a strong trend towards visual communication. Everyone from social media managers to marketers, small businesses, Fortune 500 companies, and nonprofits are needing to create more designs than ever before.

It’s great to see design fluency highlighted in Mary Meeker’s report. Until now a lot of people believed graphic design was a ‘niche’ skill for a small market — however, the reality is that the need to create powerful designs transcends industries and geographies. Canva grew rapidly because we are solving a genuine problem that affects a lot of people.

There are over 3.2 billion people on the Internet today and we think almost everyone has a need for great design — whether that’s a teacher using Canva with their students in the classroom, an entrepreneur creating marketing materials to get their idea off the ground, or a team needing to collaborate to create that great presentation. There’s so much demand for Canva across every market and industry — so much so that we now have an immense product roadmap to deliver upon to meet the needs of everyone across the globe.

Didier Bonnet, Capgemini: The huge growth of Amazon Echo skills

I think that beyond the doubling of sales/Echo installed base compared to last year (let alone the sales of equivalent products from Google and Apple) it is the boom in the number of skills, the number of applications that this voice interface allows, that is the most impressive. Last year Echo had roughly 30,000 skills/applications, today it is up to approximately 80,000 skills/applications. (See the corresponding chart from last year below.)

I picked that chart for two reasons: First, this is a live application of one of the AI technologies (voice recognition) that are becoming widespread in our day-to-day lives. Second, it clearly demonstrates how, in a very short period of time, we have become accustomed to voice as a natural interface.

I bought an Echo machine as soon as it came out in the UK, but my early usage was really to ask Alexa to play music — which at the time was somewhat magical. Today, I use it to order my Ubers, to order my favourite dish from my local restaurant, to check news and sports results. My wife, who teaches maths, uses it with kids to make the lessons more entertaining.

We have passed the comfort level of using what is essentially a new (but very old) interface — voice — and consumers are very comfortable with it. That’s why I think the number of skills is what is going to make such voice interfaces part and parcel of our daily life. It is also why the car manufacturers are integrating this technology into their new models and why even banks (for example Westpac) are using it to manage current accounts.

From a digital transformation point of view, I think what we are witnessing is one of the first mainstream adoptions of an AI technology in the consumer world with a very harmonious symbiosis between human and machine (Echo in this case). The adoption rate is spectacular as is a near-exponential increase in the capability of the technology (the skills).

And this is only one application of voice recognition. Mobile phones will also provide more skills based on this technology — for example, real-time translation of conversation (so you can actually get to your destination when you land in Beijing!) If we see the same or close development speed in the adoption of newer Bots applications, whether B2C or B2B, we may experience a much faster development and adoption of AI than we are predicting today.

My feeling is that everyone today is focussed on the amazing potential of machine learning (which is exciting) or the negative effect of AI on jobs. Meanwhile, we have in front of us the first wave of such technology that is proving both successful from an adoption perspective and from a human/machine interface perspective.

Darren Guarnaccia​, Chief Product Officer, Crownpeak: The primacy of privacy will make Walled Gardens more successful

We are starting to see the impact of privacy regulation on the digital advertising world. Slide 24 shows the impact privacy regulation is having on advertising revenue. This is interesting because while the volume of ad spend continues to climb consistently (slide 23), ad revenue is not tracking with it. Privacy regulation has had a net positive for the largest vendors like Google and Facebook (slide 25), but it has eroded earning power overall from the broader advertising ecosystem.

I expect this trend to continue, as more and more brands pivot into consumer permission and trust like Apple has recently. As consumers spend more time on mobile devices, trust in their platform of choice will be crucial. This will put more pressure over time on smaller advertising vendors, especially with support for third-party tracking technologies disappearing across all modern browsers. As data availability dries up, only vendors with their own walled data gardens can survive. Thus, the only viable players will be the large platforms in the long run.

Catherine Anderson, CCO Powershop Australia: The power of recommendation

The graph on slide 34 reveals that 23 per cent of consumers were willing to try a new Subscription Box because it was recommended by someone. In a time when consumer trust in brands is in decline, a friend or peer’s endorsement of a product matters more than ever.

This resonates with me because as a business, we [Powershop, Australia’s greenest power company] have a strong cohort of customer advocates (our average NPS is +50 compared to the industry average of -18). This is an important signal that great customer experience can drive referrals. Our “Switch Your Mates” referral program rewards our customers who tell their friends and family to join Powershop with a discount on their power bills (and something for their mates too). Our keen focus to ensure excellent customer experience is essential for driving referrals in the first place (it needs to be excellent to get people talking about their energy provider).

As a consumer myself, my busy family loves a good referral purchase. From meal kits to Aldi snow gear, I’m always keen for the latest tips from friends.

Max Ryerson, CEO and chief digital strategist, Stratforce: Retail in the Digital Age

For me, it’s not just one slide that I found most profound, but a selection of slides that are relevant to each other in telling the story of retail in the digital age: 18, 19, 20, 34, 35.  It is clear that e-commerce continues to gain strong traction and this is spurred on by:

  • the ability for technology, data, and logistics to deliver relevant personalisation that incites more sales, while …
  • reviewing products and experiences online determines the fate of increases in retail sales, online or offline.

The stratospheric rise of Stitch Fix over the last four years, for example, demonstrates a demand for companies to know their customers better and recommend to them products and services that they would be interested in.

For all the short-term gloom and doom around retail, retail sales grew year-on-year, and e-commerce continues to grow strongly in the double digits at ~12 per cent. This is good news for retailers but impacting retail real estate, especially when you consider that inflation has grown 45.82 per cent over the last 18 years, yet retail sales have almost doubled in the same period.

Didier Elzinga, co-founder and CEO of Culture Amp: The Data Deluge

Throughout this year’s Internet Trends Report I kept getting struck by the same thought: that whilst they are talking primarily about the changes in how companies are collecting and using customer data to drive innovation and revenue, we are seeing exactly the same thing play out on how companies are using data about their people. And companies are facing the same challenges.

Slide 157 (see below) is the perfect representation of the onslaught of people data — we don’t need more data, we need better data.

And that is what Slide 156 talks about. We are at, or have already passed, our ability to cope with all the data available to us to make decisions.

Companies that will thrive into the future will find ways of equipping their people (and particularly their managers) with the skills to learn and iterate faster. And the issues of regulation are going to become more and more important as we consider the effect of statistical and machine learning models on whether or not you have a job.

Michelle Gallaher, CEO, ShareRoot: Data-driven healthcare revolution

This quote is of paramount importance. As our data-driven world continues to track, monitor, listen and watch, the value this will bring to the health care space via analysing real-world data, and real-world evidence in particular, is nothing short of transformational. That is true for both the patients’ health care and enhancing their experiences, as well as physicians’ effectiveness in delivering sound and impactful therapies.

Real-world data can provide deep insight into patient experience and engagement, health literacy, how medicine and devices are being used, which present an endless list of invaluable take-aways for all parties.

Of course, the most vital consideration when talking about using people’s data is that this process is carried out in a compliant manner. At the core of every organisation that uses data, there must be ethical and consenting technologies — privacy by design, and respect for data ownership are truly imperative.

Cyan Ta’eed, co-founder of Envator and Milkshake, founder of Hey Tiger: The visual imperative

The development of Instagram from organic content to commerce platform is not surprising, but this slide demonstrates how the platform’s evolution has been influenced by, and directed, user behaviours.

Communicating via image allows new brands to cut through and build an audience in a way that word-based social media hasn’t done, while the emphasis on imagery has also driven the increased pressure on your personal brand and visual, stylistic brand differentiators.

I don’t think Instagram’s evolution into commerce is a bad thing — I see it as the platform recognising the way savvy brands and individuals have already leveraged the platform and delivering ways to elevate it. It’s why an app like Milkshake exists — it’s not just a tool for business owners who might use Instagram, but a tool that addresses the behaviours that are changing as the platform evolves.

Andrew White,  ANZ Country Manager, Signavio: Data volumes and ultisation

The volume and pace of the data streaming into organisations adds a new level of complexity when considered in the context of organisational change. How best to use this data lies at the heart of this complexity. Data volume and utilisation are a big part of not only understanding the customer journey but also helping shape the customer experience.

Being able to make use of technology for data insights allows you to synchronise customers’ expectations with daily business operations. This presents a challenge, but one with significant and transformative opportunities for every company. I think the most common place consumers see this, even if they aren’t necessarily aware of it, is within the retail space — particularly within large supermarket chains.

Not only are retail organisations able to identify, visualise and optimise day-to-day operations, but they also have the capability to use a large volume of data points to see not only how people shop, but which in-store variables are helping shape their purchasing decisions. (This response could be in reference to several slides between 132 and 150 as they read on the page.)

Alex Dreiling, co-founder and CEO, Clipchamp: Video’s moment arrives

There is no question that people are increasing telling stories via edited images and videos, with the latter destined to move further ahead in popularity.

The continued uptake of storytelling via video applies across the board, from organisations (big and small) using it for learning and development purposes as well as internal and external comms, to marketing and advertising agencies adopting it to roll out effective campaigns, to social media influencers and creatives gaining broader influence via having a dynamic and engaging online presence.

We are also increasingly seeing more ‘everyday creators’ — aka ordinary individuals — using video as a medium for telling their own personal stories, whether this is through vlogging about their day or creating a video around a momentous occasion, such as a milestone birthday, or wedding day.

Simply put, edited videos resonate, engage, encourage and inspire. If a picture paints a thousand words, just imagine the type of impact customised video has.

Rob Hango-Zada, co-founder and c0-CEO, Shippit: 

One of the stand out trends to come out of this year’s Mary Meeker report is the steady growth in the percentage of ecommerce sales in the US, and it’s a trend we’re noticing locally as well.

Ecommerce taps into the consumer need for convenience, and this is a direct result of the sudden Uberisation of retail. Fast and cheap deliveries have revolutionised consumer expectations; we all want access to the new burger joint around the corner, shoes for that birthday on the weekend, and flowers for mum all within 30 minutes.

Retailers need to start thinking about on-demand deliveries and how it fits into their value proposition because it’s one of the only ways online stores can keep up with the immediacy of in-store impulse purchases.

Now that we see ecommerce sales are only set to rise, it’s time for cheaper and faster deliveries to unlock and support even more growth.

Vivek Saxena, CMO and E-commerce Officer, Primary Arm: Internet Ad Platforms = Google + Facebook Lead But Others Gaining Share

Mary Meeker combined Amazon, Twitter, Snap and Pinterest in one bucket and showed advertising revenue growth as 2.6x as compared to 1.4x for Google and 1.9x for Facebook. Among these, Amazon is the real winner.

Its ad revenue has grown even faster after it was disclosed last year that nearly half of the product searches start on Amazon. Merchants understand that these Internet users searching for products have more propensity to buy, so they are shifting ad dollars from other channels to Amazon.

However, it is becoming impossible for merchants in certain categories to even maintain sales (at prior-year level) without increasing their advertising spend on Amazon. For these merchants, ACoS (Advertising Cost of Sale) is rising, which is squeezing their profits. In many cases, where Amazon itself buys from manufacturers and sells products, manufacturers are increasing their Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) spend.

More than half of any search result page (SERP) on Amazon shows advertised products. Most likely, increased ad revenue and income from Amazon Web Services (AWS) is being used to subsidise programs like Amazon Prime One Day shipping which will fuel its growth further but create a big challenge for its competition.

Gaurav Bhatia, chief digital officer, NewDay USA: Online and mobile

Slides 22, 4, and 160 highlight two concepts – more people globally are online and more and more people are on mobile. The trend is evident that mobile continues to be the dominant way to reach and engage the customers – whether it is providing an experience, service, support or simply engaging with the brand. With access to customers’ data, it has become an expectation that customers are given relevant and personalized information they want.

Also, there is the need for brands to be able to engage with the customers in the channel of their choice in real-time or near real-time! Organizations have the data, technology and the ability to do that today! Winning companies are doing that. The gap will increase in the next couple of years between the companies that have embraced these trends and customer expectations!

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