5 Global Consumer Trends Every Brand Should Know Ahead of 2019

Last month saw the release of the Global Media Intelligence Report, offering a detailed overview of digital behaviors and trends across 40 countries.

Put together by GlobalWebIndex, Starcom and eMarketer, the report is powered by our data and is jam-packed with essential media consumption, device and social media stats and analysis.

Here are five of the biggest talking points from the report.

1. Multi-networking is thriving.

The vast reach of social is a recurring theme in the report, and in many markets it’s now accurate to see the term “internet user” as synonymous with “social networker”.

But while we’ve all long known about the impressive reach of platforms like Facebook and YouTube, it’s easy to underestimate just how diverse the social landscape has become.

Globally, the average internet user now has accounts across eight different social media and messaging services. Each month, they’re actively engaging with about five of them.

We’ve talked before about the increasing specialization of social behaviors, with people using certain platforms for chat, others for photo-sharing, some for research, and so on; but what’s striking is the sheer number of social channels through which you can now engage your audience.

The global picture masks some particularly intense pockets of multi-networking, with some parts of Asia Pacific and LatAm having internet users maintaining accounts on more than 10 different platforms.

2. Social media beats search engines across some markets and demographics.

Ask people where they’re most likely to go to find out more information about a product or service and search engines are still hugely influential. But there are already a number of countries where the average internet user is more likely to head to a social media platform.

All of these are fast-growth markets, concentrated in the MENA (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt), LatAm (Mexico, Colombia, Brazil) and South-East Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines).

This makes sense if you think about the sheer reach of social media, but it becomes more dramatic if you focus solely on 16-24 year-olds. Ask this age group where they go for online product research and you see a pretty clean division between fast-growth markets (where social media wins) and mature markets across North America and Europe (where search engines still come first).

In fact, there’s not a single country in Asia Pacific, MEA or Latin America where 16-24s are more likely to favor search over social.

Even in Europe, 16-24s in Spain and Portugal have flipped to social too.

As social media continue to pervade more and more areas of our online lives, we can expect the remaining strongholds in Europe and North America to make the same transition. In a sense, social media platforms have become pseudo-search engines in themselves.

3. It’s all about mobile.

Mobile’s dominant role in terms of the connected devices we own and use has long been recognized. Ask people to select the most important device in their day-to-day life and mobile phones come in first place in 39 of the 40 countries featured in the Global Media Intelligence report.

It’s only in Germany where PCs and laptops still manage to top the table, but even there the margin is a very slim one.

Nevertheless, age and geographical trends are once again vital here. If you look at 45-64 year-olds, there are a number of North American, Australasian and Western European countries where PCs and laptops take top position.

The U.S. and 4 of the EU5 are in that group, underlining the influence that these devices continue to yield over older consumers who have fully adopted mobiles but who nevertheless first came online via the traditional, larger devices.

It’s also in Western Europe and North America where people are most likely to have the greatest number of devices; in Spain, the U.S. and UK, for instance, over a fifth of internet users have 6+ connected devices.

In part, that’s driven for the enduring fondness of tablets among older sections of the population within these regions. But just as we need to recognize internet users as being multi-networkers, we need to understand that they remain multi-device too, even if mobiles are the most powerful device within that mix.

4. Not all behaviors are mobile-first.

With certain behaviors, a particular device type will always have a strong pull. For consuming content, for example, you might think most people with a choice would opt for larger screens on devices such as laptops.

Similarly, the on-the-go nature of checking maps/directions will obviously favor mobiles (something our data confirms: in all 40 markets, internet users are most likely to do this on a phone).

The picture does however remain more divided for certain behaviors than you might expect. Social networking is one of them; the very nature of it would surely best lend itself to mobile, and yet there are 10 of the 40 countries where people are still more likely to do this on a PC or laptop.

That the countries are all in Europe (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Poland, Russia, Switzerland), North America (Canada, USA) or Australasia (New Zealand) means the more balanced age profiles of internet populations are a strong influencer over this.

It’s the same for online banking, with Europe (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland) and North America (Canada) being the only regions where there are still countries more likely to favor a PC/laptop over a mobile.

It’s a reminder to look beyond the global story of mobile dominance to understand the local trends in each market.

5. Online TV continues to soar.

Estimated time spent watching online TV and streaming continues to trend upwards each year, with the global figure now standing at just over an hour a day. Meanwhile, daily time spent watching traditional / broadcast / linear TV remains on a very gentle decline – sitting at 1 hour 54 minutes (versus 2 hours 15 minutes in 2012).

So, traditional TV viewing is hardly in freefall, and continues to occupy a hugely significant portion of our daily media consumption (capturing about twice as much time as online TV).

Even so, there’s one county among the 40 where online TV now grabs more time than traditional TV – China. The gap is a very small one, but it’s a significant milestone nonetheless.

Equally telling is that online TV scores particularly strong figures across the whole of the Americas region. The fact that this region has especially rich libraries on content available to viewers on services such as Netflix is a major factor behind this, and is a sign for what we’ll see elsewhere as other countries gain better and better OTT services. In short, build the content and they will come.