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GlobalWebIndex identifies new trends in global internet behaviour

Social network activity now a key brand contact point for nearly a third of consumers

BestMediaInfo Bureau | Delhi | February 6, 2012

GlobalWebIndex, the world’s most detailed global insight study into consumer behaviour online, has released the findings of its latest research

GlobalWebIndex 6 (GWI.6) highlights both new and continuing trends in the way consumers utilise all internet platforms. This analysis of key changes in behaviour is based on interviews with more than 122,000 individuals in 27 key internet markets over six separate waves of research.

GWI.6 fieldwork took place in November 2011.

Key Benchmarks:

Social Media: Social networking is still the fastest-growing active social media behaviour online, increasing from 36% of global internet users in GWI.1 to 59% managing their profile on a monthly basis. This is followed by updating a micro-blog which increased from 13% to 24% and uploading video, which increased from 21% to 27%. Monthly forum contribution declined significantly from 38% to 32%, between GWI.5 and GWI.6 while blog writing stagnated at 27%.

The most social engaged internet market in the world is China where 84% of internet users contribute at least once a month to either social networking, blogging, video uploading, photo sharing, micro-blogging and forums. Next in line are Russia, Brazil and India, demonstrating how BRIC markets dominate the social landscape. In the UK the figure stood at 64%, in the US 60% and in Germany 52%, showing that even in less social markets, contributing online is still mainstream.

E-Commerce: Just over 59% of global internet users had purchased a product online in the past month and 53% had reviewed a product. In contrast to social media, developed internet markets lead the way, with 78% of South Korean internet users purchasing a product in the last month, followed by 72% in Germany and the UK. This is in contrast to Saudi Arabia where just 27% had purchased a product online.

New trends identified:

The rise of the Social Brand: GWI.6 provides the most detailed view to date of how global internet consumers are interacting with brands in the social media age. While branded websites are still the primary brand engagement point for consumers online, nearly a third are already engaging brands through social media, proving the value of having brands on social media.

In GWI.6, 59% of global internet users had visited a brand website in the last month, 29% had liked a product or brand and 24% had visited a branded social network profile. The preference for social brand interaction is even more marked in emerging internet markets such as Indonesia and The Philippines, where 50% of users had visited a branded social network page in the last month.

Social networking can now deliver mass reach for brands and the trend is most visible among younger internet users with 16-24s much more likely to “like” a brand or product than older age groups, for example. However micro-blogging remains a far more targeted social strategy with just 9% had retweeted a branded post and only 13% had opted to follow a brand on a micro-blog.

Consumers that interact with businesses in the social media space do expect something in return with future discounts, better customer service and personalised recommendations cited by all age groups as the leading motivations. Such expectations are significantly higher in emerging markets with Argentina, Philippines and Brazil indexing highest across a range of areas, demonstrating how consumers in these markets are particularly open to building relationships with brands online.

Death of digital: digital can no longer be seen as a separate “media” as consumers globally are transitioning media consumption across multiple internet platforms in record numbers. This is particularly marked in TV, which is now being consumed at higher levels than music online. In the US, for example, while 90% of internet users watch an hour of TV a day, 27% also watch on-demand TV online, 10% stream live TV online and 8% stream live TV to their mobiles on a monthly basis. In China – the leading internet TV market – the figures are even more dramatic with only 65% watching an hour of TV a day, while 53% watching on demand TV online, 40% streaming live TV online and 19% watching live TV via a mobile.

Increasingly, there is no digital divide for content and consumers are becoming device agnostic. For marketers this means more focus on the content type and not the device.

Googopoly – Google has evolved into the gatekeeper of the Internet: Google has massively improved its position as the world’s biggest controller of information and is starting to dominate all access points to the internet. Its core search product reaches more than 85% of global internet users every month (up from 76.1% in GWI.1). Even in markets where local search competitors are strong, Google has also gained major traction. In Russia, for example it now has 82% monthly reach compared to more than 90% for local champion Yandex.

Other evidence of Googopoly includes the growth of Chrome – it’s now the most widely used browser in the Philippines, Turkey, Argentina and India among others – and significant growth of Android. Android now has 227m active users across 27 GWI markets, up from 161m in GWI.5, with 33% of global smartphone users utilising it. Android is now the leading platform in developed mobile markets such as South Korea, Sweden, US and Spain.

Our data also shows the massive growth of Google+, which is already the world’s second biggest social network. Our data indicates that a massive 22% of social network users now have active profiles – peaking in India at 49%.

With clear fatigue in Facebook usage and stalling Twitter growth there are huge opportunities in social. The integration with search results makes Google+ a central social layer across the internet.

Existing trends become more significant:

The Localised Web: Not only is social media is driving divergence among different markets but the gap in usage of different types of online tools and applications has continued to widen.

Notably China, Brazil and Mexico are leading the adoption of social media tools while South Korea is significantly less keen on blog writing, uploading photos, using VOIP phone calls or using webmail, for example.

The difference is most dramatic in social behaviours, and China, in particular, is leading the adoption of micro-blogging and social networking with platforms such as Sina Weibo, RenRen, Kizin, Tencent, and Qzone all driving a massive shift form forums and blogging platforms.

Over the six waves of GlobalWebIndex the differences between Brazil and Japan, India and the US and Russia and UK have all widened consistently, demonstrating how emerging market internet users are utilising the social web to transform.

The Post-PC era comes ever closer: The rise of non-PC access continues apace and our data suggests that internet users are more than ever willing to swap their laptop for their e-reader, mobile or TV to access such services.

Current numbers indicate that 74% use their personal PC or laptop as their favourite device for internet access but that only 47% expect that this to be the case in a year’s time. In 12 months time 18% of global internet users expect their mobile to be their favourite device (up from 9% now), 14% expect it to be their tablet (up from 2%) and 5% via the TV (up from 1%).

Mobile internet use continues to grow, notably in Asia Pacific and Latin America. Globally 33% of mobile usage is primarily at home, 23% while travelling, 28% in public places and 17% at work.

Mobile internet usage has grown dramatically in BRIC countries with continued growth in GWI.6 of mobile usage for activities such as reading the news, accessing social network and searched for a local product or service. More than 250m people looked for news via a mobile or tablet in BRIC markets in GWI.6, compared to more than 400m for the most popular PC activity, using webmail.

Facebook Fatigue continues: The number of visits to Facebook continues to grow across all platforms but the world’s largest social network has reached saturation among active internet users in more and more markets, with user growth restricted to growing internet markets such as India, Indonesia and Brazil.

More importantly across three waves of research in 2011 Facebook users on a global basis have reduced the frequency of key Facebook activities including sending a digital present, searched for new contacts or sent message to friends.

GWI.6 data shows Facebook Fatigue spreading in the US from the early adopters who we identified as disengaging in GWI.5. Declines in social networking activity such as messaging friends fell 12% over the six waves of research, searching for new contacts fell 17% and joining a group 19% among all Facebook users in the US.

“The sixth wave of GlobalWebIndex shows increasing fragmentation of the global internet. Thanks to social media, consumers in emerging, fast-growing internet markets such as Brazil, China, India or Indonesia are contributing more online than ever before, leaving behind traditional markets such as the UK, US and Germany. This creating a more localised internet, where each market has a different behaviour type, relationship with brands and attitudes towards the role of the internet. The concept that the internet would drive a singular global culture is false. Brands and content producers will need ever more localised strategies,” said Tom Smith, managing director of GlobalWebIndex.

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