12 key takeaways (and some industry insight) from Mary Meeker's 2018 Internet Trends Report

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Mary Meeker at Recode's Code Conference.
Mary Meeker at Recode's Code Conference. Credit: Asa Mathat for Vox Media

Mary Meeker dished out 280 slides for her annual Internet Trends Report at Recode's Code Conference on Wednesday.

The "most anticipated slide deck of the year" shows that people are buying fewer smartphones, but spending more time online. Businesses from China are growing, as are e-commerce and mobile payments. Amazon Echo is a hit. And so on.

Here, we share 12 takeaways and ask several industry leaders why we care about Meeker's report. (Or click this to see it in full.)

1. 2017 was the first year in which smartphone unit shipments didn't grow at all. As more of the world's people become smartphone owners, growth is becoming harder to come by. The same goes for internet user growth, which rose 7 percent in 2017, down from 12 percent the year before. With more than half of the world now online, there are fewer people left to connect.

Credit: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

2. People, however, are still increasing the amount of time that they spend online. U.S. adults spent 5.9 hours per day with digital media in 2017, up from 5.6 hours the year before. Some 3.3 of those hours were spent on mobile, which is responsible for the overall growth in digital media consumption.

Credit: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

3. Despite the high-profile releases of $1,000 iPhones and Samsung Galaxy Notes, the global average selling price of smartphones continues to decline. Lower costs help drive smartphone adoption in less-developed markets.

Credit: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

4. Mobile payments are becoming easier to complete. China continues to lead the rest of the world in mobile payment adoption, with over 500 million active mobile payment users in 2017.

Credit: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

5. Voice-controlled products like Amazon Echo are taking off. Echos in use in the U.S. grew to more than 30 million in the fourth quarter of last year from 20 million in the third quarter.

Credit: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

6. Tech companies are facing a "privacy paradox." They're caught between using data to provide better consumer experiences and violating consumer privacy.

Credit: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

7. E-commerce sales growth is continuing to accelerate. It grew 16 percent in the U.S. in 2017, up from 14 percent in 2016. Amazon is taking a bigger share of those sales at 28 percent last year. Conversely, physical retail sales are continuing to decline.

Credit: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
Credit: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
Credit: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

8. Big tech is competing on more fronts. Google is expanding from an ads platform to a commerce platform via Google Home Ordering. Meanwhile, e-commerce giant Amazon is moving into advertising (as Ad Age has covered in depth).

Credit: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

9. People are spending more on health care, meaning they might have to be more focused on value. Meeker asks: "Will market forces finally come to health care and drive prices lower for consumers?"

Credit: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

10. Expect healthcare companies to offer more modern retail experiences, with convenient offices, digitized transactions and on-demand pharmacy services.

Credit: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

11. Expect technology to also disrupt the way we work. Just as Americans moved from agriculture to services in the 1900s, employment sectors will again be in flux. This time, expect more on-demand and internet-related jobs to predominate.

Credit: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
Credit: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
Credit: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

12. China is catching up as a hub to the world's biggest internet companies. China is now home to nine of the world's 20 biggest internet companies by market cap while the U.S. has 11. Five years ago, China had two and the U.S. had nine.

Credit: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
Credit: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

While it's nice to put numbers on these trends and gauge rates of change, some of these conclusions also confirm what many people would already expect. So we also asked why people watch Meeker's report so closely. Here's what they said.

Liz Gottbrecht, VP of marketing at Mavrck

"It's the only report that connects the dots between the macro-trends among culture, technology, and consumer behavior to economic impact," Gottbrecht says. "It's interesting that as consumers' time on mobile continues to increase and it's easier to make purchases on-demand, that we're also seeing the greatest disparity between consumer debt and savings, as well as increasing spends in healthcare."

"Correlation doesn't imply causation, but marketers need to be aware of the bigger picture driving consumer spend decisions," she adds.

Topher Burns, head of product and marketing at Collins

"Certainly the era of 'whoa, mobile internet use just keeps going up' is over," Burns says. "Her recent reports resist the splashy simple headlines they used to whip up, but I think that's because Meeker has never shied away from complexity."

"The digital landscape is arguably so ubiquitous that in many cases you can drop the word 'digital'—how could you have entertainment or marketing that isn't digital?—and the Meeker report reflects a space where the story of rapid growth is slowing into a story about maturation."

"Another thing I love about the Meeker reports is how efficiently a few numbers put things in perspective like more than 50 percent of the world uses the internet; of the 20 largest internet companies, China is home to pretty much the same number as the U.S.; globally, smartphone prices are falling."

Wes MacLaggan, senior VP of marketing at Marin Software

"Companies can be so heads-down with what they're trying to accomplish that they sometimes miss trends that are impacting their industry or customers," says MacLaggan. "With the Mary Meeker Report, companies around the world take a few moments to take a step back and figure out what's happening in adjacent spaces."

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