The internet’s growth has accelerated over recent years, driven by developments in technology and people’s appetite for absorbing and sharing information and entertainment.
The vast increases in available content, speed and online touch points mean there is more change than ever for advertisers to keep up to speed with. What drives people online? How does it vary across different markets, and at different times of the day? How does marketing fit in the experience?
These were some of the questions we at Microsoft Advertising wanted to find the answers to when we partnered with Mindshare for a new study on changing online behaviour called “Living with the Internet- what’s driving web behaviour”
A global study using a mix of qual and quant was conducted in two waves, three years apart across 11 markets enabling us to not only compare changing attitudes and behaviours but also the habits and opinions between more established markets and emerging ones. There were a ton of interesting findings, but I’ve pulled out some of the key ones below.
Six basic motivations drive web behaviour, they are information, communication, creation, transaction, entertainment and surfing. These motivations remain the same in the two studies however there is a noticeable blurring between communication and creation, with the rise in various forms of social networks and their increasing offering of additional applications communicating and creating online are increasingly becoming the same. This will continue and many marketers are now seeking increased engagement with their online audience through a mix of communication and creation.
Three years ago, the internet was described as a village with regular, familiar and trusted sites we were confident in navigating and everything was familiar. That has now gone, replaced by a large city. With many more destinations, the major ones increasingly becoming more self-contained in an attempt to hold on to their visitors for as long as possible. The more casual and ad-hoc entertainment provided by the village green has been replaced by bigger, more organized and comprehensive sites. As a result, we see more social and entertainment use with users increasingly taking their city with them through a variety of mobile devices.
The internet has become so important that many people believe they can’t live without it. But they are also increasingly wary of the time they spend online – that it is taking time away from other more meaningful real-world pursuits. As a consequence, internet use is increasingly a planned activity. Planned activity has risen from 61% to 79% of internet sessions in both established and emerging markets. Japan leads the world in planned use with 9 in 10 sessions planned.
With this high level of planning when surfing it is increasingly important to understand the internet routine and we found a predictable pattern, one I hope you find familiar to your journey. We start our sessions in what I would call our intimate zones seeking personal information and contact through email, social networks, blogs etc. We then travel to the public zone to read the news, be entertained, search for information of shop and manage our finances. We then return to the intimate zone again before logging off. Throughout this journey it is likely we will have instant messenger, iTunes or YouTube always running.
This routine extends to the time of day people access the web from PCs with defined peaks in the morning and evening across all countries, and interestingly patterns of usage by motivation don’t differ across the countries.
One of the big questions for marketers is the impact of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Accessing the internet through mobile devices has doubled between the two studies, with the UK leading the world as a result of the relatively cheap tariffs offered in the UK. This is a significant consideration when we consider the growth opportunities across all the markets. Mobile penetration will be linked to connection speeds, affordability and demographics. Usage patterns for mobile access are markedly different for that of PCs with a much flatter pattern throughout the day. The share of sessions by motivation for mobile access is consistent throughout the day led by communication and information.
In terms of advertising receptiveness, the more integrated the ad the better it is received. When they stand apart from the page’s content they are viewed as intrusive. Another major finding from the study is the contrast in advertising’s favourability between emerging and mature markets, emerging markets being far more receptive to seeing more of all forms of advertising.
From this study three principles emerged that help shape effective marketing strategies:
One, that web usage and tenure defines use openness to advertising.
Two, the value of the web in marketing communications is in the way content and accompanying advertising are consumed through consumer pull rather than marketer push, fostering greater engagement than traditional media
Three, that the context of a web users experience can be determined by the device used the time of day and the content of websites visited.
So what do I recommend?
Consider how the brand message can be integrated into the destinations and become part of the routine. Match brand messaging to the context of the session, make the brand message as seemingly as organic as possible, it should be part of a pleasing experience rather than an unwelcome distraction, consider different messages by device and day part, provide users with a play experience, add features that allows co-creation linking the communication with the creative and integrate your advertising and social strategies as one continuous experience for the user and not two separate strategies.
To learn more about the study also watch the video interview with Beth Uyenco, Global Research Director, Microsoft Advertising.
Many thanks and I look forward to your comments.
Tim Jones (Acting Head of Research EMEA, Microsoft Advertising)