This is a wrap-up of a Curalate webinar rounding up 10 important trends from Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends Report. Register for our next webinar here. 

The pace at which marketing now moves is incredibly overwhelming, and it’s only picking up speed. We live in an age where images and information can be shared in an instant — and it’s happening across a growing number of channels and devices. The result is that we’re seeing more touch points between people and brands than ever before, and more opportunities for consumers to discover, engage and shop. Keeping up with — and synthesizing — all of this information is a huge challenge marketers now face.

To make sense of it all, Silicon Valley titan Mary Meeker — who for the last 21 years has obsessively studied how people use the Internet — puts together a detailed annual trends report, which provides an in-depth look at Internet growth and consumer behaviors across key marketing touchpoints. In it, she sheds light on the most promising platforms, where media dollars are being spent, which demographics are showing the most (and least) promise and the general direction in which communication is heading.

Naturally, the tech industry goes crazy for this sort of detail and insight. That is, until they bring up the report and realize that this meaty industry analysis contains more than 200 slides. As anyone who’s ever thumbed through one of these comprehensive reports knows, while incredibly valuable, they’re jam-packed with information and really, really long.

So, good news — we’ve done the dirty work for you and distilled the deck down to 10 market trends that you — and all marketers — need to know.

Trend 1: Visual Content Continues to Explode

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Photo sharing continues to grow at a jaw-dropping pace. Between Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Snapchat and Whatsapp alone, more than 3 billion photos are shared everyday — more than doubling over a two-year period. The takeaway here is probably one you’ve heard a thousand times over, but it can’t be stressed enough: Consumers communicate visually. And they’re using an ever-growing number of channels to share and consume content.

The result: An increasing number of opportunities for people to discover products and brands – and an impending explosion of commerce across channels and touchpoints.

Trend 2: Visual Content Influences What People Buy

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Consumers aren’t just discovering products while browsing Pinterest, scrolling through Instagram, or checking out the latest stories on Snapchat. They’re taking action. As you can see from Meeker’s report, 55% of users on Pinterest use the site specifically to find and shop for products. This behavior isn’t limited to Pinterest. It pervades every consumer touchpoint that’s driven by photo and video content.

Consider this: According to Instagram, 60% of people use the channel to learn about products and services, and 75% take action after being inspired (like visiting a website, shopping, buying or telling a friend). In short, now is the time to influence what people buy.

To capitalize on a moment of intent, it’s more important than ever to shorten the path from discovery to purchase. The more steps consumers have to take to learn about the products they discover, the more likely they are to abandon the path from discovery to purchase altogether.

Trend 3: Video Consumption is on the Rise
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On Facebook, we’re seeing 9 billion videos shared daily. On Snapchat, that number is 10 billion. Think about that — Snapchat only launched a mere four years ago. On Instagram, video views are up 40% in the last six months.

Video is king. There are a ton of different ways you can experiment with video content: Live Facebook streaming, short-form Instagram content or investing in sponsored video filters on Snapchat. Ultimately, you need to figure out which content matters most to your audience, then create experiences that are relevant, authentic and inspiring.

Trend 4: … But Video Ads Haven’t Caught Up

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While we know that video content is on the rise, online video ads continue to lag behind.

How can you make sure your online video content doesn’t make eyes roll? Meeker points to these best practices for running relevant video ads that drive action:

  • Be authentic
  • Be entertaining
  • Evoke emotion
  • Be personal/relatable
  • Offer something useful
  • Create ads that work with the sound off
  • Use non-interruptive ad formats (so in other words, consider video formats that go beyond pre-roll)

Trend 5: Messaging Apps = More Visual, Creative and Commerce Driven

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While fundamentally built to support text conversations, messaging apps too are evolving to support rich interactions via GIFs, videos, stickers, bitmojis, filters and more. In short, messaging apps are providing more freedom for creativity, providing more opportunities for marketers to execute branded experiences.

Target and Lancome, for instance, are among the first brands to experiment with Snapchat’s commerce capabilities, both brands running “shoppable” ads within Cosmopolitan’s Discover channel. Each ad contained a 10-second call-to-action: “Swipe up” to check out more.

Trend 6: It’s Hard Out There for an App

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While messaging apps are on the rise, it’s hard out there for an app. Although consumers are spending more time on their mobile devices, get this: Just three apps account for 80% of all app activity.

The takeaway: There is way too much app noise. With only a few apps being used by consumers most of the time, marketers would be wise to think twice about building branded app experiences. Instead, it’s important for brands to create robust and relevant experiences on the apps that their customers are most likely to use.

Trend 7: The Line Between Physical and Digital Retail Has Blurred

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 12.29.24 PMPhysical retailers have finally accepted the fact that consumers discover, engage and buy across digital channels — and in response, they’re evolving and investing in their online presence.

Meeker sees Neiman Marcus as a great example of this. By leveraging intelligent lifestyle content across numerous channels, the brand has effectively decreased the path from discovery to purchase for both new and existing consumers, lending to a 24% increase in Internet sales year-over-year.

At the same time, successful online retailers are also moving offline. These showrooms and retail locations are in large part being driven by a tremendous amount of audience data. Meeker points to Warby Parker as a prime example. The online-first retailer was able to open 21 additional showrooms (on top of their first 10) in just 17 months between 2014 and 2016.

The lesson here is that, in a multichannel world, brands can no longer separate their online and offline presences. Forward-thinking marketers are using data to create rich experiences on all of the channels where their customers are.

Trend 8: New Audience Targeting Drives Higher Returns

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 12.30.12 PMLeading marketers are proving that they can drive a higher return on investment by using hyper-targeted audience data to deliver the right product message to the right segment of users.

The idea here is simple. As we know, digital is driving discovery of products, content and brands. Marketers are now seeking new audience segments outside of traditional targeting parameters (think geographic, demographic, interests, etc.) to reach individuals who demonstrate a higher intent to buy.

Meeker calls out one campaign from sock company Stance. To boost sales of their Star Wars-themed socks, the brand targeted adults whose interests included the Star Wars movies but excluded specific characters. Suppressing specific users resulted in a 36% increase in return on ad spend on Instagram.

At Curalate, we’re able to get even more granular by building custom lookalike audiences based on consumers that have engaged with our clients’ products on Instagram. Building a lookalike audience around consumers that have engaged with specific products on Instagram has proven extremely effective for the brands we work with, resulting in an 81% increase in CTR (click-through rate) and a 40% decrease in CPC (cost-per-click).

Trend 9: Millennials Are Here to Stay

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Millennials are probably the biggest buzzword of 2015, but they’ve continued to capture marketers’ attention year after year. And for good reason — they’re the largest living generation in the U.S. and carry the bulk of spending power – and will for another decade or two.

Trend 10: Visual Discovery and Communication = The Wave of the Future

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If you thought millennials were tech savvy, visual curators and sharers who want nothing more than to be heard — get ready for Gen Z.

A few things to note:

  • Millennials use two screens at once, while Gen Z is “tech innate” and uses five(!)
  • Millennials continue to use text as needed in communication. Gen Z is all about images.
  • In contrast to the millennial propensity to curate and share content, Gen Z views themselves as creators and collaborators. You want to consider tapping into these tendencies in upcoming campaigns.