Ofcom recently released their latest annual report on how people in the UK use and interact with media. It is a cornucopia of data on consumer habits and how these have changed over the past decade. In this piece I’d like to highlight some of the statistics that stood out and will be of particular interest to advertisers.
1 in 6 UK adults only use devices other than computers to go online
The most striking change from last year’s report is the large jump in the number of people who never use a personal computer to access the internet. For advertisers this means that they cannot reach a growing slice of their audience unless they adapt their sites, ads and targeting.
The shift to mobile and tablets has been apparent for years, however there has been a step change this year. The percentage of users using devices other than laptops and desktops to go online grew from 6% in 2014 to 16% in 2015. It is the first time that a large proportion of the digital audience is not reachable on laptops or desktops. In 2010, 2% of users only used devices other than computers to access the internet.
This 16% of users mostly consist of mobile and tablet users. There has also been a growing number of users going online using games consoles, e-readers and smart TVs. Unfortunately the Ofcom report does not provide a precise breakdown of devices used by that 16% of users.
41% of users report they only use sites they have used previously
As users and the online ecosystem have matured, people started settling on preferred places where they act and interact. In the same way people have a favoured supermarket, they now also have favoured sites.
This is reflected in a drop in usage of search engines and other means of discovering information online. Websites with user reviews were the only category showing a rise in this report. The difference is potentially due to Ofcom changing the examples used for that category. They added Amazon to the list of example sites in addition to TripAdvisor and OpenTable.
If you already know your destination you don’t need to search for it. This raises the barriers to entry in a previously extremely fluid ecosystem. Users are introduced to new entrants to the market less often and are less likely to re-enter the consideration phase.
92% of users still make Search Engines their first port of call when looking for information
Even bearing in mind the above point, search engines are still the primary tool people use to find information online. Vertical search and in-app search have not yet made major inroads into their, or more precisely Google’s, dominance.
Google are still concerned about these potential threats. They have responded by launching Google assistant and their long running “Universal Search” initiative. It is going to be interesting to see how Google Assistant will fare.
Universal Search has increasingly come under scrutiny by competition authorities. Google is perceived to favour their own offering over those of competing vertical search providers. Google Shopping is currently the main vertical search offering under scrutiny. It is the longest running and best integrated of Google’s Vertical Search offerings. Google’s flight, travel, mapping and review offerings are also under investigation by competition authorities.
Personally, one thing I found fascinating is the data about the concerns people have about the internet. Concerns about security and advertising are a distant 3rd and 5th respectively. These are both huge topics in the tech press and amongst more advanced users, but they have not yet fully penetrated the minds of the general public. Offensive and illegal content remains the one topic people are most concerned about online.
To read the full report, click here.