Interpreting Mary Meeker, the 'Patron Saint' of Digital Insights

Interpreting Mary Meeker, the 'Patron Saint' of Digital Insights

Katlyn Droke

There are industry deep dives, and then there’s Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report; a mid-year, state-of-the-union for digital innovation and adoption delivered at Recode’s annual Code Conference—this year, encompassing no fewer than 355 data-driven slides.

To call Meeker a thought leader would be an understatement; a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, she’s led or supported disruptive technology investments in Waze, Facebook, Pinterest, Airbnb, Slack, and Spotify and has been called “the veritable patron saint” of digital trends by Crunchbase.

Anyone in the digital space (which, in 2017, means everybody) can glean value from Meeker’s descriptive analysis (available courtesy of KPCB)—but we’re taking a closer look at a few of her findings to extract actionable strategies for digital engagement, ROI, and user-experience.

Partitioning Digital Media Growth

Consumers are spending more time engaging with digital media, led primarily by mobile engagement, as desktop engagement continues to plateau since its peak in 2011.

Digital engagement now averages 5.6 hours daily, with mobile engagement growing 3X in the last five years to account for 3.1 of these hours. And, crucially, advertisers are taking notice; for the first time in history, mobile ad spend has now eclipsed desktop spending—by a billion-dollar margin.

This shift will significantly impact ecommerce and digital strategy, first, by providing incentive and capital for R&D in mobile technologies (e.g, smarter metrics and attribution) and second, by providing an increase in mobile user data to fuel this research.

Our takeaway: we can look forward to more tools and insights to better inform our marketing decisions, particularly on mobile, by end of year—while, conversely, those who aren’t paying attention will fall farther behind.

Leveraging Data Moving Forward

Meeker doesn’t specifically call out Google Attribution in her report, but the writing is on the wall; increased spending on digital means increased scrutiny of ROI, and 61% of marketers cite fuzzy returns as their largest barrier to mobile spending. If Google and other advertising platforms want to sustain spending, they’ll need to furnish more clarity around conversions moving forward.

Google is leading the march here with its recent announcement of Google Attribution, which will use machine learning to weigh the value of numerous touch points across multiple channels and devices—allowing advertisers to better track complete paths to conversion (e.g., email, search, digital video, and visits to brick-and-mortar storefronts) and adjust their strategies accordingly.

But here’s the rub—not every company is going to like what they see. The increased accuracy of multi-point attribution will put a spotlight on ROI and make it easier to identify poor returns, which will challenge the status-quo for a lot of marketing departments.

The solution: rather than waiting for Google to pull off the Band-Aid later this year, marketers should leverage existing technologies to pinpoint ROI and conversion rates with as much accuracy as possible for digital channels—and with only a bit more than a fifth of marketers tracking conversions and revenue, there is a lot of room to take advantage of available solutions to show returns.

Identifying the Next “Space Invaders”

Looking at the growth of the interactive gaming industry, we can see why Meeker calls it the “motherlode” of innovation; the gaming population has grown from 100 million users in 1995 to 2.6 billion users today and continues to surge.

New methods of staying connected throughout the day will fuel interactive gaming in the same way they fueled mobile engagement—and the resulting innovations will apply just as much to ecommerce and digital marketing (e.g., new paths to faster and smarter interfaces, advances in gamification, and enhanced social connectivity).

Meeker uses Airbnb and arcade games to illustrate this. In 1978, “Space Invaders” was the first video game to record high scores. Fast-forward to today, Airbnb is using that same principle to recognize (and amplify) the “high scores” of its top-performing hosts through data analysis.

How can companies continue to “level up”? By embedding UX strategy into their marketing and design tactics and keeping abreast of the latest innovations in digital interactivity.

Disrupting Traditional Technologies

Not all Meeker’s charts skew up and to the right. The impact of increased digital content, connectivity, and personalization, for example, is wreaking havoc on a host of industries that are slow to the digital transformation movement.

Savvy marketers will have to stay ahead of the curve by staying agile to the disruption of traditional technologies (and traditional consumer preferences and behaviors).

The healthcare industry is one to follow here, with healthcare providers leveraging new technologies to better connect with patients, e.g., cloud integration, intelligent sensors, and AI.

Global health data is currently growing 48% year-over-year, with the average hospital contributing 50 petabytes of data annually and clinical trials steadily relying on crowd-sourced data.

Our action item: companies in all industries should be looking for ways to not just capture better data, but finding ways to leverage it to make data-driven decisions that push the boundaries of personalization for all interactions.

Identifying Potential for Growth

The emerging theme in Meeker’s report—capturing and responding to data:

  • For mobile, it’s increasing conversion and ROI by looking further upstream than last-click attribution—and strategically tracking every touchpoint from digital video to email.
  • For optimizing user engagement and personalization, it’s leveraging insights from gaming (i.e., high scores) and building interfaces supported by state-of-the-art technologies and digital trends.
  • For companies looking to push forward with digitial transformation internally, it's capturing all available data to literally double strategic knolwedge and leverage smart insights to meet business objectives.

How are you capturing and using data to move your marketing forward? We implement solutions to assist clients with measurement and ROI every day at Authentic—so we’re here if you need us.