Digital in 2020: Transformative Impact and Key Highlights

Digital technology has reached unprecedented levels of integration into our lives, with people engaging in various activities online more than ever before.

  1. Internet Users:

    • The global number of internet users stands at 4.54 billion, reflecting a 7 percent increase (298 million new users) compared to January 2019.
  2. Social Media Users:
    • The worldwide social media user count in January 2020 surpassed 3.80 billion, with a notable growth rate of over 9 percent (321 million new users) compared to the previous year.
  3. Mobile Phone Users:
    • The global mobile phone user base has exceeded 5.19 billion people, experiencing a 2.4 percent increase (124 million new users) over the past year.

The report emphasizes the transformative influence of digital, mobile, and social media platforms, while highlighting the importance of addressing existing disparities to ensure universal and equal access to these technologies.

digital around the world in 2020

Prepare to spend over 100 days connected online this year

On average, each internet user now spends approximately 6 hours and 43 minutes online daily. Although this is 3 minutes less compared to the previous year, it still amounts to more than 100 days of connected time per user annually. Assuming an average of 8 hours for sleep each day, we currently dedicate more than 40 percent of our waking hours to internet usage.

Furthermore, in 2020, the collective time spent online by internet users worldwide will reach a staggering 1.25 billion years, with social media accounting for more than one-third of that time. However, the extent of online engagement varies across countries. For instance, users in the Philippines spend an average of 9 hours and 45 minutes online per day, while individuals in Japan spend only 4 hours and 22 minutes online daily.

time per day spent using the internet

Closing the Gap: Enabling Universal Connectivity

Since the concept of "The Next Billion" was introduced, over 2 billion individuals have gained internet access. However, a significant portion of the global population, approximately 3.2 billion people, remains unconnected, accounting for just over 40 percent of the total population.

unconnected audiences

Since the concept of "The Next Billion" was introduced, over 2 billion individuals have gained internet access. However, a significant portion of the global population, approximately 3.2 billion people, remains unconnected, accounting for just over 40 percent of the total population.

Within this unconnected population, over 1 billion individuals reside in Southern Asia, comprising 31 percent of the total. Africa represents 27 percent, with 870 million people across the continent still awaiting internet connectivity.

Age is a crucial determinant of internet access in these regions, as more than half of Africa's population is under the age of 20. Additionally, Southern Asia has over 460 million individuals below the age of 13.

Gender disparity also plays a critical role, with data from the ITU indicating that women are more likely to be among the "unconnected" compared to men. This gender gap extends to social media usage, particularly evident in Southern Asia, where women are three times less likely to use social media than men. Such insights shed light on the broader challenges of internet connectivity in the region. Disturbingly, research from GSMA Intelligence reveals that over half of all women in India are unaware of the existence of mobile internet.

The United Nations identifies deeply ingrained social norms and practices as a significant contributing factor to this imbalance. To bridge the gap, prioritizing digital accessibility for women, especially in developing economies, becomes imperative.

Addressing these challenges requires collective effort, including the involvement of brands. For a deeper understanding of this vital topic, GSMA Intelligence's comprehensive Mobile Gender Gap Report explores underlying issues and challenges extensively, while their Mobile Connectivity Index provides valuable perspectives at the country level.

There is substantial work ahead, and brands have an opportunity to contribute to these efforts.

Mobile Devices Surpass 50% of Internet Usage

According to GlobalWebIndex, mobile phones have now become the primary source of our online activities, constituting more than half of the total time spent on the internet, accounting for 50.1 percent.

While this may be a slightly lower figure than anticipated, considering that 92 percent of internet users worldwide access the internet through mobile devices, it reaffirms the continuing significance of computers in our connected lives.

Although mobile usage is widespread, three-quarters of internet users aged 16 to 64 still rely on laptops and desktop computers for their online activities. Additionally, data from Statcounter reveals that approximately 53 percent of web page requests originate from mobile phones, while computers retain a 44 percent share.

share of web traffics by device

These statistics indicate that people continue to employ a variety of devices to access the internet. Therefore, maintaining a balanced device strategy remains crucial. Moreover, marketers must delve beyond technical considerations and comprehend the diverse use cases and contexts associated with each device, as individuals utilize different devices at different times and for various needs, necessitating a nuanced approach when devising marketing plans.

The Dominance of Mobile Apps

Insights from App Annie highlight that mobile apps now occupy the majority of our mobile device usage, consuming 10 out of every 11 minutes, while web browsing accounts for only 9 percent of our mobile time.

Considering the extensive range of app offerings available to today's mobile users, this dominance comes as no surprise. GlobalWebIndex data reveals that apps have infiltrated nearly every aspect of our lives, enabling us to stay connected with loved ones, unwind, manage finances, stay fit, and even find romantic partners.

It's worth noting that facilitating romantic connections has emerged as a lucrative business as well. Tinder, for instance, surpassed all other non-game apps in revenue generation in 2019. Overall, dating app users spent a staggering $2.2 billion on dating apps throughout the year, twice the amount spent in the same category two years prior.

use of mobile apps by category

Our affinity for apps remains steadfast, despite the emergence of progressive web apps. App Annie reports that in 2019 alone, global smartphone users downloaded over 200 billion mobile apps, resulting in a total expenditure of $120 billion on apps and related purchases. Recent data from Ericsson supports these findings, suggesting that the average user spends over $21 per connected smartphone annually.

App Annie's State of Mobile 2020 report further highlights that games comprise the largest share of mobile app downloads, accounting for more than one-fifth of the total. Additionally, games drive 70 percent of consumer spend on mobile apps worldwide. 

Our Innate Social Nature

Approximately half of the 3.7 hours individuals spend on their mobile phones each day is dedicated to social and communications apps, signifying that these platforms hold the same significance in our mobile usage as all other activities combined.

most used social platforms

When considering mobile devices and computers collectively, GlobalWebIndex reveals that we spend an average of 2 hours and 24 minutes per day per person on social media, an increase of 2 minutes compared to the previous year.

However, social media engagement differs across countries. Filipinos maintain their position as the world's most socially active population, with the average internet user aged 16 to 64 spending nearly 4 hours daily on social platforms. In stark contrast, internet users in Japan allocate just 45 minutes per day to social media, showcasing a substantially different social media landscape.

Our inclination towards social interaction remains a fundamental aspect of human behavior, as evident from our extensive engagement with social and communications apps on mobile devices.

Facebook's Continued Dominance

Despite facing various challenges in recent years, Facebook remains at the forefront of the social media landscape. According to user trends reported in the company's earnings announcements, it is on the verge of surpassing an impressive milestone of 2.5 billion monthly active users (MAUs). Moreover, during 2019, user numbers continued to steadily increase across most countries.

However, it's important to note that not all of these users can be reached by marketers through Facebook advertising. The platform's self-service advertising tools indicate that the total addressable Facebook audience currently stands at 1.95 billion, representing roughly 80 percent of the total MAUs.

Although Facebook has witnessed some audience declines over the past year, particularly in India, Spain, and South Korea, as indicated by lower reach figures in the platform's self-service advertising tools, its overall audience reach has still grown by 1 percent in the last three months alone.

Significantly, Facebook now offers marketers the ability to target one-third of all adults aged 18 and above worldwide, and it reaches over half of all adults aged 18 to 34 globally. This highlights the platform's extensive reach among key demographics.

Embracing TikTok's Rise

TikTok took center stage in 2019, capturing media attention with its massive user base, although the actual figures were sometimes misrepresented. However, a leaked TikTok advertising sales deck, revealed by AdAge, sheds light on the platform's true state.

Undoubtedly, TikTok has become a significant player, boasting a staggering 800 million monthly active users.

It is worth noting that out of these active users, over 60 percent, approximately 500 million, reside in China, leaving around 300 million monthly active users outside of China.

App Annie's latest data highlights that Chinese users accounted for 80 percent of the total time spent on TikTok in 2019, while users in India contributed another 10 percent. This means that users in China and India collectively represent approximately 90 percent of the global TikTok usage.

In terms of global rankings for monthly active users, TikTok climbed to the sixth position in 2019, trailing behind WhatsApp, Facebook, WeChat, and Instagram but surpassing other social platforms.

However, it's important to clarify that TikTok's success has not come at the expense of Western social networks. Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat have all reported increased advertising audience reach in recent months, even among users aged 13 to 17.

TikTok's meteoric rise demonstrates its growing influence in the social media landscape, with a significant user base primarily concentrated in China and India. It is a force to be reckoned with, but it coexists alongside established Western platforms without compromising their success, it also shows how does social media affect mental health.

The Thriving Gaming Industry

Gaming has emerged as a significant global phenomenon, with over 4 in 5 internet users aged 16 to 64 engaging in video games monthly. If we apply this figure to the total internet user population, the global gaming community would exceed 3.5 billion people. While most gamers play on their smartphones (69 percent of internet users), a noteworthy 25 percent also report playing games on dedicated gaming consoles. Dedicated gamers, who focus on console gaming, spend an average of 70 minutes playing games daily.

However, in countries like Thailand, the Philippines, and Saudi Arabia, console gamers devote over 90 minutes daily to gaming pursuits. Notably, gamers are increasingly willing to invest money in their gaming experiences. In 2019, gamers globally spent over US$150 billion on games, reflecting a nearly 10 percent increase from the previous year. Online game purchases alone accounted for over US$83 billion in spending by internet users, marking a roughly 5 percent year-on-year growth, as reported by Statista. Mobile games also contribute significantly to the industry, with App Annie's findings indicating that global mobile users splurged over US$65 billion on game apps and in-app purchases in 2019.

This accounted for over 70 percent of total consumer spending on mobile apps throughout the year. In-app purchases have become a crucial aspect of the gaming industry, with 8 percent of all internet users aged 16 to 64 reported to have made game-related "DLC" (downloadable content) purchases in the past month alone, as revealed by GlobalWebIndex.

Moreover, the allure of watching others play games has gained traction. One in five internet users aged 16 to 64 tuned in to live streams of other people's gameplay in the past 30 days, while one in seven watched esports tournaments. While skepticism towards esports exists among some marketers in the West, data irrefutably demonstrate that hundreds of millions of people worldwide already engage in watching others play games each month. The popularity of gaming and its associated activities continues to soar.

The Power of Video Content

According to the latest data from Ericsson, mobile internet users worldwide are projected to consume over half a trillion gigabytes of mobile data in 2020. Remarkably, approximately two-thirds of this colossal amount will be utilized for streaming and downloading video content. The impact of video extends beyond data consumption.

GlobalWebIndex reveals that an impressive 90 percent of internet users aged 16 to 64 watch online videos monthly. If we apply this figure to the global internet user population, it translates to more than half of the world's total population engaging with online videos.YouTube remains the dominant force in the online video landscape, with our calculations indicating that approximately 3 billion people watch at least one YouTube video each month. Notably, YouTube itself reports having 2 billion signed-in viewers per month.

Additionally, the number of individuals streaming TV content via the Internet continues to rise. GlobalWebIndex's recent data indicates that two-thirds of internet users aged 16 to 64 now consume TV content through various subscription services, such as Netflix. Paid video subscription services have gained popularity among mobile users as well. App Annie's insights reveal that video apps accounted for five of the world's top 10 non-game apps ranked by consumer spending in 2019.

Notably, three of these apps—Tencent Video, iQiyi, and Youku—primarily cater to internet users in China, supporting Statista's findings that Chinese internet users are the most inclined to pay for digital content. Video content continues to hold significant influence, with its consumption, engagement, and revenue generation reaching new heights globally.

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