Social media, messaging apps, streaming videos, and other online content have taken their place at the center of our lives. But how much time are we actually spending in the digital world in 2020? The quiz below will test your knowledge about our current online habits around the globe. Or scroll down a bit further to skip the quiz and read all about the key digital trends of this modern world.
Where will people see your content in 2020?
This is the third article in an ongoing series that explores the dominant trends in our digital space, both globally and locally. Our reports, based on detailed studies by Hootsuite and We Are Social, go behind the numbers to present a compelling snapshot of the current relationship between wider society and the online world. Throughout the series, we look for wider lessons beneath the data, keeping a special focus on new challenges and opportunities within the world of digital marketing.
Four years ago, photographer Eric Pickersgill was putting the finishing touches on a special kind of art project. He had taken photos of ordinary people in natural poses, catching their expressions as they looked at their phones. Then he used Photoshop to digitally remove the phones.
The very best artwork helps us see ourselves in a different way, and Pickersgill’s project certainly gives us good reason to pause and consider the direction we are going.
If anything, however, the world today is even more devoted to digital media than it was in 2016. Mobile phones have found a seemingly permanent place at the very heart of our social lives as well as our private lives, particularly in Thailand.
Indeed, if you take the BTS or MRT around Bangkok, you’ve probably noticed that every other person is on their phone – either playing games, streaming videos, or texting with friends. Numbers from the recent Digital 2020: Thailand report, published by Hootsuite and We Are Social, show that this phenomenon is every bit as widespread as it seems.
The average person in Thailand spends just over 9 hours online every day, a remarkable statistic that puts the country well above the world average of 6 hours and 43 minutes. But where exactly do Thai people spend such a long time? Which devices and platforms are they on, and what are they doing?
The popularity paradox
Current data on this topic tells a story that is more nuanced than you might expect. Among Thailand’s internet users aged 16-64, fully 94% own a smartphone – while just 50% have their own laptop or desktop. Yet this disparity leads us to a little mystery within the report, which is well worth unraveling.
Contrary to what you might expect in light of the above, Thailand’s web traffic data shows that far more of the country’s webpages are accessed by browsers on laptops and desktops, rather than mobile phones.
Indeed, the riddle gets even more complex when you consider that mobile phone ownership in Thailand has risen sharply in the past 12 months. By the start of 2019, only 71% of Thai people owned a mobile phone, compared to 94% today. Yet mobile-based web traffic nevertheless declined by 30% over the course of the year.
Conversely, web traffic from laptops and desktops increased by 56% over the same period, and now represents a substantially larger share of total web traffic than mobile phones do, despite the fact that there are nearly twice as many mobile phones in the country. What is going on?
The answer to this puzzle has very real implications for marketers. As mentioned above, web traffic data is measured only in terms of webpages accessed by web browsers. Yet mobile phones have an alternative means of getting things done online – and in this case, specialized apps make all the difference. If you were to read the New York Times on your laptop, for example, you’d do it through a web browser; but on your mobile, you’d likely use the NYT’s dedicated app.
Although this pattern of preferences may seem intuitive upon reflection, an interesting thing happens when you try to apply it to a wider data set. Globally, the numbers are reversed: Over the past year, total web traffic increased on mobile phones, but decreased on laptops and desktops.
Marketers in Thailand would do well to internalize this lesson. It is certainly necessary to design webpages that function well on mobile phones – but it is at least as important to release customized apps for the same purpose. Particularly in the current climate, with growing concern over how COVID-19 is likely to affect Thailand and elsewhere, people are spending even more time online than they normally would.
This example should serve as yet another reminder of the need to conduct in-depth market research. The world is far from homogeneous, and every subset of the population will have its own unique properties. Understanding them, and making the right adaptations, is the only unchanging secret to marketing success.
Going deeper: The numbers that shape Thailand’s digital identity
Plenty of other findings from the Digital 2020 report confirm Thailand’s special love for mobile phones. The average person in Thailand spends nearly 5 hours of daily internet usage on a mobile device. Comparatively, the worldwide average is only 3 hours and 22 minutes. Moreover, 69% of people in Thailand made an online purchase via a mobile device, while only 34% of people made online purchases via laptop.
Of course, not all mobile phones are the same, and app designers need to know where to invest their resources. The go-to mobile operating system for Thai smartphones is clearly Android, with 76% of web traffic running through this system.
Nearly all of the remaining traffic (23.7%) runs through iOS – and although this puts Apple devices at a distant second place, its market share in Thailand is growing year over year. This recent rise in user numbers may be partially due to the Apple store which opened in Bangkok at the end of 2018. (Another Apple store is set to open in the city center within the coming weeks, and cheaper iPhone models are also rumored to appear in the near future, potentially boosting sales even further.)
Yet today’s devices aren’t limited to laptops and phones. Other key forms of hardware include tablets, game consoles, smart watches, virtual reality goggles, and IOT-linked smart home devices.
Some of these technologies will be reviewed in greater depth later in our series, but it is worth taking a look now at the trend towards smart homes. This product category is catching on relatively quickly around the world, with 11% of the internet-connected population already using the technology in some form. In Thailand, however, the usage rate for smart home devices drops to just 3.7%.
Moreover, while the US represents the leading market for smart home products in terms of overall sales, Thailand is currently ranked 35th in the world. In terms of age, those between 25 and 34 years old make up the largest customer segment for Thai smart home owners, with male and female user numbers virtually identical.
Smart home devices and systems aim to provide benefits in terms of convenience as well as energy saving. Yet the purchasing habits of active users in Thailand show a clear preference for overall convenience, rather than models which put greater emphasis on environmentally friendly features. The smart home trend may lead to new opportunities in the months and years ahead, as it could become a significant channel for product sales as well as general brand messaging in the medium-term.
When considering your wider marketing strategy, it is essential to have an understanding of the most popular devices used by your customers. The above statistics can help your business determine where to allocate its marketing resources, and how to design content based on the particular qualities of each type of device.
There is, however, another important variable to keep in mind when designing campaigns to connect with your core audience: The platforms they are using.
A day in the life
Regardless of device, people in Thailand love to watch video content in all its forms. 99% of all internet users aged 16 to 64 watch online videos, with an amazing per-person average of 3 hours and 32 minutes per day. Popular platforms for video streaming include YouTube and Netflix, and half of the country’s population subscribes to paid video or TV services every month. LINE TV is a major source of Thai content which is not available on the other platforms.
Social media is nearly as popular among Thailand’s netizens, who use a variety of these platforms for a combined total of about 3 hours per person per day. In terms of social media popularity, Facebook and YouTube are the market leaders, followed by LINE and Facebook Messenger, among many others.
The rise of social media over the years has been a sight to behold. Nearly half of the world’s total population already uses social media, and trends point to this 50% milestone being reached by mid-2020. Despite multiple data privacy scandals over the years, Facebook remains the clear #1 social media platform – and therefore is often the best way for brands to reach their customers. Both globally and in Thailand, almost 100% of Facebook users now access the platform via mobile device.
Music streaming and gaming are also hugely popular in Thailand, each contributing about 1 hour and 40 minutes to the average person’s daily internet usage. Although Spotify has been on the Thai market for over 2 years, the JOOX Music app is still by far the most used music streaming service in the country. JOOX, while fairly similar to Spotify in many ways, offers more of its services for free – an appealing feature for Thai consumers. JOOX allows a certain number of songs per day that users can stream at no cost, after which it provides an option to share your favorite songs on social media in order to get more free streaming time.
A new star in the social media sky
TikTok is one of the hottest and most interesting new social media apps, particularly among Generation Z – despite (or perhaps because of) its failure to enter the lexicon of society’s older generations.
A summary, for the uninitiated: TikTok users film short videos of themselves lip-synching, dancing, or acting out comedy sketches. They can also choose from a database of songs, visual effects, or sounds to add before sharing these creations with their community.
TikTok’s youth-focused approach has paid off, as the app needed only 2 years to build up the 6th highest active monthly user base among all social media platforms worldwide. In Thailand, TikTok was the #4 app of the year in terms of total downloads, easily beating household names such as Instagram (which ranked #10 on this metric).
TikTok had 18.72 million users in Thailand by the end of 2019 – an astonishing number for an app tailored to younger people. The platform plans to introduce ads in order to expand revenue in 2020. “Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia are the top three markets in Southeast Asia for TikTok,” according to Pakorn Vatanachalearmvutikon, TikTok Thailand’s head of marketing. With such a large and active user base, marketers would do well to pay attention to this addictive new app.
Everything old is new again
On the opposite side of the social media spectrum is LinkedIn. The platform may not be a new star in the sky, but with 675 million total users (almost 10 times the population of Thailand) mostly in the business community, it is worth a close look.
Worldwide, the average income of a LinkedIn user currently stands at $46,644 per year. Males make up 58% of LinkedIn’s total user base, and the most popular age category is between 46 and 55 years old (37% of all users). 41% of the world’s millionaires use LinkedIn, and half of all users have a college degree. 92% of B2B marketers include the platform in their digital marketing mix already.
In Thailand, LinkedIn is a relatively small force – at least by overall numbers. The platform has 2.7 million current users, but insightful marketers may see a silver lining as they study this more focused Thai user base. Precisely because LinkedIn hasn’t caught on to wider society, it is reasonable to conclude that most people on the platform take seriously the prospect of networking within Thailand’s professional community. As LinkedIn’s targeted advertising model is designed to support quality over quantity, the business platform’s highly concentrated user base of professionals and executives is particularly well suited to B2B marketing.
A digital buffet
As we have seen, today’s platforms now fall on a wide spectrum, with very different content types. Various digital services cater to the young and the old, society’s ordinary consumers and its high-powered professionals, and everything in between. Businesses need to choose wisely when determining which platform to invest for their marketing strategy.
Keeping up to date on current trends in these areas is extraordinarily valuable for brands, which need to continuously adapt their marketing approach to accommodate the changing preferences of their customer base. Your most effective messaging strategy may depend on whether your core audience falls neatly into the user base of one or two platforms, or is spread out over many demographic groups and digital content preferences.
Use omnichannel marketing
For any company, the most convenient marketing scenario would involve all of their customers using one single platform. The reality, of course, looks very different.
Most of us don’t enter a store, online shop, or app for the first time and immediately make a purchase. The more likely scenario involves customers checking out not just your online store, but also your social media presence, and maybe even your app, before feeling confident enough to hand over their money.
Omnichannel Marketing is the best way to ensure consistency across every touchpoint. At its core, omnichannel marketing gives the customer essentially the same overall experience regardless of whether they are shopping online from a desktop or mobile device; webpage or app; social media platform or phone interaction; or whether they in your physical store.
The transition from one format to the next is designed to be seamless, with each touchpoint faithfully representing the true voice of your brand. As a way to build brand identity, consistent messaging, and consumer confidence, omnichannel marketing is difficult to beat.
Focus on people
Whichever type of marketing campaign you choose, the next step is to craft your content. Your main goal will be to inspire an emotional connection with your customers, as well as an atmosphere of trust. These efforts begin with market research – with the particular aim of gaining insight into your customers’ interests as well as their online behavior.
Fortunately, the internet makes these tasks more accessible than ever. Never before have people put more of their interests, beliefs, and opinions into the public domain as they do today. Search engines and social media platforms collect this data in bulk, letting businesses make the most of it for their advertising and messaging purposes.
Once you identify your target audience, it becomes far easier to craft a messaging style that will appeal to them on a personal and emotional level. Yet while numbers and data may help bring you to your audience, you then need to make a cognitive switch in order to talk to them on very human terms. Simon Kemp, author of Digital 2020: Global Digital Overview puts it this way:
Almost without exception, the companies and brands that succeed over the long-term are those that successfully satisfy people’s wants, needs and desires – not those who’ve jumped on a bandwagon, created an isolated ‘viral’ campaign, or jumped at every shiny new toy without a clear strategy.
Reaching out to people in a meaningful way requires key insight into their deepest wishes. Only after you have identified these wishes and have learned to relate to your customers, can you generate the kind of content that will truly earn their trust.
Take a holistic view
To connect with people on an emotional level, you’ll need to do many things right. The first step is to adapt your marketing approach so that it comes across effectively on all devices. Then you need to know which platform to use; TikTok may be the next big thing – but if your customer base is made up of lawyers over the age of 50, you might be better off using a different platform.
From there, work on building an integrated campaign that delivers a unified message across every touchpoint. Language and imagery play a big role in letting you hit the right beats. If you follow through by providing real value to your customers, they’ll respond with genuine interest.
You’ll need your customers to take an interest in your brand sooner or later, and the strategy outlined above is the best way to accomplish that feat. With these larger goals in mind, here are 3 actions you can take today to reflect the relevant insights from the Digital 2020 Report:
- Start building original apps and other mobile-friendly touchpoints.
- Adapt your content well for each platform that your target audience is likely to use. Some types of messages work better on Instagram; others on LinkedIn. Each must be customized to fit its environment.
- Above all, focus on providing meaningful content. Don’t confuse trends and viral success for real connections with your customers.
These actionable recommendations help to crystallize some of the key lessons from this year’s Hootsuite / We Are Social Digital 2020 Report. At its best, the report helps us see ourselves from a new perspective – much like the photos from Eric Pickersgill that opened this article.
By updating our collective understanding, the Digital 2020 Report delivers a key service – but it also acts as an important reminder for us all. Keeping up with the twists and turns of a rapidly changing society is an essential (and often underrated) aspect of marketing today. By letting us see society more clearly, Hootsuite and We Are Social provide the tools needed to maintain a real connection with a moving target.
The digital world has delivered a massive technological boost to the world of business communication, while simultaneously prompting a new era of shifting cultural expectations. Indeed, marketers have never before faced such challenges – or such opportunities. By looking directly into the mirror, and continually re-learning new lessons about ourselves, our wants, and our digital habits, today’s brands can ensure that their marketing efforts resonate more meaningfully than ever.