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Four Internet Mega-Trends that Matter to Engineering Marketers

20170607 Trends.jpgAs marketers, we care about how engineers get information. We need to know whether they use email or Facebook, smartphones or laptops, so that we know where to put our messages and how to format them.

And here to the rescue, as she is every year, is Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins. Her latest Internet Trends report was published last week, all 355 pages of it.

In case you are wondering why we should pay attention, here are a few of her forecasts from 2010, seven years ago…

  1. Smartphone sales are growing so fast that they will soon become the primary way for many people to access the internet. (yup)
  2. Digital advertising expenditures will grow rapidly, mostly at the expense of print advertising (ditto)
  3. Digital advertising will be concentrated in Google, Yahoo and Facebook (got 2 out of 3 on that one. Sorry Yahoo.)
  4. Social networking will become a more powerful medium for sharing than email (remember your Dad’s email chains?)
  5. Cloud computing will be a big thing (also true)

If you are curious about how the 2017 mega-trends will impact engineering marketers, read on for my take.

Trend #1 – Growth in Smartphone Adoption is Slowing

The number of smartphone users is still growing, but not as fast as it was. The red line in the graph below shows the growth rate falling from over 60% in 2011 to around 12% in 2016. The blue columns indicate that the overall installed base of smartphones is still growing, but not as fast.  That said, the total number of worldwide smartphone users is a very big number indeed, and likely includes pretty much every engineer in your target market.

Global Smartphone Installed Based 2009-2016.jpg

source: Kleiner Perkins

For the past many years, all of us have been trying to adapt our campaigns to allow engineers to access our content from smartphones.

We’ve made our web sites responsive to various screen sizes.

We’ve experimented with smaller mobile-friendly banner ad sizes.

We’ve run ads on Facebook where we know engineers will see them on their smartphones.

But as a group, engineering marketers haven’t really embraced mobile advertising. In this post on Mobile Engineering Marketing, I set out a few ways that marketers can leverage the trend toward mobile to reach engineers.

Smartphone usage has had an impact on another marketing trend, which is the boom in content marketing. Since other techniques don’t work so well on small form factors, content rules the smartphone. In a survey late last year we found that 53% of engineers access engineering content on their smartphones, with younger engineers being the heaviest users.

Trend #2 – People are spending more time on their mobile devices than on computers

Mobile time spent is still growing, now up to 3 hours per day per adult. Time on desktops and laptops (the blue part of the columns below) is shrinking, down to 2.2 hours per day. That isn’t really such a big drop, which indicates that people are spending more time on their mobiles and more time with digital media overall, now up to 5.6 hours per day from 4.3 hours per day just five years ago.

20170607 Adult Device Use 2008-2016.jpgsource: Kleiner Perkins

While this trend is informative, it isn’t strictly true of engineers, at least not when they are searching for engineering information. In those cases, the laptop and desktop are still the preferred device, according to a survey of engineers in late 2016.

That said, if everyone is spending so much more time on their mobile devices, we as marketers are ever more incented to find ways to make sure that they have a good experience when they engage with our brand online. So no more pdfs or complicated form fills that don’t work on mobile devices!

What does the growth in mobile mean for advertising formats?  It means that ad formats are changing, with relatively less spending going to search and more to mobile.

20170607 Advertising Format Share 2008-2016.jpg

Source:  IAB Internet Advertising Report

Trend #3 – Overall internet advertising growth has slowed - all the growth will be in mobile

For years we’ve been saying that digital advertising revenue was growing fast, and that has been true. But what used to be a meteoric pace has slowed somewhat. Part of that is due to arithmetic – large numbers don’t grow as fast in percentage terms with the same absolute topline growth. But part of it has to due with mobile advertising, which is where the juice is.

20170607 Internet Advertising Growth 2006-2016.jpg

This chart from the IAB shows that all of the growth in Internet advertising is in mobile, with mobile accounting for more than half of all spending in 2016.

Trend #4 – Google and Facebook continue to grow way faster than everyone else

There is an almost gravitational pull towards Facebook and Google for advertising. I’m sure you use both platforms, as have we for almost a decade.

20170607 Google-Facebook-Other Y-o-Y Growth.jpgSource: Kleiner Perkins

What does that mean for engineering marketers? First, it means that the easy wins on these platforms are long gone. To beat your competitors on social media, you need to do something different. For example, there are still lots of long-tail search terms available at reasonable prices if you have the resources to find them.

Secondly, if you are spending a lot of your budget on Facebook and Google, and you are reaching engineers there while they are on their mobile devices, are you really getting your message across? While short messages can work for branding, do they really work well to deliver the more nuanced messages that engineering marketers tell? 

This challenge may be part of the reason why engineering marketers haven’t all made the move to mobile. The content we deliver is too dense. Our B2B messages don’t fit easily into 80 characters. We aren’t selling impulse items. That may be why only 35% of engineering marketers have a budget for mobile marketing – engineer’s information gathering still leans much more heavily towards desktops and laptops.

Here at we still see about 80% of our traffic coming from engineers using desktops and laptops, most of whom visit during the work day.

20170607 24 Hour Traffic Trend.jpg

Google Analytics chart for a selected day ( last Thursday) shows peaks between 7:00 am – 5:00 pm Eastern time.

Although a lot of the key findings in Meeker’s annual report on the Internet seem to be about digital advertising growing in general and mobile advertising growing in particular, there is still a lot of value to be gleaned from reading the full report. For example, there are some insights on social media and user generated content that I found interesting.

Please share any important trends you think I’ve missed.

Thanks as always for reading and sharing,


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