Digital Progress in 2016 and Trends for 2017 – Part I

A summary review of the tech advances we saw in 2016 and their projected evolution into 2017

A Year of Continued Digital Growth

2016 was an interesting year for digital technologies and mobile usage, which continued to evolve and increase, with a few areas seeing particular growth, including artificial intelligence, m-commerce, social media for business, and enterprise applications of IoT, VR and AR. In 2017 we can expect these areas to record further gains in usage and sophistication, bringing on strategic and tactical implications for businesses and their marketing teams. 

Internet Traffic and Its Mobile Share on the Rise

According to Ericsson’s Global Mobility Report (November 2016), in 2016 we saw a global base of 3.42 billion internet users (46% penetration), 2.31 billion social media users, (31% penetration), 3.79 billion unique mobile users (51% global penetration), and 1.97 billion mobile social media users, (27% global penetration). The number of internet users was up by 10%, the number of reported social media users as well and unique mobile users increased by 4%, with mobile social media users going up by 17%.

According to the GSMA, more than half of the world now owns a mobile phone and more than half of users search for information using their smartphones. The world’s mobile users now consume more than 4.5 exabytes of data each month, spread over a variety of media and content sources: shopping, interacting on messenger apps, watching videos, managing personal finances, playing games and searching for information.

In response to this trend, Google developed their AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) project and has now divided their search index by mobile and desktop. This project will speed up the delivery of mobile web content, and the additional index will be optimised for mobile search.

M-Commerce Ramping Up

Partly due to the rise in mobile broadband speed across the board and the improved security of mobile payments, mobile commerce numbers were also on the rise, surging >50% in the world’s top economies over the course of 2016. M-commerce leaders South Korea and China lead the pack when it comes to mobile phone shopping. The growth in European online sales, however, is still slow. 16.7% of European businesses sell online, an increase of only 3.5% over the past five years. Large companies are more active with 38% of them selling online, indicating a gap between small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and large companies' participation in eCommerce. Only 7.5% of European SMEs sell online to other EU Member states, with 23% of large enterprises doing the same.

The percentage of Europeans ordering goods and services online has increased to 53% but only 16% engage in cross-border eCommerce. Payment security and other trust concerns, as well as a lack in digital skills were the primary reasons for the low numbers.

Social Network Usage

Facebook and WhatsApp

Although social media giant Facebook is becoming less innovative and despite a few countries reporting drops in usage, Facebook still saw their numbers go up globally. In 2016, the network reached 1.5 billion users, making it the most widely used social network in the world. Although users of Facebook Messenger continued to grow last year, according to some reports WhatsApp usage has already surpassed Facebook on a global scale. 


Twitter also reached a milestone in 2016 by becoming the most used social media platform for sharing content. The platform also expanded its services to better serve brands and consumers, and included additional types of media in its news feed. 

Instagram Business Applications

Only a year since it opened its platform for native advertising, Instagram got reaffirmed as a business marketing tool and now boasts >500,000 active advertisers. It also started rolling out new e-commerce features to a number of select U.S. brands, which is a taste of what may be in store for 2017.   

Snapchat for Business

Despite its popularity with teenagers, Snapchat’s potential has been, for the most part, untapped by marketers due to the network being closed to mass advertising until fairly recently. However, in 2016, Snapchat started including ad capabilities in its live stories and channels and expanded their Snap Partners programme to include more advertisers. The network reached a million active users and >7 billion stories viewed daily in 2016, and is projected to generate $2 billion in ad revenue this year. 

Continue to part II of ‘’Digital Progress in 2016 and Trends for 2017” next week.

Copywriter: Ina Danova

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