Growth of mobile technology is forcing retailers to change and transform.

As the number of mobile phone owners continues to expand internationally, the rate of monthly social media users is on the rise. Emarketer’s latest report, “Worldwide Social Network Users: eMarketer’s Estimates and Forecast for 2016-2021,” on social media frequency maps out the future of adoption and correlating consumption — and what efforts certain platforms are doing now to retain their loyal user base.

The report drew an optimistic picture of the mobile and social landscape for the coming years. Social network users have increased to 2.46 billion this year, up from 2.28 billion in 2016, the report said. By 2021, the authors of the report estimate more than three billion people will subscribe to social media, accounting for more than 73 percent of all Internet users.

Mobile social media users will likely multiply given the ongoing increase of device ownership. The report said that since 2016, mobile social media users have increased almost 11 percent year-on-year, resulting in more than two billion users or approximately 82 percent of all social media members. The authors of the report predicted that mobile social media users will rise to 2.62 billion by 2021.

“Most user growth will be driven by the widespread availability of affordable smartphones, accessible Wi-Fi coverage and expanding 3G and 4G networks,” the report noted. “Individuals taking advantage of these developments in Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East and Africa will largely be new Internet users who are signing up for social media for the first time.”

In order to retain their user bases, the report noted that Twitter and Facebook are refocusing their efforts on video offerings. With Facebook’s entry into the video space alongside Instagram “Stories,” the jockeying for user share — especially of the all-powerful Millennial and Gen Zer — continues with main competitor Snapchat.

“Facebook has not shied away from developing features that mirror those of the competition, as when Facebook developed its version of Snapchat’s ‘Stories’ feature for its platforms,” researchers of the report said. “This shift in focus has been successful in retaining social network users.”

It’s a matter of feeding the beast. The more video delivered, the more it’s in demand, resulting in a rising tide of consumption. “Increased video content hasn’t added new social network users, it’s just reinforced existing usage. North America and Western Europe — and urban areas with widespread mobile bandwidth to support streaming — will see social network user growth of only 2.9 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively,” the report said.

Brands and retailers looking to reinforce their social presences will benefit with organic, authentic video initiatives. Marketers looking to successfully navigate the saturated landscape will need to arm efforts with deep shopper research and comprehensive analysis of consumer preferences and behavior. Throwing video content into the social sphere will do little to move the needle on engagement levels.

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