More people than ever before are going to have smartphones next year

THE PROPORTION of the global population in possession of a smartphone is expected is expected to reach 66 percent in various countries, according to consulting firm Zenith.

According to Zenith’s Mobile Advertising Forecasts 2017, across 52 selected countries, there are predictions that the number of smartphones in the hands of consumers will rise sharply in the next year or so, especially in Western Europe and Asia Pacific, which continue to lead in terms of geography.

Zenith has predicted that the country with the highest number of smartphone users will be China, with 1.3 billion users, followed by India (530 million users) with the US following in third place (229 million users).

Despite the overall penetration of smartphones reaching up to 90 percent in the most advanced markets, the actual rate of smartphone growth is slowing. The proportion of smartphone ownership is set to increase by seven percent year-on-year in 2018, in comparison to the 10 percent growth in 2017, 14 percent in 2016, and 21 percent in 2015.

Brands need to think of their content from a mobile standpoint to make the most of the smartphone revolution. Source: Shutterstock

Unlike smartphones, tablet ownership is much less common and their appeal is steadily slipping. Tablet penetration is  projected by Zenith to stabilize at 20 percent worldwide penetration. They have been shown to be particularly unpopular in China, where Zenith estimates 4.8 percent penetration this year, compared to 85.4 percent for smartphones.

According to the report, this may partly because tablets are more likely to be shared within households compared to smartphones which are more commonly owned individually.

What does the increasing smartphone penetration mean for advertisers and brands? According to Jonathon Barnard, Zenith’s head of forecasting and director of global intelligence, this could have a serious impact in terms of how brands and content makers should think about user experience.

“Brands need to design all their online communications for mobile viewing,” he said in a statement.

“These communications need to look good on the small screen, grab the viewer’s attention immediately and convey their messages quickly while their attention remains focused.”

It seems that advertisers are responding to the surge in smartphone usage by investing more dollars in developing mobile platforms. The report from Zenith said that 53 percent of all Internet ad spend this year will be directed at mobile advertising. Zenith has forecasted this to account for 59 percent in 2018, increasing to 62 percent by 2019.

The amount spent on mobile advertisements has this year surpassed that of desktop ads for the first time ever. This may not come as a surprise considering the fact that mobile is now the primary means of accessing the Internet, with users spending 70 percent of their Internet time on mobile in 2017. This is expected to grow to 76 percent by 2019.

“For most consumers and advertisers, the mobile Internet is now the normal Internet,” added Barnard.

The mass global uptake of smartphones means there is an increased contact between brands and consumers, and marketers must embrace these changes in consumer behaviour. Vittorio Bonori, Zenith’s global brand president, said:

“Because the Internet is now mobile, brands have the opportunity to use it to communicate to consumers during more of their lives – when they are shopping, socialising and travelling as well as when at their desk. By reaching consumers at the right occasions with tailored messages, brands can guide them through the consumer journey more effectively.”