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How consumers use the internet and online based digital technologies and it’s impact on our lives.
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A Brief Introduction
The internet is an electronic communications network that allows digital information to travel around the world. It is the very
infrastructure that lets you order from online retailers, share your life on social media, stream your favourite TV shows and
email someone on the other side of the world.
The world wide web is a way to view and share information over the internet. The information can be in the form of text,
images, videos, music etc. and it is all complied within web pages served by a web browser.
The rapid increase in electronic devices and online developments has seen the trend that started with mobile phones,
computers, tablets and TV’s move on to watches, washing machines, thermostats, and home speakers.
The internet has become a vacuum for organisations that want to track trends and consumer behaviours and thus the
evolution of digital marketing.
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Access to the Internet
The early 90’s saw the release of the first web browser. At that
time estimates suggest that only half of a percent of the
world’s population were online. Over the decade there were
huge developments in technology which meant the cost of
owning and running a computer became more affordable and
thus allowed more people to begin accessing and using the
internet. Throughout the same decade internet companies
such as Amazon, eBay and Google launched, which saw the
rise of over 255 million internet users by 1999. (Pew research
Fast forward 20 years; 96% of households in the UK had
internet access as of January 2020, up from 93% in 2019 and
57% in 2006. (National Statistics, 2020)
January 2021 has seen over 4.8 billion internet users
worldwide, up from 4.5 billion in 2020. (Statista, 2021)
TOTAL POPULATION INTERNET USERS
Fig 1. Statistics for the world’s population and internet users | we are social, 2021
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Access to the Internet
As of 2019, a third of online users worldwide were aged
between 25 and 34 years which is significantly higher then the
other age groups. (Statista, 2019)
18-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 65+
Fig 2. Statistics for the world’s online users | Statista, 2019
Social media started in the early 2000s. The first social media site to reach a
million active users was MySpace in 2004, marking the beginning of social media
as we know it. Social media has changed the digital world, the rapid and vast
adoption of these internet based applications has changed how consumers access
information and how marketers track trends and consumer behaviour. (Our world
Using the internet is a big part of younger people’s lives. Social media sites are
particularly popular among younger generations, in general, young people are
more likely to use social media than older people. 18-34 year olds have a
significantly higher share of social media usage compared with other generations.
(we are social, 2021)
Fig 3. Statistics for the world’s social media users | we are social, 2021
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ON PREVIOUS YEAR
ON PREVIOUS YEAR
ON PREVIOUS YEAR
MOBILE PHONES LAPTOPS & DESKTOPS
Fig 4. Statistics for the share of web traffic by device | we are social, 2021
Digital devices used by audiences
Unsurprisingly, mobile phones are the most widely used
internet device worldwide. However, the gap between mobiles
and laptops and desktops is often quite small, especially in
Western parts of the world.
Laptops and desktops still account for a large share of the
world’s internet activity, with more than 40% of web pages
served in December 2020 being requested by web browsers
running from either a laptop or a desktop computer. In
comparison the overall share of these devices is slightly lower
compared with the previous year.
Mobile phones continue to have the highest share of web
traffic with 55.7%, an increase of 4.6% on the previous year.
Mobile phones are generally more readily available and more
convenient in terms of usage. For marketers is it apparent that
mobile phones are clearly the most important part of the
device mix, but it is clear from these statistics that other
devices simply cannot be ignored – especially in Western
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How consumers search for information
Generally, consumers tend to search the web by using three
different ways; navigational queries, information queries and
commercial queries. (Gabbert, 2021)
The vast amount of information stored online nowadays
means that being able to search through it quickly is a
necessity in modern day, time-starved consumers. Today,
online consumers have a monumental array of search tools
available to navigate the world wide web, including:
• Search engines (e.g. Google), to look for information
through specific keywords
• Large marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay, where
consumers can evaluate offers from competing sellers
• Social networks (e.g. Facebook, Instagram)
• Entertainment search websites (e.g. YouTube)
• Specialised search tools for particular services, such as
online travel agents (e.g. booking.com)
In addition, consumers can browse directly through the
websites of the retailers they know and trust.
91.4% 2.7% 1.5%
Google dominates the search engine market share with 91.4% of global
web search traffic as of December 2020, significantly higher and record
breaking compared with Bing or Yahoo for example.
63.4% 19.3% 3.8%
Google Chrome has the highest share of global web traffic by browser
based on web pages served to a web browser running on any device, as
of January 2021.
Fig 5. Statistics from Digital 2021| we are social, 2021
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Fashion & Beauty
Fig. 6 US statistics on the ecommerce spend by category online| we are social, 2021
What consumers buy online and trends
In 2020, the biggest selling e-commerce category in the United
States was fashion and beauty, followed closely by travel &
accommodation. Interestingly however, food and personal
care had the strongest growth over the past year with an
increase of 28%, whilst fashion and beauty only saw an
increase of 17.2% on the previous year. Understandably travel
and accommodation saw a significant decrease by 47.9% on
the previous year, likely impacted by the coronavirus
pandemic. (we are social, 2021)
The coronavirus pandemic continues to have a significant
influence on e-commerce activities around the world. As
millions of people stayed home in early 2020 to contain the
spread of the virus, digital channels have become the most
popular alternative to in-store shopping. In June 2020, global
retail e-commerce traffic stood at 22 billion monthly visits,
with demand being exceptionally high for every-day items
such as groceries and clothing. Online buying habits and
trends, and the overall future of e-commerce in 2021 and
beyond will largely depend on the further progression of the
coronavirus pandemic. (Coppola, 2021)
Electronics & Physical Media
Travel & Accommodation
Food & Personal Care
Fig. 7 Fig. 8
Fig. 9 Fig. 10
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people worldwide purchase goods online.
of purchasing begins online.
of consumers shop more on their mobile than in-store.
Of online buyers shop at least once a month.
Of consumers are more likely to purchase a product online when
offered free shipping.
Of consumers are more likely to make a purchase when offered
free returns and exchanges.
of online shoppers like to receive an incentive or promotion
from a brand before making a purchase.
Of online shoppers refer to at least one social media site for
recommendations before shopping online.
Fig 11. US statistics on online consumer shopping habits & behaviour| invesp, 2020 | oberlo, 2020
What consumers buy online and trends
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Online video consumption
Video is powerful. McCue (2020) argues video is the most
powerful and persuasive marketing tool today. For every new
thing that hits the market, nothing seems to capture people’s
attention as much as online video.
‘The importance of videos can’t be understated.
Videos can help you explain and showcase your
products better than images ever can’. (Barker, n.d.)
McCue (2020) explains how video, as an information and
entertainment conduit is ever-growing. It is predicted that by
2022, video will make up for 82% of all web traffic (15 times
higher than in 2017).
‘Sight, sound and motion have been unleashed in a
way that no one could have imagined just 10 years
ago. The golden age of video is upon us, and it
looks as though video advertising is poised to
become a marketing juggernaut.’ (Skeens, 2020)
Khabab (2020) states 78% of marketers believe that video has
secured new customers and one company found that including
video on a landing page increased conversions by 80%.
Video used to be confined to TV, but now with the growth of digital
devices and mobile phones in particular becoming bigger, and faster
you can tune in wherever and whenever. Most people will use their
smartphone as their primary choice for watching online video but this
varies by age group, see below.
18-25 years 26-35 years 36-45 years 46-60 years 60+ years
Computer Mobile Phone Tablet Smart TV Other device
Fig 12. Devices used to watch online video, worldwide, by age group | Statista, 2019
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Social Media The meaning of social networking sites and the purpose they serve
has changed dramatically. Social platforms have come a long way from being a
place for socialising and entertainment, they’ve become a vacuum marketing and
‘Given the importance of social media in consumers' lives, marketers and
businesses flock to social platforms in the hope of connecting with their target
customers’ Geyser, (2021).
Brands have long used social media to sell their products. Geyser (2021) believes
that in 2022, the ability to buy products directly through social media will
become a norm. In fact, eMarketer anticipates the social commerce industry will
be worth $80 billion by 2025.
From shoppable posts to Instagram Storefronts, social networks are continuously
evolving to become retail platforms.
Video Content As outlined by Geyser (2021) video content remains one of the
most engaging forms of digital content. It’s important to understand how the
utilization of video content will determine relevance in the social media domain
because soon, videos will dominate social media.
However, it is recognised by the experts that long-form content is no longer the
most popular route.
‘You simply have to look at the success of Stories, Reels, and TikTok to realize that
engaging short-form videos are now the preferred choice of consumers’ (Geyser,
These are just a few, of many examples of how consumers’ use of technology has
changed over the past few years. Technology is ever evolving and with that so will
eCommerce It’s no surprise that new shopping habits are reshaping the modern
digital world, since the start of Covid-19 we have seen an astronomical rise in
online consumption. Startzel (2020) explains how these lockdown-driven shifts
are creating new consumer behaviours; brands that once relied on foot traffic are
being forced to shift to e-commerce strategies and many are surprised to find
that it’s now the most important component. E-commerce sales increased by
25% in March 2020, proving the start of a steady and unprecedented trend.
‘E-commerce had been a booming trend even before COVID-19, but the recent
push to all things online shopping has accelerated the adoption curve, bringing a
step change across all demographics. Consider that even the 65-plus
demographic has demonstrated a 195% increase in e-commerce activity from
January to March. During the same period, purchases made by women increased
170%, and those made by men grew at 152%’ (Starzel, 2020).
Fig 13. Kruk, I. (n.d.) Shutterstock [photograph]
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• As of October 2021 there were 4.88 billion active internet users worldwide, that’s over 60% of the global population. Of that total, 92.6% (4.32 billion) accessed the internet via
mobile devices (DataReportal, 2021).
• The average internet user spends approximately 7 hours online each day (WeAreSocial, 2021).
• Today, a world without internet and digital technology is unimaginable. Connecting billions of people worldwide, the internet is the core infrastructure of modern information, an
e-commerce vacuum and a social hot spot.
• Social Media usage continues to grow, with global users reaching 4.55 billion as of October 2021. ‘That’s equal to 57.6% of all the people on Earth’ (DataReportal, 2021).
• As reported by WeAreSocial (2021), nearly 6 in 10 internet users aged 16-64 buy something online every week.
• The new age digital consumer is more informed, more connected and more empowered than ever before (Carpenter, 2013).
• ‘The past two years amid a global pandemic have accelerated digital transformation and consumer behaviour in ways few experts could have anticipated’ (Droesch et al, 2022)
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References and sources
Barker, S. (n.d.) ’14 Ecommerce Trends Leading the Way’ BigCommerce [online]. Available at: https://www.bigcommerce.co.uk/articles/ecommerce/ecommerce-trends/ [accessed
17th March 2021]
Carpenter, GS 2013 'Power Shift: The Rise of the Consumer-Focused Enterprise in the Digital Age'. http://www.reviewtrackers.com/wp-content/uploads/Rise-of-the-Consumer-
Coppola, D. (2021) ‘E-commerce worldwide- statistics & facts’ Statista [online]. Available at: https://www.statista.com/topics/871/online-shopping/ [accessed 17th March 2021]
Datareportal (2021) ‘Digital Around The World’ [online] Available at: https://datareportal.com/global-digital-overview [accessed 17th January 2022]
Droesch B. Digalaki E. Fisher B. Lipsman A. Briggs P. Wurmser Y. Schomer A. Davidkhanian S. Enberg J. von Abrams K. Phillips L. Ceurevels M. Williamson D. (2022) ‘Top 10 Trends in
2022 – A Guide to the Biggest Developments in Our Coverage Areas’ [online]. Available at: https://www.emarketer.com/content/top-10-trends-2022 [accessed 17th January
Gabbert, E. (2021) ‘The 3 Types of Search Queries & How You Should Target Them’ WordStream [online]. Available at: https://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2012/12/10/three-
types-of-search-queries [accessed 17th March 2021]
Geyser, W. (2021) ’17 Social Media Trends for 2022 and Beyond’ influencermarketinghub.com [online]. Available at: https://influencermarketinghub.com/social-media-trends/
[accessed 6th January 2022]
Fig 8 Guillem, A. (n.d.) Single woman watching online tv in the night. Shutterstock [online]. Available at: https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/single-woman-watching-
online-tv-night-1144818344 [accessed 10th February 2021]
Jefferson (n.d.) ‘From ARPAnet to world wide web: an internet history timeline’ in thomasjeffersonuniversity.com [online]. Available at:
https://online.jefferson.edu/business/internet-history-timeline/ [accessed 9th February 2021]
Fig 9 Kalamurza, I. (n.d.) Young couple planning honeymoon vacation trip with map. Shutterstock [online]. Available at: https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/young-
couple-planning-honeymoon-vacation-trip-293482145 [accessed 10th February 2021]
Fig 1, 3, 4, 5 & 6 Kemp, S. (2021) ‘Digital 2021: Global overview report’ [online]. Available at: https://wearesocial.com/digital-2021 [accessed 16th March 2021]
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References and sources
Khabab, O. (2020) ‘ 2020 Video Marketing Trends And Predicitons’ Forbes [online]. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2020/07/03/2020-video-
marketing-trends-and-predictions/?sh=543162f92bd9 [accessed 17th March 2021]
Fig 10 Klochanko, O. (n.d.) Table with food, top view. Shutterstock [online]. Available at: https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/table-food-top-view-467823860 [accessed
10th February 2021]
Fig 13 Kruk, I. (n.d.) Hands holding credit card and laptop – online shopping. Shutterstock [online]. Available at: https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/hands-holding-credit-
card-using-laptop-289585190 [accessed 6th January 2022]
McCue, T. (2020) ‘The State Of Online Video For 2020’ Forbes [online]. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/tjmccue/2020/02/05/looking-deep-into-the-state-of-online-
video-for-2020/?sh=772e8b4b2eac [accessed 17th March 2021]
Mohsin, M. (2020) ’10 Online Shopping Statistics You Need To Know in 2021’ oberlo.co.uk [online] Available at: https://www.oberlo.co.uk/blog/online-shopping-statistics
[accessed 10th February 2021]
Pew Research Center (2014) ‘World Wide Web Timeline’ [online]. Available at: https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2014/03/11/world-wide-web-timeline/ [accessed 16th
Office for National Statistics (2020) ‘Internet access – households and individuals, Great Britain: 2020’ [online]. Available at:
[accessed 16th March 2021]
Roser, M. & Ritchie, H. & Ortiz-Ospina, E. (n.d.) ‘Internet’ Our World in Data [online]. Available at: https://ourworldindata.org/internet [accessed 16th March 2021]
Fig 11 Saleh, K. (2020) ‘Online Consumer Shopping Habits and Behaviour’ invespcro.com [online]. Available at: https://www.invespcro.com/blog/online-consumer-shopping-
habits-behavior/ [accessed 10th February 2021]
Skeens, L. (2020) ‘ Video Advertising Trends Going Into 2021’ Forbes [online]. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2020/10/12/video-advertising-
trends-going-into-2021/?sh=2398e1fe7761 [accessed 17th March 2021]
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Startzel, M. (2020) ‘Our New Shopping Habits Are Reshaping Modern Commerce’ Forbes [online]. Available at:
https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2020/06/24/our-new-shopping-habits-are-reshaping-modern-commerce/?sh=71965489ebc3 [accessed 10th February
Fig 2 Statista (2019) ‘Distribution of internet users worldwide as of 2019, by age group [online]. Available at: https://www.statista.com/statistics/272365/age-distribution-of-
internet-users-worldwide/ [accessed 16th March 2021]
Fig 12 Statista (2019) ‘Devices used to watch online video worldwide as of August 2019, by age group’ [online]. Available at: https://www.statista.com/statistics/784374/online-
video-devices-by-age/ [accessed 23rd March 2021]
Statista (2021) ‘Global digital population as of January 2021’ [online]. Available at: https://www.statista.com/statistics/617136/digital-population-worldwide/ [accessed 17th
Wallace, T. (n.d.) ‘Modern Consumer Behaviour in the New Omni-Channel World +31 Expert Tips to Dominate It Now’ BigCommerce [online]. Available at:
https://www.bigcommerce.co.uk/blog/consumer-behavior-infographic/#is-it-that-shoppers-arent-shopping [accessed 10th February 2021]
Fig 7 Zonarossa (n.d.) Milan Italy, July 2020, high fashion bags and accessories in the Prada shop window. Shutterstock [online]. Available at:
https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/milan-italy-july-2020-high-fashion-1769336258 [accessed 10th February 2021]
References and sources