Connected Consumer Survey 2017

October 2017

Key insights for MENA marketers from the 2017 Connected Consumer Study

For over seven years, Google’s Connected Consumer Study has offered marketers and brands insights about audiences, consumer trends and technology shifts in the market.  It’s one of the largest research studies of its kind worldwide with regional coverage spanning 63 markets. The 2017 study lifts the lid on the emergence of a new kind of consumer – the “onliner” – and investigates topics including changes in the device ecosystem, recent shifts in video behaviour and what the future holds in terms of consumer technology. Bolstered by key metrics from Egypt, Saudi and the UAE, the insights are essential reading for marketers in MENA.

The Importance of Onliners to Marketers

According to Google’s Connected Consumer Study, users today think of the Internet as a fun destination as well as a daily-use digital tool and the first place to search for information. Online users – which the study terms “onliners” – are often older than you may think, and many use the Internet several times daily.

In the UAE, 94% of onliners access the Internet more than once a day, while Saudi is aligned with the global average of 86% and in Egypt it’s only slightly lower at 82%. These metrics make it clear that digital offers an opportunity for marketers in the region to create an ongoing dialog with onliners on a day-by-day basis – ideally suited to programmatic moments-based bidding.

Onliners frequently pursue digital activities like search, looking up directions or watching online video. And because search, maps and video and are mobile-centric platforms, onliners are very likely to access them via mobile phone rather than computer.

Changes in the Device Ecosystem

Speaking of mobile, the rise in smartphone and connected devices continues, which influences how people communicate with each other as well as how they interact with digital. In both the UAE and Saudi, 96% of the local population now uses a smartphone, while penetration is at 47% in Egypt.

In spite of the growing relevance of mobile phones for any kind of activity, desktop devices such as laptops and tablets remain relevant. Looking forward, a new generation of connected devices – wearables, smart speakers, digital assistants and VR – is just starting to emerge too. To stay ahead of the curve, now is the time for brands to explore how these new opportunities can support consumers and business goals alike.

Many onliners believe that new technologies offer more opportunities than risks, but again it’s paramount to them that their data remains safe. This calls for companies to invest in sensitive data management and to prioritize transparency.

Video and New Consumer Behaviors

Next to traditional, linear TV, people today are enjoying TV content online using services including Chromecast TV, Amazon Fire and Apple TV. They’re also using catch-up TV and on-demand services, as well as simply streaming TV content online. On top of these options, consumers are taking advantage of videos available online beyond TV content, such as videos on YouTube, on social media or on any type of website. Like digital TV, watching online videos is a growing trend.

While modern TV sets offer internet access and online video platforms offer traditional TV content, it seems people are increasingly directing their focus to the content itself and its availability across screens and viewing options. Users can now access video content across any internet enabled screen when and where they want, as opposed to being constrained by linear broadcast airing schedules. The lines between traditional TV content and online video are blurring, along with the platforms where this type of content is consumed.

Meanwhile, the traditional TV screen is typically surrounded by other connected devices, enticing people to go online while they watch TV – an activity known as “screen stacking.” In the UAE, 52% of people are participating in this phenomenon. In Saudi it’s 36% with Egypt at 21%. For brands, this means a cross-platform, cross-screen approach is paramount in building a video strategy.

Technology and What the Future Holds

Alongside the growth in the average number of connected devices people are using, they’re also starting to embrace the very latest offerings like VR headsets, wearables or apps that can be used on a smart TV. Awareness of digital assistants – new technologies integrated into a connected device – is on the rise as well. With the new technology, discussions around data privacy and security are on the rise, contributing to the creation of a more privacy-savvy user.

In the region, the majority of people say that technology offers more opportunities than risks (76% in UAE, 65% in Saudi and 77% in Egypt). At the same time, the majority affirms that data privacy is really important to them (80% in UAE, 78% in Saudi and 79% in Egypt).

Interestingly, people who rate their digital skills as excellent or good feel more comfortable about and have a better overall perception of digital assistants. The implication for brands? It’s likely that data privacy will always remain a topic of concern, so people need to be reassured that their data is in good hands.

Next Steps

For more research, metrics and insights on your local market, view the Connected Consumer Study here.


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