Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers may not be a household name, but they are renowned in Silicon Valley as the early-stage venture capital fund that backed the biggest names in tech. Google, Amazon, AOL and EA all had KPCB funding at the start of their businesses, and every year, all eyes in digital turn to Mary Meeker, a partner at the firm, who addresses the Code Conference to present its Internet Trends report.

The first key trend for 2018 was that digital is stalling. Mobile has been all over digital trend docs for the last 20 years but this presentation noted early on that 2017 was the first year in which smartphone unit shipments didn’t rise at all. This, combined with the statistic that internet user growth only rose 7% in 2017 compared with 12% the year before, led them to the point that growth in digital is becoming harder to find as there are fewer people left to connect.

Nevertheless, while fewer people are moving online, the vast number of those already connected to the internet are spending more time online than ever before. Users spent 5.9 hours a day online in 2017, up from 5.6 the year before, and more than half of that time – 3.3 hours – was on a mobile device.

This emphasises how mobile is driving the growth in internet usage, and marketers need to ensure not only that their ads are mobile friendly – but that plans are made mobile-first, especially for retail and FMCG clients where the increasing ease and spread of mobile payments has been rapid.

The main note of caution for all brands in the digital space was around the “privacy paradox” for tech companies, where we are caught between the use of data to provide better consumer experiences and the potential misuse to violate consumer rights. GDPR has been one way of moving the industry to a more positive place in terms of requiring user consent for data collection but as e-commerce booms, our digital footprints grow and brands need to ensure standards do not slip again.

This narrative chimes with what we have mentioned previously on the IAB Gold Standard, where the focus for digital should no longer be on growing the sector but making it more sustainable. Whether that is through making ad formats more suitable to a mobile-first world or responsible data collection, brands and marketers all have a part to play.

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