Starcom Worldwide, in partnership with eMarketer and GlobalWebIndex, has published the Global Media Intelligence study for the past nine years, assessing more than 40 countries and 2 billion Internet users. The study reveals the trends and differences in consumer preferences by country. The results are surprising.

"There have been a lot of changes across the decades," says Kelly Kokonas (pictured at top), executive vice president, global data strategy at Starcom Worldwide. "Trying to find a data source across markets for time spent with media was elusive because there were a lot of data sets across markets, as well as a lot of data sources that gave slightly different stats. So, this intelligence report has become a great resource."

This study has proven to be a strategic asset for Starcom clients at the campaign level, "when we are doing strategy work, understanding people's changing use of media over time, as well as the direction and magnitude of that change," Kokonas says. "But it also has a great value at the portfolio level of brands or across categories, where this data is used as a foundational understanding for local and global budgets and where to spend by channel."

It also helps to inform advertisers on emerging channels, which may be harder to measure and "the return on investment may be lower," she adds.

Revealing Global Trends

Having a decade's worth of data enables Kokonas to see profound trends. "Ten years ago, we were tracking household broadband penetration," she says, "and if any market got to 40 percent, it was a digital revolution."

Fast-Forward to where we are today: That digital revolution "is further accelerated by mobile and mobile experiences, which have further accelerated overall video viewing, including more VOD and the rise of … smart TVs in the household," Kokonas explains, adding that even these changes vary across the globe. "You have to consider all of the changes in the different markets."

Brazil, for example, ranks ahead of all other markets in mobile phone usage, while Russian media is still in a state of transition, with digital devices and activities becoming more mainstream for the first time, the report found. China still stands as an outlier, Kokonas points out. Consumers there lead in adopting smart devices such as a digitally enabled wristband, smart doorbell, or other smart appliances. The magnitude of those changes year over year will continue to be profound.

Revealing Global Consumer Behaviors

With all of the convenience and connectedness that technology offers today, are consumers becoming more demanding of its capabilities? "Certainly, consumer expectations are high," Kokonas says. "We can infer that — with the proliferation of devices for these digitally-enabled experiences — as people are surprised and delighted with what they can do on their mobile device or with a branded experience, there is enthusiasm for more of these experiences."

These experiences go far beyond static advertising, which consumers may want to avoid. People are drawn to "premium experiences … that they love and get some benefit from, that makes them lean in and engage in a transaction with a brand in a different way," Kokonas explains. All these experiences are intertwined with commerce, as behaviors are tracked through the funnel, enabling a clearer "why," "how," and how frequently interactions are happening between consumers and brands.

Brands Harnessing the New Technology

There are myriad opportunities in every vertical to harness the potential of emerging technologies —from mobile banking to CPG involving mobile payments and commerce. The extent to which individual brands harness the power of new technology depends on their digital maturity, just like the differences across countries, Kokonas points out. Some clients, she says, are even strategizing in product and commerce development. "The extent of those specifics depends on the category, the brand, and the maturity of the market," she says.

For marketers who want to harness a specific technology, the report may provide the needed insight. In the case of voice technology, for example, the report enables marketers to, "see which of those geographies have a mature enough marketplace around voice assistants to invest … marketing dollars and expect a positive return."

Surprises in this Year's Study

Emerging technology is expanding in some interesting ways. "Voice assistants tend to skew male and young, which I find interesting," Kokonas says. "I'm not sure why that would be. But then I remind myself that it is not just an Alexa in the household, but it's also geo-navigation."

In addition, she is seeing from the report findings that the use of digital devices is increasing, but the rate of the increase by country varies because of logistics and infrastructure. For example, digital viewers in Germany, especially older adults, are still attached to traditional media and are not rushing to adapt to new technology. Part of this is due to a lack of robust networks, since so much money was spent, instead, on reunification.

Compare this to Hong Kong, which admittedly has a smaller geography, but also is among those with the "world's highest rate of advanced digital device ownership, which is encouraged by virtual, universal internet access," Kokonas says.

What's Next…

Kokonas believes that this study is ideal for helping marketers to expand the range of opportunities they can use to reach the right audiences, even if standard measurement hasn't quite caught up to the advancing technology. "It will continue to be elusive as to how to measure return on investment. I have not seen a marketing mix model on voice yet, [for example]," she says. "There will always be this pressure, this tension, to measure these emerging technologies and their ability to impact business. The best way forward is to test and learn."

But beyond that, she added, "it is about the relentless pursuit of the human truth. This data is really an awesome baseline for all of that across so many different media channels and media experiences, as well as across the different countries," she concluded.

Read the original news article in Media Village here