We own nearly twice as many tablets as a year ago, and we’re consuming more media than ever before; just two of the nuggets buried in Ofcom’s annual communications report, out today.
This densely packed study – loaded with insight into the nation’s viewing habits and stats on the reach of 4G and broadband – may not seem immediately relevant to anyone in the grocery industry. But it’s essential reading, for what it can tell you about consumers, business – even your own family.
If there’s a theme, it’s that of the inexorable rise of tablets and smartphones. Granted, it’s not a new theme, but the pace of change is eye watering. Tablet ownership among households has jumped from 24% to 44% in a year; there are almost as many smartphones in households as laptop computers; and 55% of us have access to the internet on our phones.
The line most widely reported this morning was that six-year-olds are now as technically competent as 45-year-olds, but that’s deceptive: in fact the older age group is more tech-savvy than ever before. Tablet take-up among over-55s has leapt from 4% just two years ago to 28% now (the same percentage of over-55s use video streaming services). Smartphone ownership among this age group is a tiny bit lower, at 25% - but it has doubled in two years.
“The internet is at the heart of how many people communicate, find information and seek entertainment,” Ofcom says. “It is becoming increasingly difficult to separate the use of internet services from conventional television, radio and voice communication services – they can all be accessed on the same device.”
Our eyeballs are spending ever more time pressed to a glowing screen of some description – an estimated eight hours and 41 minutes a day, according to Ofcom. And where eyeballs go, money is sure to follow. Advertising spend continues to flow online, rising 15.2% to £6.3bn in 2013. The nearest rival for ad cash is TV, which soaked up £4.6bn.
Of course, the grocers have been scrambling to respond, from Morrisons launching home delivery and Sainsbury’s selling clothes via the web, to Asda investing in click & collect and Tesco promoting the Hudl. Indeed it is ironic that the CEO most engaged with digital advances, Phil Clarke, is the one shortly to depart.
But today’s report drives home the point that technology is changing how we behave and consume at unbelievable, dizzying speed. All retailers – even the discounters who have carved out such success offline – must be thinking two or three steps ahead. And they have to figure out quickly how to make money from their considerable investments in online. For the simple truth is that their customers are already there, waiting for them.