Written by on

Mobile devices, including both smartphones and tablets, will account for 73% of time spent using the Internet globally in 2018 with video accounting for most of the traffic, research from Zenith Media has revealed.

According to the Zenith Media Mobile Advertising Forecasts 2017 report, mobile Internet usage is up from 70% in 2017 and 65% in 2016, doubling since 2011, when it accounted for 36% of all Internet use. By 2019, Zenith expects it to account for 76% of traffic.

Meanwhile, the spread of smartphones and other mobile devices is increasing the number of contacts between brands and consumers by giving consumers new opportunities to connect to video and media content wherever they are, at any time in the day. Some of these contacts take the form of paid advertising in third-party content, but mobile technology is also enabling broader brand experiences, such as branded content and social media engagement.

In the UK, mobile currently accounts for 57% of average daily Internet consumption, 13 percentage points behind the global average, with a rise to 64% expected in 2018. This is partly because UK has a large installed base of desktop and laptop computers, while in some of the markets with highest mobile shares of Internet use, like China and India, many consumers have gone straight to smartphones without first owning a fixed Internet connection.

The markets where mobile devices have the highest shares of Internet use are geographically diverse. Spain is top, with an estimated 81% of Internet use coming from mobile devices this year, followed by Italy (78%), China and the US (each at 77%) and India (73%).

In line with this shift in consumption behaviour, the amount of money spent on Internet ads going to mobile ads has overtaken the amount spent on desktop ads for the first time this year. Zenith estimates that 53% of all Internet ad spending will go to ads viewed on mobile devices in 2017, and forecast that proportion to rise to 59% in 2018 and 62% in 2019. In 2019 mobile ad spending will total $156 billion, and account for 26% of ad spend across all media.

In the UK, the percentage of Internet ad spend going to mobile is currently estimated to be at 63%, expected to rise to 69% in 2018. Consumers in the UK are very heavy users of mobile e-commerce, which leads brands to spend heavily on mobile search to drive e-commerce sales.

In tandem, global smartphone penetration is set to reach 66% next year, up from 63% in 2017 and 58% in 2016. In the UK, penetration is expected to reach 69% in 2018. The rapid expansion of smartphone ownership across the world, which has transformed the way that advertisers communicate with consumers, is slowing down as penetration reaches 80% to 90% in the most advanced markets. The number of smartphone owners will increase by 7% year on year in 2018, compared to 10% growth in 2017, 14% in 2016 and 21% in 2015.

Western Europe and Asia Pacific continue to lead the world in smartphone ownership. The report predicts that five markets will have smartphone penetration above 90% in 2018: the Netherlands (94%), Taiwan (93%), Hong Kong (92%), Norway and Ireland (each at 91%). 11 markets will have penetration levels between 80% and 90%, all of them in Western Europe and Asia Pacific with the exception of Israel, where penetration will be 86%.

The country with the highest number of smartphone users will be China, with 1.3 billion users, followed by India, with 530 million users. The US will be third, with 229 million users.

“For most consumers and advertisers, the mobile internet is now the normal internet,” said Jonathan Barnard, Zenith’s head of forecasting and director of global intelligence. “The ownership of mobile devices is beginning to saturate in some markets, but there’s plenty of room for further growth across the rest of the world.”