What Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends 2018 Means for Utilities

Author: Håkan Ludvigson

On Wednesday, Mary Meeker presented the annual update of her famous Internet Trends report. The annual presentation that takes place at the Code conference, is often described as the State of the Union for the tech industry.

Meeker’s 2018 Internet Trends report, 294 slides long was published after the presentation and goes into detail about how markets, trends and online consumer behaviour is evolving.

Image source: Recode

 

To check out Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends 2018 in full, you find the presentation on YouTube and the 294 page report on Slideshare. With this blog post, I wanted to highlight some of the most important trends and how they affect utilities.

Forget mobile-first: The rise of the mobile-only consumer

We spend our lives on screens and as Mary Meeker points out, even though desktop computers aren’t going away anytime soon, an increasing portion of our day is spent with our mobile. In many countries, a majority of consumers don’t use a desktop outside of work and the trend is spreading.

Customers today expect their service providers to meet them on their mobile and they expect the frictionless, smooth user experience they have become used to by service providers such as Uber, Spotify and Deliveroo. Utilities have a lot of catching up to do here — very few utilities enable their customers to conduct all business on the mobile, let alone with the frictionless experience they expect.

For millennials in particular, if you are not on their phone, you barely exist at all, but the trend of wanting to access everything instantly, in real time from your phone is spreading to other demographics. Intercom has a great article on the subject.

E-commerce eats the world — peckish for the utilities market?

E-commerce 15% YoY growth shows no signs of a plateau — quite the opposite, the growth is accelerating! The industry is poised to disrupt not only retail, but any B2C market.

2017 saw the first signs of this in Europe. In France, €40Bn retailer Casino Groupe and its €2Bn market leading e-commerce platform Cdiscount launched energy supplier GreenYellow in late 2017. With a unique and fully mobile approach, its offer is poised to become a game-changer for the French market. Hint: GreenYellow runs on Eliq’s customer engagement platform 😁.

As a takeaway from the report, I would simply encourage more experimentation in collaboration between e-commerce and utilities, before big tech swoops in. We’ve all heard the whispers and rumours of Amazon eying the utility space…

Product adoption cycles are shortening

This is hardly news of the year , but the trend of shortening technology adoption cycles is continuing. People are becoming more and more receptive of new technologies. This may indicate that new energy technologies like EVs, solar and storage will be ready for mass-adoption, which could happen quicker than we may think, once we hit the technology cost tipping point. EY will walk you through when that may happen in different regions, displayed on this site (thanks @Rob Doepel and @Benoit Laclau at EY for a terrific job 🙌).

Privacy concerns among consumers are rising

In the past year, I’m sure no one has missed what’s been going on with Facebook? Consumers’ awareness of how their data us used is on the rise and with GDPR it’s not only appropriate to inform and give customers choice, in EU it’s the law.

Generally speaking, consumers want to see clear value returned to them if they should be willing to share their data, something utilities need to fully embrace in order to make use of smart meter data.

China, China, China — but where is China?

Much of the report talks about the skyrocketing rise of China’s internet economy. Out of the world’s top 20 valued internet companies, 11 are American and 9 are now Chinese and the Chinese are taking a firm lead in the adoption of new consumer behaviour, such as the use of mobile payments, instant messaging and mobile video services. But in energy tech, China has yet to enter the building.

We’ve seen significant Chinese investment in the energy sector over the past decade where the energy sector has grown quickly thanks to the rising demand and the country now is the home of the world’s largest utility. We’ve also seen the country invest heavily in traditional energy such as oil and generation assets (Want specifics? This Bloomberg article will get you started.) but only recently we are faced with the takeover of a major European energy supplier, with Chinese state-owned CTG’s bid to buy Portugal’s EDP. Maybe 2018 will mark a milestone in the change in Chinas role in the global energy market.

Final words

As a technologist with a particular interest in consumer behaviour, I read the Mary Meeker report from end-to-end each year and would encourage anyone in the business to do the same. We must not look only to our own industry in understanding where it is going, or as the engineer in me would say:

“Where we are going as an industry is not a function of our past, but of the future of consumers and adjacent industries.”

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