The Phenomenal Growth of the Online Market Place
The growth of the online market has been nothing short of explosive. In 1995, the online population numbered just 16 million – just 0.4% of the world population.
“When I took office, only high energy physicists had ever heard of what is called the World Wide Web… Now even my cat has it’s own page.” – Bill Clinton
Since then, the number of Internet users has grown exponentially each year. Today, of the estimated 7 billion people on earth, a third – or 2.3 billion people – is online.
This represents a massive growth over the last 17 years and the trend shows no signs of slowing down.
The distribution of Internet users
Of course, these users are not evenly spread across the globe. And the actual figures may surprise. The largest number of Internet users is, in fact, in Asia, home to just under half of the total global Internet population. North America is only in third place, after Europe in second place.
However, this certainly does not mean that the Internet populations in areas outside Asia are small. Europe’s online population numbers a staggering half a billion users, while North America’s online population exceeds 273 million users. Even in Africa, only fifth on the list, the online market numbers almost 140 million people.
These are substantial markets indeed. And, extensive as they are, they are growing exponentially.
The number of Internet users around the globe has grown by an impressive 528% since 2000. While from a low base, the number of users in Africa, for example, has grown by a whopping 2 988.4% over the last 11 years. In the Middle East, the growth rate has been no less impressive at 2 244.8%.
What is driving this growth?
Technology advances – particularly broadband, mobile and, most recently, social media – are driving the exponential growth in the number of Internet users.
As broadband develops and prices are reduced, increasing numbers of people are gaining access to the Internet. In fact, in 2012, an estimated 2.3 billion households have Internet access and around 35% of these have access to fixed broadband.
Mobile technology, of course, has enabled a far greater reach of the Internet, increasing the number of Internet users everywhere, regardless of the availability of broadband infrastructure.
Social media, too, has played a huge role in the way people communicate via the Internet, giving people everywhere an opportunity to express and exchange ideas and opinions like never before.
What does it mean?
But what does it all mean? It means that the sci-fi notion of a “Global Village”, envisioned in the 1970’s by Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980), a communications visionary, has become a reality.
In this “Global Village” we can chat to a friend in China as easily as we can message a colleague in Tanzania. We can source information, products and services from anywhere in world. Teams can collaborate across vast distances and people who have never met in person – and perhaps never will – can connect and exchange information, ideas and opinions. Communications have been internationalized – or more accurately – globalized.
But the Internet has also become the universal source of information for millions of people – at home, at school, and at work. We can find tomes of information online – everything from ancient writings to the physical address of the local dentist – no matter where in the world we are. Few people still page through magazines or phone the Directory Services anymore. Increasing numbers of consumers, business owners and company buyers around the world choose the Internet as their information source and search online for information, intelligence, products, services and suppliers.
Perhaps even more importantly, increasing numbers of Internet users are buying online, becoming ever-more comfortable with the notion of online shopping, whether for books, clothes or even groceries.
This is evident from the latest global e-commerce sales data from Goldman Sachs, which shows that online sales figures have grown from $572.5 billion in 2010 to $820.5 billion in 2012. This market is expected to grow to $963 billion in the next year.
What are the implications for businesses?
The Internet has levelled the playing field across the globe. Whether you are a large multi-national corporation or a small one-man business, you can have a presence on the Internet through a low-cost web page or website.
In addition, there is a world of online marketing strategies to ensure that your web presence is found by those who are interested in your products of services – all of which are cost-effective and can be implemented easily when following a step-by-step system. And the possibilities are endless: from simply connecting to potential customers to generating online sales totalling billions of dollars per annum.
It means that it no longer matters where your company is based, how big or small you are, or what products or services you provide. You can tap into this growing global online market and expand your reach beyond borders and any boundaries that previously existed.
What are the implications for marketers?
The growth of the online market, providing direct and cost-effective access to millions of Internet users around the globe, has opened up massive opportunities for marketers at a time when the effects of the Global Financial Crisis are still tangible and hopes of a recovery remain muted.
Nevertheless, much of the opportunities within this rapidly growing online market remain untapped, mainly due to the fact that technology has advanced so fast that even the most dedicated marketing specialists have struggled to keep up.
However, those progressive companies that do tap into this massive growth market have a huge opportunity to expand their markets – even globally – and to reach millions of consumers in a streamlined and exceptionally cost-effective way. The opportunities are so vast that if a critical mass of organisations begins to tap into this online market, the global economic recovery can be accelerated exponentially.
Market of the future
Given the existing numbers of Internet users and the rate at which these numbers are growing, fuelled by advances in broadband, mobile and social media, there is no doubt that the online market is the market of the future.
Tapping into this massive growth market requires little more than understanding the rules of engagement, obtaining the cost-effective tools and implementing a step-by-step system. You will find a number of these systems detailed in the guides I publish, condensing the expertise and experience gained after more than a decade on the cutting edge of online marketing as the digital revolution unfolded. It has been an exciting journey, but it is going to get far more exciting as more and more companies discover the power of online marketing and contribute to an unprecedented global economic recovery.