By Rex Hammock
Founder and CEO
About 20 years ago, a Hammock editor made a witty observation that instantly became one of our company’s long-running inside jokes. During a conversation about some wonkish technology trend, the staffer said with a great deal of faux seriousness, “I know I’m going out on a limb here, but I predict that computers will keep getting smaller, and the internet will keep getting faster.” In many subsequent tech discussions, we ask that “futurist,” now the company’s president and COO, to remind us of his tongue-in-cheek prediction.
Funny thing, he was right.
In the year 2000, when Pew Research Center began tracking U.S. internet usage, around 50 percent of Americans had internet access at their homes and zero percent had iPhones. (They weren’t available until seven years later.)
Today, according to Pew, 96 percent of Americans have a smartphone, and 78 percent have a laptop or desktop computer. In other words, just about everyone has internet access all the time.
Here’s something even more amazing: Since the year 2000, we’ve undergone a complete reboot in how we access and use the internet—requiring a whole new understanding of what the internet is becoming. For example, today more people use Google on a smartphone than on a computer. Today, people with fixed broadband are as likely to stream Netflix movies to a WiFi-enabled TV or play online games as they are to be using a desktop or laptop computer.
As for the size of a computer, many are now so small you can barely see them or don’t think of them as being a computer. For example, the Amazon Echo is a computer that has no screen, keyboard or mouse. But people can speak into it to order their groceries and have them delivered to their homes within a couple of hours.
Lesson for Marketers: It’s easy to predict the future of the internet with abstract clichés and statistics. It’s more important to think about ways you can use such technology to build tighter relationships with customers. Don’t focus on macro trends; instead, look for narrow, specific ways you can leverage those trends to make your customers’ lives easier, help them be smarter and make their lives less complicated. Technology that helps is what people want. And I predict that desire will keep growing, no matter how fast technology changes.
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