There’s a major new trend that unites everything from internet advertising to ride-hailing to travel-booking: They’re all slowing down.
After years of hyper-growth rates of 50% per year or more, metrics across the consumer tech industry are seeing growth rates shrink to more conventional levels in unison. Or as analysts for Barclays, who highlighted the trend in a research note on Sunday, put it: “The internet is slowing big-time.”
Behind this seismic change is the end of another, larger shift: The end of mobile’s half-decade of runaway growth. For the past five or so years, the explosion in smartphones has provided a perfect platform to turbocharge companies that sat on top of that; in 2019, players are well-established, competition is heavy, and consumers are locked into their chosen platforms — providing fewer opportunities for major growth.
“This tells us the underlying change agent is likely mobile going from a much stronger growth cadence from 2012-2016,” Barclays analysts wrote, “as companies figured out how to leverage the new medium and as consumers shifted their traffic patterns from desktop, to today’s much more saturated and mature stage for mobile.”
In other words, the mobile gold-rush is now firmly behind us, and future growth for internet companies will need to be much more hard-won.
So what exactly is going on? Pick an important tech metric — volume of messages sent, ride-hailing cars called, number of people music streaming, and so on. Chances are its growth rate is slowing down markedly.
Barclays’ analysts have identified a slew of these shifts, pointing to a broader trend in the industry. It’s not really going into decline, but it is losing its meteoric trajectory that minted countless billionaires and made its stocks the hottest properties on Wall Street.
The number of active Android devices will only grow an estimated 9% in 2019, compared to 50% in 2017. The number of messages sent across all of Facebook’s apps is estimated to grow 10% this year, down from 33% two years ago. Digital mobile advertising is showing stronger growth but still slowing — to 40% in 2018, down from 109% in 2013. Booking.com’s bookings grew 10% in the first quarter of 2019, down from 31% in Q4 2016.
“These are just a few examples, we could rattle off many more: ride-hailing bookings growth rates, Tencent’s ads and games deceleration, Alibaba GMV and revenue deceleration, Baidu’s ad growth implosion,” Barclays analysts wrote. “The deceleration is uniform across geographies and across consumer internet business models.”
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