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This monthly bulletin on all things digital listens in to consumption as consumers themselves see and tell it online. News and trends are covered under the following topics: Internet shopping & “sellsumers”, citizen advertising and crowdsourcing (brands working with consumers to promote themselves, co-create and relate), frugalistas & consumer vigilantes, microblogging, tech-savvy generations Y & Z, social networking, mobile onliners and the blogosphere.

Global Internet Users: 2010-2020

Source: Euromonitor International from International Telecommunications Union/World Bank/Trade Sources

Note:  Data from 2013 onwards is forecasted

1. INTERNET SHOPPING AND “SELLSUMERS”

Internet Retail Sales: 2012-2017

Source: Euromonitor International from Trade Sources/National Statistics

Note: Data from 2013 onwards is forecasted

Some US online retailers fear a disappointing shopping season

Online shops in the USA are concerned that economic uncertainty could mean a slow holiday season for online shoppers. Executives of EBay, usually a driver for holiday e-commerce, gave a disappointing forecast for the holiday season and said e-commerce was noticeably soft. Traditional retailers like Walmart have also reported a lethargic autumn. However, Google, which  makes much of its ad revenue from e-commerce,  said that it had not noticed a significant decline in retail spending this autumn, with Google’s chief business officer, Nikesh Arora, saying that overall,  performance was strong in the retail sector.”

Colin Gillis, an analyst at financial firm BGC Partners told the New York Times, however, that it remains to be seen whether economic uncertainty means people shop less during the holidays. “The average American might say, ‘I’m nervous, not as confident,’ ” he said. “But that doesn’t really mean they’re not going to go out and spend as much over the holidays. That’s one thing I’ve learned about Americans: they love to buy.”

Another potential challenge for online retailers this holiday season is that people are increasingly window shopping on mobile phones, but they are still much less likely to make purchases on mobile devices than they are on computers. Consumers make purchases after clicking on an ad on a mobile device at just a quarter of the rate that they do on computers, according to BGC Partners.

2. CITIZEN ADVERTSING AND CROWDSOURCING

Brands working with consumers to promote themselves, co-create and relate.

Online Adspend in Top Five Markets: 2007-2012

Source: Euromonitor International from World Association of Newspapers/Jupiter Research

Note: Data ranked by 2012

More Israeli homeowners becoming hoteliers

Ruben Elkes, the CEO of one of Israel’s largest hotel chains, Fattal, has been speaking about the threats to the hotel industry hailing from websites matching homeowners with tourists. In recent years, the practice of renting out private homes for tourists for short periods of time has become widespread, aided by websites such as Airbnb.com and booking.com. On the former site alone, the volume of reservations, reported local newspaper, Haaretz, rose by 400% in the past year – up to 80,000 overnight stays in 2012.

3. FRUGALISTAS, CONSUMER VIGILANTEES & CYBERCRIME

Australian consumer group objects to blurred boundaries between advertising and editorial on social media

Celebrities are being paid to not only tweet information about certain products, but also to post photographs taken by themselves of themselves – known as “selfies” – wearing certain brands. Australian consumer group Choice, which has launched a campaign to raise awareness about stealth advertising in celebrity Twitter feeds, claiming product plugging is on the increase. ‘We’ve seen a rise of celebrity selfies and an increasing popularity of them and we thought it was time consumers understood what was going on,” said Tom Godfrey from Choice. Social media expert Kai Riemer, of the University of Sydney, said that while the Choice campaign was an admirable one, there was little that could be done to police and enforce boundaries between advertising and editorial on social media. ”They might see it as a natural extension of their celebrity power base,” said Riemer told news.com.au.

4.  MICROBLOGGING

Microblogging a part of daily life for many Chinese students

During the first half of 2013, the Chinese Institute of Psychology, Sina Weibo Data Centre, and the Beijing Committee of the Communist Youth League of China conducted a joint study of how university students were using microblogs. It found that students liked to share their lives on these networks via text and photos, with many providing multiple daily updates on their location.

Sina Weibo’s deputy general manager Wei Li said that more than 30 million university students were users of its microblogging service (Weibo). The study also found that such celebrities as actresses Yao Chen and Xie Na were the most popular microbloggers among university students.

5. GENERATIONS Y and Z

Gen Y or Millennials  – the kids of baby boomers and born in the mid-1980s-mid 1990s, and Gen Z, born 1995+  and nicknamed “digital natives”  – weaned on things digital with their lifelong experience of communications and media technologies.

Chilean YouTube sensation heads to Hollywood

23-year-old Germán Garmendia has become famous in Chile for his funny YouTube videos. His channel on the website has more than ten million subscribers, with a similar number following him on Facebook. He also has more than two million followers on Twitter, more than any other Chilean. His channel is called “Hola Soy Germán” (Hi, I’m Germán).

According to the BBC website, the secret of his success lies in “simple, direct humour based on everyday events that anyone can relate to. He talks about ex-girlfriends, friends, school, phobias and addictions.” Garmendia said: “I talk about things that everyone has gone through.” In August, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career, but he continues to post videos for his many fans at home.

6. SOCIAL NETWORKING

The Pope is on Instagram!!

The Pope has joined the ‘selfie’ brigade by setting an Instagram account. After global success on Twitter, where he has over three million followers, and a Facebook presence, Pope Francis is casting his social media net even wider, hoping to inspire more people on his Pope Francis profile.

The Vatican itself is also on the Instagram site and its @newsva feed has around 1,700 followers. Posts on the feed include shots of the Vatican itself, and crowds waiting to see the Pope.

7. MOBILE ONLINERS

Start-up developing mobile phone games to appeal to Africans

Launched in May 2013, Lagos-based Maliyo Games is developing smartphone games specifically for Africa, website IT news Africa report. The company’s games include “The Tribes”, where players rearrange tiles to create images of couples wearing traditional dress, “My Village”, a memory game where players have to match cards depicting village items, ranging from machetes and drums to bowls and kettles, “Kidnapped”, which challenges the player to attempt to rescue a couple of kidnap victims, and “Mosquito Smasher”. These games may be simplistic, but they require a degree of skill and are entertaining – at least for a few minutes.

Smartphone fashion shoots

In September 2013, photographer Michael O’Neal collaborated with Vogue to debut an Instagram fashion shoot which had all the photos taken and uploaded with a smartphone. September’s #VogueInstaFashion series, using only an iPhone, was the first high fashion shoot on the photo-sharing app . This shoot featured models in New York locations and combined couture with accessible technology for a wider audience.

8. THE BLOGOSPHERE

New comparison site for the peer-to-peer rental and ride-sharing market

How should a traveller navigate the increasingly crowded territory of the peer-to-peer rental market? This is a market that includes travel-related sites such as Airbnb. The creators of a new aggregator, Outpost. Travel, believe their offering is the solution. The site shows listings from various peer-to-peer categories, including lodging, transportation and trip guides. Outpost.Travel was founded by two former college students from Montreal, Hamed Al-Khabaz, 21, and Ovidiu Mija, 20. “In the beginning we wanted to include everything peer-to-peer, but we realized the travel market is the biggest,” Mr. Al-Khabaz said. He explained that he and Mr. Mija are working to expand the categories available and that they hope to soon start listing boat rentals like GetMyBoat, plus other services travellers may find useful, like the dog-sitter finder DogVacay.

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