Global Digital Statbites Episode 001

DataReportal’s chief analyst, Simon Kemp, recently hosted a LinkedIn Live session where he shared essential headlines and highlights from our Digital 2021 Global Overview Report.

You can watch Simon’s complete presentation in the video embed below, but scroll on past that to find a full transcript of Simon’s voice-over, together with the slides he shows in the presentation.


If you have any questions about the data and trends featured in this presentation – and what they might mean for you and your business – please feel free to add them to this LinkedIn Live post, or post them in the comments section at the bottom of this post.

Digital 2021 Statbites

Quick-fire headlines and highlights from the 2021 global digital reports


Thanks very much for joining me today – it’s great to have you with us!

I’m Simon Kemp, and over the next 20 minutes or so, I’m going to share some quick-fire insights into some of the key headlines and highlights from our latest Global Digital Reports.

We will have time for your questions after my presentation, so please pop those into the comments below [or add them to this LinkedIn thread] as soon as you spot something you’d like to explore in more detail.

Please feel free to connect with me on other social channels to stay in touch with our ongoing updates too: you’ll find me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Clubhouse as ‘eskimon’

Just a bit of context before we start: I run a company called Kepios, which is a management advisory service that helps organisations all over the world to make sense of what people are really doing online.

And a big part of that work centres on the Global Digital Reports series that we produce on behalf of We Are Social and Hootsuite.

If you’ve not seen these reports before, they offer rich insights into what people in more than 240 countries are doing on the internet, social media, mobile devices, and ecommerce.

And best of all, we make all of those reports available completely for free over on

In addition to producing these reports, Kepios also provides private briefings to help organisations make sense of what the numbers mean for them, and we’re already working with clients as diverse as multinational and SME brands, investment banks and VCs, governments, and NGOs.

If you’d like more information about those briefings, look out for my contact details at the end of this presentation, and I’ll be happy to tell you more.

But the good news is that I’m not here to sell you anything today.

Here’s what I will be covering in my presentation today…

We’ll kick off with a quick look at the latest data headlines, before taking a closer look at 5 key themes that I think marketers will want to pay close attention to over the coming months, including: 

  • The reasons why people use the internet;

  • What devices the world’s internet users are using;

  • How people are searching for things online;

  • Some important insights into social media audiences;

  • And we’ll finish up by exploring the changing demographics of online audiences, before moving on to answer some of your questions.

You can start asking your questions already though – simply pop those into the comments section below [or add them here], and I’ll try to answer as many as I can after my presentation.


Note that I will go quite quickly though many of the data slides today, but don’t worry if you can’t take notes fast enough; you’ll be able to find all of the data charts that I’ll be sharing – whenever you need them – over on

And if you’d like to receive a copy of the slides that I’m presenting today, just leave me a comment below, and I’ll get a PDF of those over to you as soon as I can [or simply scroll to the bottom of this post, where you’ll find a SlideShare embed of the full presentation].

We’ve got loads to get through though, so let’s dive straight into the content, starting with a look at the latest essential headlines from our Digital 2021 Global Overview Report.

And here are some big numbers to start with.

Global Digital Overview January 2021 DataReportal

There are more than 5.2 billion people with a mobile phone around the world today, which equates to two-thirds of the world’s total population.

However, our analysis suggests that the penetration figure for audiences aged 13 and above is already likely to be above 80 percent.

More than three-quarters of the mobile handsets in use today are smartphones, so many of these mobile users have the potential to go online via their handheld devices.

But as you can see, internet users still trail mobile users by a few hundred million.

Our latest data show that 4.66 billion have internet access today, which is tantalisingly close to 60 percent of all the people on Earth.

However, research into internet use has been severely limited by COVID-19, so these numbers may be on the low side.

Meanwhile, data suggest that roughly 9 in 10 internet users already use social media, with Kepios analysis revealing that there were 4.2 billion social media users at the start of this year.

However, digital adoption still isn’t evenly distributed around the world.

Internet Adoption by Region January 2021 DataReportal

Data shows that more than 90 percent of the populations of Northern and Western Europe are online today, but barely 1 in 4 people across Middle and Eastern Africa had internet access at the start of 2021.

Internet adoption also remains relatively low across the Indian subcontinent, and Southern Asia is now home to the largest number of unconnected people on the planet.

Our analysis suggests that more than 1 billion people are yet to come online across India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, and the region now accounts for more than a third of the world’s total unconnected population.

However, the good news is that we’re still seeing strong growth in digital adoption around the world, especially in those areas where connectivity remains low.


For example, Kepios analysis shows that almost half a billion new users joined social media in 2020, equating to year-on-year growth of more than 13 percent.

And just for clarity, that growth is based on unique users, so there should be very little duplication in those numbers.

But this year’s impressive headlines aren’t limited to user numbers; people are also spending more time online than ever before.

The latest numbers from GWI show that the typical global internet user now spends an average of almost 7 hours per day using the internet.

Daily Time Spent Using the Internet by Country January 2021 DataReportal

As you can see on the chart here though, things do vary meaningfully by geography, with Filipinos spending an average of almost 11 hours per day online, compared to an average of just 4½ hours per day in Japan.

But based on that worldwide figure, internet users now spend an average of more than 48 hours per week using the internet, which equates to more than 2 full days out of every 7.

We spend roughly a third of our lives asleep though, which means that the typical internet user now spends more than 40 percent of their waking life using connected devices.

And that’s partly because there are now apps to help with pretty much every aspect of our lives – from staying in touch with friends and family, to watching TV and movies, playing games, managing our finances, and even finding love.

There are even apps that enable us to track what we’re doing while we’re asleep.

Use of Mobile Apps by Category January 2021 DataReportal

And given that we’re spending so much time online, it perhaps won’t come as a surprise to learn that we’re spending more money online than ever before too – especially due to COVID.

Emarketer reports that the world spent roughly 4.2 trillion US dollars on retail ecommerce purchases in 2020, which equates to an average of more than $900 per internet user.

So it’s clear that connected tech has already become an essential part of everyday life for most of the world’s population.

But beyond providing interesting trivia, what does all of this data actually tell us about people’s evolving online behaviours?

Let’s dig a bit deeper into the underlying trends to find out, starting with a look at the reasons why the world’s internet users are going online in the first place.


1. Understanding digital motivations

And the first thing to note is that we’re packing a huge variety of different activities into the almost 7 hours that we spend online each day.

I already mentioned that there’s a mobile app to help with almost every aspect of our lives, but this great data from GWI also highlights that people are doing a large number of different things on the internet.

Motivations for Using the Internet January 2021 DataReportal

Interestingly, “finding information” remains the top motivation for internet use at a global level, with nearly two-thirds of internet users citing this as one of their primary reasons for going online.

More than half of the world’s internet users cited 5 distinct motivations though, and – as you can see on the chart here – those 5 things cover a wide variety of activities.

In addition to finding information, more than 50 percent of the world’s internet users use the internet to stay in touch with friends and family, to follow news and current events, to research how to do things, and to watch videos, TV shows, and movies.

The diversity across these top 5 really strikes me, but I think marketers will want to pay particularly close attention to number 4 here – “researching how to do things” – because this is a relatively under-tapped opportunity when it comes to marketing content today.

And people also show diversity when it comes to their reasons for using social media, although the rank order of these motivations may surprise you.

Motivations for Using Social Media January 2021 DataReportal

For example, “staying up to date with news and current events” is the number one reason for using social media at a global level, with more than a third of internet users saying this is one of the primary reasons they turn to social channels.

And I find this particularly interesting given the ongoing conversations about whether Facebook and Google should be paying for the news content that appears in their feeds.

I think there are valid arguments on both sides of this debate, but this data shows that all parties need to pay particularly close attention to what the users want, and not just the political and commercial considerations.


The data clearly shows that entertainment is a top motivation too, which may help marketers to understand how to segment their various activities across different digital environments.

And if you’d like to dig deeper into this point in today’s Q&A, just let me know in the comments below.

But the key thing I take away from this data is that “online audiences” are not just one, homogeneous group.

The data clearly shows that different people are trying to achieve different things at different times, and even the same person will have a variety of different motivations for going online, depending on where they are and what they’re doing.

As a result, marketers need to be much more deliberate when it comes to creating online content and activities that cater to people’s specific needs and contexts.

I know that should seem obvious, but we still see the exact same ads following people all across the internet, without any regard for what might be the most appropriate way to engage them in each specific moment and environment.

So, when you’re planning your digital activities, ask yourself:

  1. What might the person you’re hoping to engage be trying to achieve in the moment you’re hoping to engage them?

  2. Which platforms will they likely be using in the moment you hope to engage them, and which devices are most likely to be associated with that use case?

  3. What might the person’s mindset be in that moment, and what feelings and emotions might they be experiencing?

  4. Whereabouts might they be, and which social settings might be associated with that location?

Planning for More Effective Digital Advertising DataReportal

And seeing as devices are such an important consideration in this mix, let’s take a closer look at the importance of maintaining a balanced device strategy.

2. The importance of device diversity

Now, as I’m sure you’re all already aware, ‘mobile first’ has become accepted wisdom in the digital industry, and quite rightly so.

GWI’s data shows that almost 53 percent of our internet time is now attributed to mobile, and data also shows that smartphones are our most frequently used connected devices.


While we’re using mobiles for 53 percent of our online time, a quick bit of arithmetic shows us that we also spend nearly as much time using the internet on other devices like PCs and tablets.

Share of Internet Time by Device January 2021 DataReportal

And other data support this relative device balance too.

Statcounter’s latest insights into global web traffic show that mobiles accounted for roughly 56 percent of worldwide web page requests in December 2020, but that other devices still accounted for more than 44 percent of global web traffic.

And what’s more, people in a number of ‘developed’ economies are still more likely to default to using a computer to go online than they are to use a mobile – especially when it comes to their online shopping activities.

Ecommerce Users Transacting Via Mobile Phones January 2021 DataReportal

If you look at the countries that fall on the right-hand side of the orange dashed line here, you can see that there are 9 countries around the world where fewer than half of the people who made online purchases in the past month made at least one of those purchases via a mobile phone.

So the clear takeaway here is that ‘mobile first’ does not necessarily mean ‘mobile only’.

Marketers still need to cater to a variety of different devices in order to reach and engage the widest possible audience.

But for the next section, let’s go back a bit, and return to those internet motivations.

As you’ll remember, “finding information” is the number one reason why the world’s internet users go online today, so let’s take a closer look at how they’re going about looking for that information, with specific reference to evolving search behaviours.


3. The world’s evolving search behaviours

Now, for context, it’s really important to stress that 98 percent of the world’s internet users still use search engines each month, and that figure is remarkably consistent across geographies and between generations.

However, as you can see on the chart here, people are increasingly turning to other kinds of online search too.

Evolving Online Search Behaviours January 2021 DataReportal

And in fact, GWI’s data shows that 7 in 10 internet users now go beyond conventional, text-based search engines when looking for information online.

Voice search is one of the most popular alternatives, with more than 45 percent of us saying that we use these interfaces each month.

What’s more, it’s particularly interesting to note that voice adoption is already above 50 percent in India, China, and Indonesia, which are home to three of the world’s largest internet populations.

Use of Voice Search and Voice Commands January 2021 DataReportal

But while many marketers will have heard about the rise of voice, many seem to think the opportunity focuses on ‘smart speaker’ devices like Amazon Alexa or the Apple HomePod.

However, the data clearly show that – at a worldwide level – the majority of voice search activity takes place on smartphones, via voice-powered tools such as Siri and the Google Assistant.

Meanwhile, image recognition tools that allow people to use images as a search query are also increasingly popular around the world.

At a global level, roughly 1 in 3 internet users say that they used tools like Pinterest Lens or Google Lens on their smartphone in the past month, but that figure rises to more than 60 percent in Colombia, Mexico, and Brazil.

Use of Image Recognition Tools like Pinterest Lens and Google Lens January 2021 DataReportal

However, perhaps because use of these tools remains relatively low across many Western countries, image recognition hasn’t been widely covered in the marketing press, and many marketers remain unaware of the size or the scope of this opportunity.

My analysis suggests that these tools will become increasingly important in ecommerce though, especially when it comes to products in highly aesthetic categories like fashion, home furnishings, and even consumer electronics.


But perhaps the most interesting shift in people’s online search behaviours relates to the rise of ‘social search’.

Globally, almost half of all internet users now say that they turn to social networks as a primary destination when looking for information about brands and products that they’re thinking of buying.

Adoption of Social Media Search January 2021 DataReportal

This figure is even higher amongst younger users though, with more than half of all internet users aged 16 to 24 saying that they rely on social search to learn about brands.

And critically, those Gen Z users now say that they’re more likely to turn to social media to research products and services than they are to do so using a search engine.

So, I’d suggest that now would be a good time to move social search up your planning agenda – especially because so few social media marketing activities have been optimised for social search.

Primary Channels for Brand Research January 2021 DataReportal

Techniques to improve social search visibility vary by platform, but the good news is that many of them are very straightforward.

For example, to improve search visibility on Instagram, make sure you include category-generic hashtags like #coffee or #yoga on your posts, alongside the usual brand- and campaign-specific tags.

This advice might seem obvious, but in fact very few of the world’s top brands currently include these generic tags on their Instagram posts, so this might be a good opportunity for you to steal a bit of competitive advantage.


4. Building a more ‘strategic’ social media platform mix

The next section we’ll explore today tackles one of the most common questions I’m asked in Kepios’s private briefings, and it also addresses one of the most misunderstood aspects of social media marketing.

And that’s how to build a more strategic social media platform mix.

Now, for context, here are the latest active user figures for some of the world’s top social media platforms, and – as you can see – we’re looking at some pretty impressive numbers.

Top Social Media Channels January 2021 DataReportal

With more than 2.7 billion monthly actives, Facebook still dominates when it comes to logged in users, although my analysis suggests that YouTube would probably boast a bigger audience if we were to include non-logged-in visitors.

At a global level, there are now at least 6 platforms with more than 1 billion monthly active users, while at least 17 have more than 300 million.

But those numbers don’t tell the whole story – and this is where things start to get interesting.

Data from GWI shows that the typical internet user now has an account on more than 8 different social platforms.

And while they may not use each of these platforms with the same frequency, it’s clear from that number that there’s going to be a lot of overlap between platforms’ respective audiences.

But just how big are those overlaps?

Well, the answer is very, very high.

I admit this next chart is a bit difficult to read on a livestream like this, but if I draw your attention to this left-hand column here, you’ll notice that almost all of the users of any given platform say that they use at least one other platform.

Overlaps in Social Media Audiences January 2021 DataReportal

Let me just repeat that: outside of China, marketers can reach more than 98 percent of the users of any of the top social media platforms on at least one other social media platform.

Even if we focus on the overlaps between individual platforms, we can see that 92 percent of Facebook users aged 16 to 64 say that they also use YouTube.

And perhaps even more surprisingly, 85 percent of TikTok users aged 16 to 64 say that they also use Facebook.

But what does this mean for you?

Well, the simplest takeaway is that – once you’re on 1 or 2 of the top platforms – adding additional social platforms to your mix will most likely only duplicate your existing reach; it won’t actually increase it.

And as a result, I’d strongly encourage you not to get distracted by active user numbers.

Things such as the creative opportunities or ad-cost efficiencies offered by different platforms are far more enlightening bases for comparison than user numbers alone.

And we’ll stick with social media data for our last section in today’s presentation, which looks at how the demographic profile of the world’s online audiences has been evolving in recent months.


5. The changing demographics of global digital audiences

And perhaps one of the more surprising findings in this year’s data is that older users now represent the fastest-growing segments of a number of the world’s top social media platforms.

For example, over-65s are the fastest growing audience on Facebook at the moment, with the platform’s ad reach in this age group increasing by a quarter over the past year.

Annual Change in Facebook's Advertising Audience by Age and Gender January 2021 DataReportal

But Snapchat’s ad audience data reveals some even more startling trends, with reach amongst men aged 50 and above increasing by a third in the final three months of 2020 alone.

However, the demographic surprises haven't been limited to social media audiences.

I was particularly interested to note that – once they get online – older internet users are just as likely as their children to shop online.

And in fact, the data reveal that women aged 55 to 64 are actually more likely to have made an online purchase in the past month than men aged 16 to 24 are.

But for our last stat today, let’s completely blow marketers’ assumptions out of the water, by revealing that two-thirds of internet users in the Baby Boomer generation play video games.

Video Game Audience Demographics January 2021 DataReportal

That’s admittedly less than the 90+ percent of Gen Z internet users who say that they’re gamers, but nonetheless, I think most marketers would be very surprised to learn that so many people in these older age groups are also avid gamers.

Wrapping up

Now, I appreciate that’s been a lightning-fast look through lots of numbers, but I wanted to leave plenty of time for your questions too, so I’ll pause my presentation there.

Here’s a quick reminder of the topics that I’ve covered today, to remind you of any questions that you’ve not already added to the comments below.

And now’s absolutely the time to do that if you haven’t already done so – even if you want to ask a question about a digital topic that I haven’t covered in this presentation.

Just a reminder if you joined us midway, you’ll be able to find all of the data charts in today’s presentation – all for free – over on

And if you’d like to know more about how Kepios can help you and your team make sense of all of these numbers, please do feel free to get in touch to learn more about our private briefing products – here are a few of the ways you can reach me [you can also email us here].

But with that, let’s move on to the Q&A [feel free to share your questions here].


Presentation slides

You can find Simon’s full set of slides in the SlideShare embed below (click here if that’s not working for you)

About the author
Simon is DataReportal’s chief analyst, and CEO of Kepios.
Click here to see all of Simon’s articles, read his bio, and connect with him on social media.