Mary Meeker sees Web trend toward consumer access
By Hayley Tsukayama,
CD wallets, bookshelves, DVD towers and even garages may be fading away as a new generation lets technology affect the way it thinks about ownership.
Citing the rise of services such as Spotify, ZipCar and Netflix, venture capitalist Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is calling attention to what she says is a trend being embraced by the “asset-light” generation.
Using these kinds of services frees up time and physical space in users’ lives, Meeker said in her annual Internet Trends report, which she presented at Stanford University Monday evening. Stepping into the shoes of a 25-year-old, Meeker sketched out the life of a consumer who is more focused on services than goods.
In an asset-light lifestyle, she said in her report, “it’s easier for people to get what they want when they want it by buying access to a vast range of goods and services — such as all the movies on Netflix — rather than buying to own a particular object or title.
Meeker is by no means the first to float this idea. Spotify founder Daniel Ek spoke about the trend more than a year ago. But in citing the tendency in her Web trends report, Meeker gives it much more weight.
Meeker noted that the trend applies beyond the realm of physical assets such as movies and music. It also applies to time: The rise of apps such as TaskRabbit and Zaarly, which match up clients with providers for such things as cake-baking and delivery, grocery shopping or housecleaning, are aimed at letting users save the hours they might have spent running errands or doing chores.
She also briefly touched on the rise of mobile payments, where users switch sub out their cash, coins and credit/debit cards with smartphone chips and passes that deduct straight from their bank accounts. Those payment options are already on the market but have yet to gain a strong foothold, possibly because consumers and retailers are waiting to determine what standards to apply. But Meeker indicates that this is a space to watch as more companies transition boarding passes, reward cards, tickets and payment options to the smartphone.
Meeker, dubbed the “Queen of the Net” for her research on Internet trends, also noted how the growing market for smartphones and tablets and easy access to information has already changed education, photography, publishing, financing and other industries. In each case, the ability to access up-to-date information that’s not tied to specialized objects or institutions (cameras, encyclopedias, banks, etc.) has transformed how those processes work in what she calls the “sharing economy.”
Moving ahead, Meeker predicts, this data-gathering and sharing philosophy will continue to grow and eventually encroach on the consumer Internet “white space”-- the Web void left when consumers disconnect to use such things as cars, televisions and the health care industry.
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