NEW YORK: Telecoms, technology and media brands must react to the "fundamental shifts" reshaping consumer habits worldwide, a multimarket survey by McKinsey has argued.
The consultancy polled consumers in 11 nations, a list including China, France, Germany, India, Russia, the UK and US - finding that over a third agreed social networks are "important" or "very important" tools for communicating with friends.
Indeed, 27% of the time UK netizens spend online is directed to such platforms, with 50% of the web audience having signed up thus far, and 10% logging on each day.
Elsewhere, 47% of subscribers to Microsoft's Xbox LIVE digital offering regularly utilise the video chat features it provides.
Another 17% of contributors also now turn more frequently to the internet for magazine content than 12 months ago, a total hitting 11% for newspapers.
Half of respondents watch video via the web at least once a week and 10% employ "over-the-top" services like Apple TV or Google TV.
An additional 7% hoped to buy an internet-connected television set during the coming six months.
In all, McKinsey estimated under a third of the time people spent communicating was attributable to landlines and mobile phones in 2010.
The fact 40% of Western Europeans proved keen to use Voice over Internet Protocol on their mobile, reaching around 70% in Russia, could exert a major impact.
McKinsey thus identified several core consumer segments, incorporating the "basic TV viewer" and "audiophile", remaining largely focused on traditional mediums.
"Educated readers" access social networks for research than interaction, and "digital beginners" are still acclimatising to the new media world.
"Technophiles" and "young online communicators" are the most advanced, with the latter group displaying the highest engagement regarding blogs, video and social networking.
However, these cohorts actually lag behind "educated readers" concerning the amount they purchase from ecommerce portals, an area where "basic TV viewers" and "audiophiles" have been comparatively enthusiastic.
McKinsey reported that Asia contained 38% of the 1.9bn global internet population last year, a figure due to attain 51%, or 3bn people, by 2014.
In 2015, India and China are anticipated to account for a connected community of 600m users.
As with mature markets, growing affluence and falling data prices are fuelling such trends, but the study outlined two core differences that may be crucial for technology and telecoms companies.
Firstly, in India, between 61% and 83% of interviewees expressed an interest in internet and mobile healthcare, education and banking services, showing the importance of "utilities".
"Arguably, the innovation in these domains is taking place in these very countries, where the barriers to adoption are lower and the demand is stronger than in the more developed markets," said McKinsey.
International operators also need to certain tackle obstacles in emerging economies, with Facebook only boasting a 3% penetration among Russian netizens, while China's top five social networks are all homegrown.
Looking ahead, nearly 70% of Russia's survey panel intend to make greater use of indigenous social media platforms, measured against 7% for foreign alternatives.
For telecoms specialists, McKinsey suggested building cohesive brands is likely to assume a central role as current perceptions of value change.
A "deep reinvention" is equally necessary if media owners are to counteract fragmenting audiences and the rise of social networks, meaning opportunities such as paid applications cannot be ignored.
Similarly, "pure-play" online firms must "constantly question" their activities, both to challenge in emerging markets and as customer behaviour evolves - for example, as gaming becomes more social.
Data sourced from McKinsey; additional content by Warc staff