The Data Digest: Evolving Consumer Attitudes On Privacy

Back in 2013, we conducted a study to figure out how the “summer of Snowden” was affecting consumer opinion on privacy. A year later, we combined that data with a current pulse of consumer sentiment, and found that mainstream attitude signaled imminent behavior change.

Fast forward another year: Today, US presidential candidates are talking about privacy and personal data protection during the pre-primary season. We have recently witnessed three more major data breaches affecting millions of Americans. The adblocking debate is at fever pitch, while Internet giants make privacy a point of differentiation. So, we ran our study a third time, and incorporated behavioral tracking data into the methodology.

Our findings? Consumers are more willing than ever to 1) walk away from your business if you fail to protect their data and privacy; 2) adopt technologies like tracker-blockers and VPNs to limit their exposure to data misuse; and 3) extend their protective actions to the physical realm. And, Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that this story pertains to millennials and their older counterparts alike:  

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The Data Digest: Opt Out Of Reading This Post

I always love this time of year. Here in Cambridge, Mass., we’re at a turning point: With the close of the World Series and the start of daylight savings, we face the reality that evenings are colder, nights come faster, and the holidays are imminent. With summer escapes behind us and holiday shopping ahead of us, recent media stories made me think about one phenomenon that does not change with the seasons: the relentless efficacy of advertising.

For example, REI’s latest ad, which urges consumers to forego Black Friday, may look like commercial suicide at first glance, but don’t underestimate the effects of an unexpected message. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that while ads may not directly spark a purchase, they immediately enhance awareness and can spark consumer behavior that subsequently drives consumption:

And this data only quantifies the advertising effects of which consumers are aware; more often than not, advertising has a deeper, subconscious impact on consumer behavior and attitudes.

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The Data Digest: Wear, Why, And What Next?

For US online adults, wearable technology is no longer the stuff of myth. Over the past year alone we’ve witnessed the launch of the Apple Watch and iterations on early wearable products. Wearable devices are now making their media cameo across a variety of channels and topics ranging from politics to pop culture.

According to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® survey data, around one-fifth of US online consumers use a wearable gadget. While the adoption rate is higher among young, wealthy males, wearables are already breaking into segments that aren’t typically considered among the early adopters. Most individuals tend to use the technology for health- and fitness-related activity; however, consumers demonstrate a growing interest in using wearables for several different functions:

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The Data Digest: Citizen Engagement Will Put Smart Cities On The Map

“It takes a village” – but when it comes to building smart cities, it takes far more than that. Developing smart cities requires strategic partnerships, creative business models, change management – and according to my latest report, co-authored with my colleague Jennifer Belissent – citizen buy-in. In order for smart city technology to take hold, governments must incorporate citizens’ perspectives into their strategy long before giving their plans the green light.

Gathering citizen perspectives on so nascent a concept is a classic challenge; however, current attitudes and behaviors signal citizen readiness for smart cities. For instance, as US and UK online adults become aware of smart city solutions, they grow deeply intrigued. And, according to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® survey and behavioral tracking data, online adults’ current device activities lend themselves to participating as engaged digital citizens: 

US and UK citizens are equipped to interact with their community and governments through new technology, which suggests a readiness for smart city applications and services. However, citizens are conscious of the fact that this smart city sophistication comes with tradeoffs, like threats to data privacy and the risks of relying on one digital system.

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The Data Digest: A New Retail Reality, Boxed Up

They say that good things come in small packages – and it seems that those consumers who have signed up with the burgeoning wave of subscription services know this to be true. Today, whether you’re looking for fine wine or baby food, artistic inspiration or masculine essentials, you don’t have to leave your home to get – or even search for – the items yourself; the box delivered to your door may have just what you’re hoping for.

Subscription services are relatively new, but consumer awareness of and interest in the concept are growing. I recently became a customer of Stitchfix – and while I might be among just a handful of consumers who’ve actually signed up, nearly one-fifth of US online adults are interested in similar services. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that interest is particularly high among young shoppers: 

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The Data Digest: Social Media And Social Revolution

In chaos theory, the butterfly effect posits that seemingly small changes at one moment in time can result in large, dramatic changes at another. The subtle flap of a butterfly’s wing can trigger a violent hurricane that occurs miles away or days later. Rationally, the idea may seem like a stretch, but in a digital sense, we are witnesses to – and victims of – the butterfly effect every day through social media. A few individuals’ posts online can escalate into a chorus of voices that mobilizes communities and creates new standards. We saw this last year after a homeless man in Boston turned in a backpack and, more recently, when Cecil the lion was killed in Zimbabwe.

Social media has always been a catalyst for bringing people together as well as an outlet where consumers can vent. But when a surge of voices results in change, social media posts are more than ephemeral cybertext. And, according to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data, consumers around the world leverage social media to generate buzz about current events, although members of some countries are more vocal than others: 

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The Data Digest: Health Insurers Must Ensure Satisfaction

The US health insurance industry is in the midst of a tectonic shift. Since federal legislation mandated health coverage for all US citizens, health insurers have been pivoting away from pure B2B models to reinvent themselves as B2C services – and they’ve been responding to the demands of a new target group: consumers who purchase their own health insurance.

Earlier this year, we published a blog post detailing the channels customers use when purchasing health insurance. But mapping customers’ physical interactions with a company is only part of the story – understanding their emotional evolution is just as important. According to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data, a mere 50% of consumers who purchase their own health insurance feel that the brand puts them first; others believe health insurers do what’s best for their own bottom line at the expense of customers. The former are not only emotionally satisfied, they are also loyal to their current health insurer and willing to spend on additional products and services: 

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The Data Digest: Consumers’ Device-Switching Behaviors

According to our fellow consumers, we’re more productive. Ask any mother, and she’ll tell you we’re addicted. Listen to a doctor, and you’ll think we’re creating clinical problems. The consequences are up for debate, but the fact of the matter is clear: US online adults get things done by switching from one screen to another.

Today, the majority of the US population uses three or more connected devices; we don’t only live among screens – we live by them. We complete tasks by gliding from one screen to another without a second thought. In fact, over half of US online consumers often carry out a single activity across multiple devices, and one-fifth admits they always do this.

While consumers commonly start certain tasks on their smartphone and complete them on a desktop, they also move from desktops to portable devices. The devices consumers use and the frequency with which they move between screens vary by activity. A blend of Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® survey data and passive behavioral tracking shows that retail behaviors are most fragmented across devices, followed by media consumption activities:

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The Data Digest: Emotion Is The Hidden Driver For Consumer Choice

Here in the US, we’re gearing up to celebrate July 4, the day that everyone knows signifies America’s independence. But most people don’t know that the 1776 congress didn’t actually declare American independence on July 4. This date didn’t mark the start or end of the American Revolution. America’s Declaration of Independence wasn't even written, signed, or delivered to Great Britain on July 4.

We celebrate July 4 in the name of tradition — and we defer to assumptions rather than unearthing the true story. But when we dive a level deeper and look beyond the surface, we gain new depths of insight. When it comes to understanding customers, it’s time to take a deeper look.

The role of emotion is one of these “unknowns” in consumer behavior: An incisive view into consumer behavior reveals that emotion is more powerful than commonly thought. More than a mood, emotion is a key driver of customer decisions, actions, and perceived experiences —and pervades each stage of the purchase life cycle. For example, Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that Etsy inspires extremely positive consumer sentiment before, during, and after making a purchase: 

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The Data Digest: The Value Of Company Values

We are notoriously bad at knowing ourselves. Science shows that we are not quite as beautiful, or smart, or ethical as we would like to think. As a result, our self-proclaimed beliefs do not always translate into action; often, we say we’ll do “the right thing” but (consciously or not) we’ll proceed to do the opposite. Are we really nothing more than delusional creatures of habit bound to repeat our mistakes? No – actually, far from it. Certain individuals are hyperaware of their values and follow through on decisions and actions accordingly. Although a small group, these consumers spark awareness, change their behavior, demand transparency, and inspire trends.

My latest report examines what, when, and why consumers buy, when values are central to their decision-making process. In my research, I found that, despite limited knowledge and patterns of self-deceit, consumers want to purchase from companies that embrace ethical practices. More broadly, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of company values and are opening their wallets when company values resonate with theirs:

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