The Data Digest: The Values-Based Consumer

If Thursday morning’s controversial tweet from McDonald’s is any indication, brands are no longer safe. I’m not just talking about the threat of a data breach or hack — I’m talking about the threat of consumers who force brands to expose their ethics and beliefs or remain at the mercy of consumer perception and interpretation in a polarized environment. As we’ve seen with other examples of ubiquitous and once universally loved brands like Kellogg’s and L.L. Bean, consumers increasingly judge companies on the basis of their values — and while customers are skeptical of firms that stay silent, they open their wallets for those that champion appealing causes.

Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data reveals that this is hardly a passing cloud; customers are becoming more aware of — and sensitive to — social issues overall. For instance, more consumers regularly follow politics, read about science, and identify as being environmentally conscious today than in 2014: 

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The Data Digest: Cinema's Lesson To Marketers

I love watching the annual Academy Awards — not only for the fashion show and blunders exposed on live TV but also to learn about how content resonates with audiences today and how cinema is evolving. In a world where people frequently face information overload and crave smaller bites (and bytes) of content, I’ve often wondered, what is the fate of the full-length film?

Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data reveals a curious story: Rather than reaching any type of saturation point, US consumers’ media appetite is growing rapidly: 93% of online adults frequently watch video today, more than 10 percentage points higher than two years ago. And their often-criticized waning attention span is not deterring consumers from sitting through full-length films; in fact, movie viewership is on the rise. However, our data shows that the viewing experience is changing: Movie watching is getting more personal as consumers increasingly turn to their home devices instead of going to the movie theater. 

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The Data Digest: The Year Of Empathy

Happy 2017! Settling in to the New Year often renews hope and excitement for the future, and rekindles anticipation for the brands, products, and experiences on the horizon. This year, it’s hard to think about imminent innovations without considering a modern imperative that is rapidly moving to the forefront of conversation: customer empathy.

We are barely three weeks into 2017 and already the cry for customer empathy – and brands’ responses to it – are popping up frequently. At the Consumer Electronics Show, the “insanely cute” Kuri personal robot stole consumers’ hearts, and took the notion of “tech love” to a whole other level. The progression of Artificial Intelligence is sparking public debate about the role of compassion in human connection. And people find themselves seeking meaning, purpose, and understanding over happiness.

The need for empathy affects how customers evaluate brands too: Consumers increasingly prefer companies that resonate with shoppers’ personal values. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® social listening data shows that consumer buzz about company values is on the rise:

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The Data Digest: It's The Most Emotional Time Of The Year

The holidays have a way of bringing people together in more ways than one – and every holiday season I’m reminded of just how universal the power of human emotion is. Regardless of lifestyle, background, and world view, people everywhere are truly emotional beings, moved by fundamental feelings of joy and sadness, hope and fear, love and loss. And anyone who has observed frantic shoppers careening through store aisles or the unbearable anticipation of children on Christmas morning can see that, at this time of year, emotions are at their peak.

Advertisers know holiday shopper emotions better than anyone; they have perfected the art of tugging at heart strings or prompting tears to spur a purchase. But as consumers wear their hearts on their sleeve, retailers broadly must be in tune with – and responsive to – customer sentiments. For example, when passionate shoppers turn to social channels, retailers mustn’t dismiss their cheering or venting. In fact, Forrester’s Customer Experience Index (CX Index™) data shows that consumers often experience their most positive brand interactions on social media – and remember them more favorably than engagements on websites, over email, through phone conversations, and even in person:

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The Data Digest: For Men And Women's Clothing Purchases, Timing Is Everything

Here in Boston, we are at a precious moment in the year: The early onset of cool, dark evenings sets the stage for the imminent holiday season — but doesn’t eclipse the warmth of the autumn sun quite yet. As the seasons change, we have a few rare days of mild weather that I can’t pass up, so, like my fellow city-dwellers, I make a little extra time to walk and window-shop.

Except — I hardly ever return with empty hands. Especially when I spot a sale at my favorite clothing retailer, it doesn’t take long before my intended walk turns into a shopping spree. Fortunately, our data shows that I’m not the only one who falls for the spontaneous clothing purchase. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data reveals that women in particular buy apparel on impulse:

In fact, our data shows that 43% of women don’t research clothing at all prior to making a purchase, compared with only 36% of men. And those women who do research apparel predominantly count the in-store browsing experience as their product research, while men often use both online and offline tools.

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The Data Digest: What Millennials Need From Your Loyalty Program

If you follow my blog regularly, you already know that I love to travel. And while I’ve had my fair share of travel hiccups (missed flight connections, last-minute assignments to the dreaded middle seat, lost luggage – you name it), I’ve always glossed over these snafus and accepted the fact that traveling inevitably comes with a few small challenges.

Until this year, when I hit executive traveler status on a major airline thanks to the loyalty points I amassed during my trips. Suddenly, my tolerable travel experiences became overwhelmingly enjoyable ones, and I quickly came to love (a word I don’t use loosely!) flying with this airline because of the VIP treatment. My reaction isn’t unique. In fact, it’s characteristic of my generation: Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that Millennials highly value loyalty programs that reward customers with enhanced customer service and special status, as Millennials cherish this sense of validation and exclusivity.

Specifically, our data shows that the loyalty program reward tactics that work for middle-aged and older consumers are not enough to satisfy Millennials. While customers of every generation want discounts, Millennials also expect loyalty programs to offer a premium customer experience. And what’s more, younger consumers want the flexibility of applying loyalty points to a variety of benefits – from travel upgrades to digital media content to charitable donations – while their older counterparts are happy using their points to get cash back.

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The Data Digest: Metropolitan Chinese And Metropolitan Indian Customers Lead The Demand For Business Transformation

Consumers in Asia Pacific are in the midst of a digital transformation. Within the past decade, online penetration in China grew from 8% to 54%, while mobile internet access grew more than sevenfold. Today, the rate of customer evolution is gaining speed, as consumers are increasingly willing to experiment with new products, rely on devices, demand seamless digital experiences, consume large volumes of information, and are committed to seeking out the best experiences for themselves.

Forrester’s Empowered Customer Segmentation measures these key shifts in customer behaviors and attitudes and anticipates how consumers both respond to digital innovation and demand it. An analysis of our Consumer Technographics® data for Asia Pacific shows that the most rapidly evolving customers dominate in metropolitan China and metropolitan India:

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The Data Digest: Forrester’s Empowered Customer Segmentation Reveals Country-Level Differences In Europe

Charles Dickens once wrote that: “Change begets change. Nothing propagates so fast.” In today’s evolving marketplace, where innovators are setting new customer expectations and companies are racing to meet rising demands, Dickens’ words ring true. The first step on a company’s path to thriving in this environment is understanding customers accurately – specifically, identifying how consumer expectations are changing and how fast.

Our Empowered Customer Segmentation measures critical shifts in customer behaviors and attitudes to gauge how consumers are both responding to innovation and demanding it. While the segments are globally consistent, we see insightful differences when applying the framework to unique markets. For example, Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows how the segments differ between Spain and France: 

These country differences reveal unique opportunities and challenges for companies aiming to win or retain customers in Europe. For example, forward-looking brands such as Banco Sabadell and BBVA can engage Progressive Pioneers in Spain to test innovative concepts before planning a broader rollout. On the other hand, brands with large proportions of French Settled Survivors or Reserved Resisters can retain customers by convincing them of the effectiveness of an experience.

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The Data Digest: What Pokémon Go Reveals About Evolving Consumers

Within 24 hours of its launch, Pokémon Go broke app download records and user numbers began multiplying by the minute. It wasn’t long before mysterious names like “Jigglypuff” and “Squirtle” peppered daily conversation, stampedes of mobile-obsessed gamers became commonplace, and augmented reality approached a tipping point.

The future arrives faster than we think.

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The Data Digest: Introducing Forrester’s Empowered Customer Segmentation

From the mischief caused by Napster to the arrival of the iPhone and the (once improbable) reality of wearables and self-driving cars, our world has evolved – and so have your customers. Since the launch of Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® study in 1997, we have had a front-row seat for the dramatic changes in consumer behaviors and attitudes that have upended traditional business models and resulted in a chaotic marketplace where behemoths become bygones.

These changes are not as random as you might think: Forrester’s data analysis reveals five key shifts in consumer behaviors, attitudes, and expectations that fuel customer empowerment: willingness to experiment, device usage, digital/physical integration, information savviness, and self-efficacy. As consumers continue to evolve along these dimensions, business leaders must think differently about how to build and sustain customer relationships – more than simply analyzing historical behavior, demographics, and lifestyles, models of customer understanding must now account for the empowered customer’s expectations, emotional motivations, and contextual decisions.

Therefore, we are excited to launch Forrester’s Empowered Customer Segmentation, a model that measures how customers evolve along the five dimensions of change – and at what rate.

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