The Data Digest: US Consumers Embrace Convergence Of The Physical And Digital

A recent opinion piece in The New York Times describes the unique beauty of ecotones, an environmental term for the border between two habitats where cultures merge — where forest meets grassland or water meets shore. According to the article, people are deeply attracted to these areas of convergence and interaction because the edge is where the action is. Like the periphery’s significance in ecology, the edges we create in our society generate energy and are the places we push things to for the best results — borders between diverse urban communities, schools of thought that intersect and cross-pollinate, and, now, our relationship with technology.

We are living in an ecotone where physical meets digital, where the edge of our offline experience converges with our online one. News from the International Consumer Electronics Show taking place this week provides a case in point. Rather than tablets or smartphones, the “next big thing” may be as unassuming as your morning coffee mug; the latest fashion may be modeling wearable technology.

Are we ready to live on the edge? Consumers say yes. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that a tenth or more of US online adults are interested in wearing sensor devices on their wrist, embedded into clothing, embedded in jewelry, or as glasses:

 

Of the top 10 technology trends to watch from 2014 to 2016, my colleague Brian Hopkins notes that one of the most urgent, complex, and important is the convergence of online and offline boundaries. In his recent report, Hopkins says, “Convergence of the physical and digital world is eroding the boundaries that are the basis for many operating assumptions; firms today are ill-prepared to handle the resulting chaos [ . . . ] we are seeing a convergence of digital and physical identities — people are not differentiating who they are online and in person.” Today, the familiar adage “out with the old, in with the new” doesn’t only refer to the New Year; marketers must develop the tactics to keep pace with their customers’ rapidly evolving reality, identity, and expectations.

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