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:
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:
In the past week, I have booked a flight using a travel voucher, questioned a charge on my credit card bill, and bought an electric toothbrush. What do these experiences have in common? In each case, I had a relatively complex question and I received a helpful answer – without talking to anyone in person or by phone. Instead, with a little online research, I was able to identify which blackout dates applied to my travel voucher, clear the charge on my credit card bill, and learn the best settings for my toothbrush.
Essentially, I sought answers immediately by turning to digital channels first. In this regard, I’m not the only one. For the first time in the history of our research, more US online adults report using company websites than speaking with agents by phone when resolving customer service needs. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that 76% of consumers turn to FAQ pages, and usage across other digital channels is growing notably:
The fact that technology is disrupting the way in which customers seek information is not merely a trend – it’s at a tipping point. In the age of the customer, consumers expect accurate answers with greater speed and less friction than before; as companies offer them detailed online content with increasingly effective navigation strategies, consumers will embrace self-service digital channels at the expense of offline communication.
Hollywood director Francis Ford Coppola once said: “The very earliest people who made films were magicians.” In some ways, things haven’t changed -- although the media producers of today seem to pull the classic reappearing act as their key trick: When content finishes on one screen, it reappears on another . . . and then another.
Video is available across myriad personal devices, and consumers’ viewing habits are fragmented across technologies. Just as channels for video consumption are becoming more profuse, the types of content that viewers seek are also increasingly diverse. In the past month alone, American audiences said hello to streaming-exclusive dramas and goodbye to long-running TV shows. This week, consumers viewed an array of films like those premiering at SXSW, and tuned into the March Madness sports frenzy.
Consumers have choices about what to watch, on which device, and when. According to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data, US online adults still prefer to watch longer-length video on TVs but frequently turn to smaller devices for shorter content:
If you’ve been following our blog, you’ll know that the Data Insights team here at Forrester has been tracking the evolution of US healthcare reform over the past three years and its implications in terms of consumer behavior, attitudes, and expectations. Our study began in July 2012, when we advised health insurance companies how to prepare for the flood of new customers entering the market. Two years later, my colleague Gina Fleming extended this analysis into Forrester’s Healthcare Segmentation, which provides a refined understanding of key customer profiles. Now, with our 2015 Consumer Technographics® Healthcare Survey just back from field, we can complement our understanding of the US consumer health insurance market with another layer of insight: the member’s journey to purchasing health insurance:
The holiday season is one month behind us, and while the celebratory spirit has faded, the effects live on through the gifts we’ve exchanged. If you think the shiny new object you presented to your loved one had its greatest impact when she unwrapped its box, think again. Apart from the occasional toy tossed to the back of a closet, gifts may have a stronger influence on our long-term behavior and lifestyle than we might think —particularly when it comes to consumer electronics.
For example, according to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data, consumers who have received a tablet computer as a gift end up using traditional devices like laptops, desktops, and digital cameras less often. Qualitative insight from our ConsumerVoices Market Research Online Community reveals that sentiments of surprise and delight characterize the experience of these tablet recipients; regardless of their initial technology attitudes, most community members find the devices exceed their expectations and inadvertently change their lifestyle:
According to the National Retail Federation, consumer electronics stores saw more than $23.4 million in holiday sales in 2013 and even more by the close of 2014. However, the more interesting story is unfolding now, as consumers who have leapfrogged the purchase experience begin experimenting with —and embracing —their new devices.
Here in the US, all signs point to winter: Daylight savings has just begun; specialty holiday drinks have been added to cafe menus; and several cities have already witnessed the first snowfall. And with the arrival of the chilly season comes preparation for the mad rush of holiday shoppers.
Although the holiday retail season is shorter this year, given fewer days than average between Thanksgiving and Christmas, consumer expectations of retailers during this holiday season are greater than ever. When it comes to online retail specifically, consumers seek out – and have come to expect – great deals and free shipping throughout their holiday gift hunt. In fact, Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that shipping cost is the most important factor in a consumer’s decision to purchase from a retail website (such as Amazon.com or Gap.com):
If the healthcare industry exhibited symptoms of dysfunction, the US government administered a wave of treatment in the form of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. October 2013 marked the opening of online insurance marketplaces, and set the stage for the act's requirement that most US residents have health insurance coverage. As a result, the industry has witnessed cessations and regenerations, and the pulse of consumer sentiment has fluctuated. Now, one year on, we’re due for a checkup.
At a macro level, US online consumers’ perspectives on healthcare reform today are largely consistent with those immediately preceding open enrollment under the federal law: Individuals continue to be skeptical of policy changes. However, at a micro level, subtle yet fundamental shifts in the consumer mindset signal a gradual evolution in perceptions of healthcare.
Our Technographics 360 research approach, which synthesizes Forrester’s ConsumerVoices Market Research Online Community insight and aggregated social listening data, shows that the conversation about healthcare has shifted from politics to experience -- and, in particular, to a focus on cost:
Forrester has been analyzing device adoption since the launch of its Consumer Technographics® studies in 1997. Over the years, it has become evident that although demographics and attitudes influence technology adoption, these elements alone do not predict consumer behavior – subtle factors like context and psychological needs must be taken into account to piece together the technology adoption prediction puzzle. This is because of two essential contradictions that exist between:
What consumers say they will do and what they actually do: The concept of introspection illusion reveals the discrepancy between stated intent and subsequent behavior. Consumers are bad predictors of their own technology adoption patterns and are often conservative when estimating their own device usage.
What consumers say they want and what they really want: As Steve Jobs famously put it, “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” And even then, consumers might not recognize the benefits of the product – needs are transient, circumstantial, and often conflicting.
Allow me to make a confession: In the debate over whether people are rational or emotional decision-makers, I have persistently seated myself on the rational side of the table. However, recent research has challenged my views. Witnessing cross-discipline academics reinforce the motivating power of emotion has resulted in a general consensus among fellow rationalists that “reason leads to conclusions; emotion leads to action.”
We are now recognizing the power of emotional decision-making in consumer behavior and — most importantly — the effect that it has on a company’s bottom line. Nothing is more convincing than the data itself. For example, a combination of Forrester's Consumer Technographics® quantitative and qualitative insight shows that when banking providers fail to meet a customer's expectations in moments of high emotional investment, they risk losing that customer altogether:
From the moment they open an account to their on-going interactions with bank employees, customers navigate a series of emotional experiences that directly affect their decision to enhance or withdraw from the brand relationship. Companies that appeal to customer emotions during such engagements master these "moments of truth" and ensure that outcomes are positive — and profitable.