From Time Warner and Comcast to AT&T and DirecTV, corporate mergers appear to be the latest tactic in winning the battle for market share and driving innovation. From a business perspective, the strategic advantages of such mergers may be clear — but what do these changes look like from the consumer’s viewpoint? To understand consumer reaction to the latest series of merger announcements, Forrester leveraged its Technographics360 approach of linking multiple data sources to give a holistic view of consumers. Specifically, we tuned into online chatter with our social listening platform and engaged our ConsumerVoices market research online community for this analysis.
According to the data, consumers associate mergers with increased costs, fewer opportunities for choice, and decreased product and service quality. While a few individuals appreciate the potential for innovation that mergers might afford, the prevailing sentiment is uncertainty:
The fact that individuals are wary of these corporate mergers partially stems from the timeless truism that “people are afraid of change.” To mainstream consumers, a large merger suggests a loss of customer control and greater uncertainty; according to the Harvard Business Review, these are the top two qualities that underpin a fear of change.
In her recent report, my colleague Reineke Reitsma revealed that European consumers interact with a diverse suite of social networking sites, with Facebook and YouTube leading in terms of consumer engagement. Pinterest, however, is an outlier: European consumers demonstrate minimal interaction with Pinterest compared with both other social media sites and their US peers. According to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data, 18% of US online adults regularly visit the website but only 2% of European online adults across the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain visit Pinterest once a month or more:
In the early 1900s, author Kin Hubbard said, “A bee is never as busy as it seems; it’s just that it can’t buzz any slower.” A century later, things haven’t changed much — except that today, those bees are us and that buzzing comes from our mobile phones.
Survey data tells us that consumers regard their mobile phones as catalysts for productivity. Considering the amount of time consumers spend using the device and how essential they characterize the technology to be, it’s easy to take their word for it. But not so fast: Mobile tracking metrics show that consumers rarely ever conduct productivity-related tasks on their devices. In fact, the official US productivity rate has dropped to its lowest point in the past two decades.
In this case, the conflicting data points are not wrong, they are complementary — and the resulting insight is even more valuable than the sum of its parts. A combination of Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data, mobile tracking numbers, and ConsumerVoices output reveals that consumers engage far less frequently in productive behaviors than expected — and suggests a new understanding of what “mobile productivity” really means.
When news about the Heartbleed bug captured worldwide attention last month, consumers learned that their personal information, initially thought to be secure, had in fact been vulnerable to hackers for years. Arguably the worst Internet breach of all time, the revelation left many questioning what to do next.
To understand how consumer reaction to Heartbleed unfolded, we tuned into online chatter and engaged Forrester’s ConsumerVoices market research online community immediately after the news broke. While Forrester’s social listening data reveals that sentiment of consumer conversation about Heartbleed was consistently negative, online community response tells us that the negativity doesn’t stem purely from shock – rather, from a sense of helplessness and jadedness.
Coffee-lovers just about anywhere around the world are intimately familiar with the sweet feeling of indulging in a Starbucks Frappuccino – but their blended beverages of choice might be starkly unique. Although the Starbucks brand is familiar to consumers worldwide, the taste of a Starbucks beverage varies regionally according to the diversity of palates. Chinese consumers may seek out a Red Bean Green Tea Frappuccino while their Japanese counterparts prefer a Coffee Jelly; Argentinians may count on that Dulce de Leche Granizado Frappucino where Brits treat themselves to a classic Strawberries and Cream.
The Starbucks Frappuccino phenomenon is a metaphor for any global retailer’s optimal international approach. By catering to consumers’ varying tastes, global companies can hone a strategy that is sensitive to diversity — the “art of thinking independently together,” in the words of Malcolm Forbes.
When it comes to eCommerce specifically, consumer tastes differ not only in relation to products but also to purchase methods. According to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data, more than half of metropolitan Chinese online adults regularly buy products through both traditional and mobile devices, but only one in four US online adults and even fewer European consumers do this.
Do industry innovations change the consumer or do consumer demands change the industry? That's the question when looking at how US online adults prepare their annual income tax returns. When the IRS ceased its mailings of paper forms before the 2011 tax season, approximately 15 million more consumers began filing their taxes online. But would this have happened anyway? We could argue that as media consumption, financial management, shopping transactions, and other traditional behaviors moved online, it’s only natural that consumers’ tax filing practices would have too.
At a subliminal level, the decision about how to file taxes speaks to one's comfort level with new technology, sensitivity to data privacy, desire for convenience, and embrace of old habits. Our Consumer Technographics® data shows a variation in how US online adults prepare their taxes: While 33% defer to professionals, 27% file their own taxes by downloading computer software, and 22% do so through a website. One in 10 of these consumers still files taxes by hand using paper forms.
When March comes to a close, the madness in the US picks up: March Madness, the national college basketball championship, gives sports fanatics the chance to rally around their alma maters, while sports novices get to observe college basketball culture at its best. Personally, I tend to lean to the latter end of the spectrum — but this year, thanks to a redesigned mobile app and enhanced social engagement strategy, I find myself moving away from observer status toward that of participant.
My story isn’t unique: The features and functions of sports-related mobile apps allow fans of any knowledge level to receive immediate updates, learn more about players and teams, and connect with fellow spectators across the region — and globe. From reviews of the recent winter Olympic Games to preparations for the upcoming FIFA World Cup, “sports fever” is universal. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that while the impulse to engage with sports-related apps on portable devices is evident around the world, it is most noteworthy among consumers in Metro China and Metro Brazil:
At the intersection of technology, mobility, and consumer centricity, the automotive industry is kicking into gear. From the International Consumer Electronics Show highlights early this year to commercials aired during the nightly Winter Olympics coverage this week, it’s hard to miss the news and promotions around increasingly sophisticated in-car technologies. Vehicles are:
Evolving as channels for media consumption. Last month, Pandora announced that it would begin monetizing its in-car audience by integrating ads into its in-car stream tailored to consumers en route.
Becoming an extension of your network of connected devices. Google’s latest partnership with Audi, GM, Honda, and Hyundai promises to put Android OS-synched cars on the road this year.
Emerging as self-regulating “smart” devices in their own right. BMW’s recently launched “i” series boasts a navigation function that identifies the most energy-efficient route according to range and environment, along with other technology that improves vehicle performance and safety.
But with these questions comes a recognition that the once-imagined future is less distant than we may think. A digitally enabled household no longer means simply maintaining a personal Internet connection or even syncing portable devices to a home network. Now, the digital home is becoming a conscious home — one that adapts and responds according to our behavior.
Cutting-edge devices like the smart thermostat might be low on the adoption curve today, but consumer appetite is evident. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that more than a third of US online adults are interested in using technology to remotely control their home’s lighting, energy, and security:
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.
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: