Last week, my colleague Sucharita Mulpuru published Forrester’s annual US online holiday retail forecast. In her blog, she shared that Forrester expects this year’s holiday season to generate $78.7 billion in US online sales, a 15% increase on 2012's total. This optimism is largely due to ever-increasing numbers of consumers choosing the Web over physical stores as well as the rise in mobile commerce.
To better understand consumers’ attitudes and behaviors regarding shopping during the holiday season, my team conducted a qualitative research project last year with our ConsumerVoices market research online community, starting before Thanksgiving and ending the first week of January. We found that consumers are always on the hunt for holiday deals, not just during the holiday season. Most consumers have an idea of what they are willing to spend on holiday gifts, and while most stay within their budget, they will gladly spend the extra money if it comes down to staying on budget or giving the ideal gift.
On Tuesday at 8 a.m., I received a call from my mother. Instead of driving to her office, as she’s faithfully done at that time for more than a decade, my mother was caught between shelves of cashmere. Macy’s was having a pre-holiday one-day sale, and my mother was thrilled to be part of the early-bird crowd getting first dibs on cardigan colors at 50% off. I was struck — not by my mother’s rare excitement about the discount but by Macy’s success in changing her behavior. My mother traded her comfortable weekday rhythm for a detour to the mall, thanks to Macy’s timely, exclusive promotion.
This example is representative of a major potential shift in which consumers break traditional habits thanks to strategic sales and effective marketing. My mother’s impromptu spree is only a precursor to the behavior that could play out next week when Thanksgiving Thursday becomes the new Black Friday. For the first time in its history, Macy’s will open on Thanksgiving itself to compete with retailers like Target and Best Buy, which open their doors moments after the pie crumbs and coffee cups are cleared away. For Wal-Mart, Black Friday 2013 will start one full week early.
Earlier this week, Groupon celebrated its fifth birthday — and its party was certainly hard to miss. The countdown to the big day began last week, when my daily deal emails arrived with pomp and circumstance — images of crowns in the subject lines, extra exclamation points in the text, and heavy promotions based on the need to celebrate. On November 4, Groupon gave out $5 million in “Groupon Bucks” to thank its customers for fueling its five-year evolution from daily deal provider to searchable marketplace.
But the party isn't stopping there. The company continues to identify marketplace opportunities and engage its consumers in a seamless, meaningful way. Groupon’s recently redesigned mobile application and website aim to enhance user experience and allow the company to start optimizing its audience potential. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that Groupon's US online customers are a particularly valuable target, as they spent around $200 more shopping online in the past three months than the average US online consumer:
This week, I’m on holiday. As a follower of my blog, you know that I quite regularly take a couple of days off. I live in Europe, where we have more holidays (on average) than some other regions. So with my head already "on" my next trip, I was intrigued by the results of the recently published report US Mobile Travel Bookers.
Mobile bookers are tech-savvy travelers who are willing to share their experiences by creating travel-related online content, like blogs and reviews, or uploading videos. In fact, four out of 10 online travel-related content creators are mobile travel bookers. Travel companies need to cater to this advanced group and support them in their travel journeys across devices. As my colleague Tony Costa shares in his report Build Seamless Experiences Now, "customers don't see individual touchpoints. Rather, they perceive the quality of a firm's services through their overall experiences. When disconnects occur, customer satisfaction takes a nose-dive."
Although an event that takes place in the offline world may be finite, it lives on in the online world. When a single incident becomes part of the Web, which is buzzing with real-time updates, critiques, and responses, the event takes shape, is assigned value, and is made into something significant. As a recent New York Times blogger put it, “the way we share, watch, read and otherwise consume content doesn’t happen on a linear timeline . . . the Web is always churning.” Sometimes, the aftermath of an event conveys more than the event itself.
Watching Apple announce the iPhone 5S and 5C last month was enlightening, but more revealing was tracking the fluctuating online consumer sentiment and response days later. Using Forrester’s NetBase social listening data, we measured the proliferating online discussion related to the Apple iPhone and recognized an immediate trend of negative commentary. Our data shows that while the amount of online conversation grew across a host of public websites, the positive sentiment regarding Apple iPhones plummeted, as the audience's brand perception became more negative.
As the sun sets on the summer season, I made one last getaway to a local island to enjoy the final moments of warm weather. While this small, remote island offers a chance to disconnect, it doesn't forsake the conveniences we are accustomed to in the process. Despite my lack of cash to hand, making a purchase from the small businesses at a rustic farmer’s market couldn’t have been easier — thanks to the vendors’ alternative mobile payment option.
Leveraging new devices for complex tasks that involve sensitive information or personal data demands consumer trust. The mobile payment adoption curve has been gradual for several reasons, one of which is the lack of trust, but recent news hints at the impressive connections that become possible once consumers put their trust in a service. PayPal recently announced several updates to its mobile phone application that make the app as relevant, complex, and functional as a mobile wallet. By winning the trust of a vast consumer base, PayPal is able to introduce more advanced features with the knowledge that consumers will seamlessly engage with the new offerings.
In fact, Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that US online adults trust PayPal more than any other financial institution to act as a mobile wallet platform:
For the past two weeks, I was on holiday with little access to the Internet. It wasn’t that I'd gone to the ends of the earth; I was, in fact, traveling through the South of England, but we just didn’t come across many places that had Wi-Fi access. During our holiday, I also started to notice that the Brits have a more restrained way of using their mobile phones in public. While I’m used to seeing people around me in the Netherlands checking their mobile whenever and wherever, I hardly saw anyone in the UK browsing on their mobile when in the company of others.
When I commented on this to my colleagues after my return, they attributed it to my rosy outlook due to my time off. So I looked at Forrester’s Technographics® data to compare US and UK smartphone users’ behaviors. Smartphone ownership in the UK isn’t that far behind that of the US: Our recent Forrester Research World Mobile Adoption Forecast, 2013 To 2018 (Global) shows that about 61% of US mobile subscribers use the mobile Internet compared with 49% of their UK peers — and we expect these numbers to grow to 75% and 70%, respectively, in 2018. More striking is our 2013 data that shows that usage of smartphones at home is comparable in both countries — but it’s the usage at restaurants and coffee shops that really differs:
At the beginning of 2013, approximately 153 million US online adults had health insurance coverage. While it serves the majority of US adults, the health insurance industry is unique in that only a minority of health insurance customers choose their health insurance provider directly. Forrester estimates that just 14% of US online adults — 25 million US adults — actively chose their health insurance provider in 2013.
However, with the onset of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as "Obamacare," many new customers will enter the healthcare market. While we don't know exactly what portion of uninsured US adults will follow the mandate that all US residents must obtain health insurance, there is a large pool of potential new customers.
In fact, Forrester’s Technographics® data shows that 13% of US online adults (23 million adults) reported having no health insurance at the beginning of 2013. Of these uninsured adults, 47% don't have health insurance because they can no longer afford personal coverage; 25% left the employer that provided their coverage; and 15% never had health coverage.
I recently published a report on The European eCommerce Landscape; it shows that more than two-thirds of European online consumers are shopping online, but there are big differences among the different countries. The top categories bought online are travel, clothing and accessories, leisure and entertainment, and consumer electronics. Forrester’s European Technographics® data also reveals that European consumers increasingly prefer the Internet to high-street shops for purchases of music, computer software, event tickets, and videos:
In recent years, the Internet has become the leading channel for media products. In 2012, more European online consumers bought videos/DVDs, music, event tickets, and computer software online than offline. These online media purchases fall into two categories:
1. Digital (sold direct as a download).
2. Physical (a product that an Internet retailer delivers).
If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is the value of 16 billion pictures? According to Instagram, whose 130 million active users had shared this number of photos as of June 2013, the answer is “priceless.” Individuals’ enthusiasm for capturing and sharing photos shapes our media consumption as much as it does our co-creative potential; with the launch of its video capability, Instagram’s platform may become entwined with our social futures.
Online photo and video sharing continues to gain momentum as an emerging method of communication. Internationally, Instagram plays the role of news channel by turning local perspectives into global awareness. In fact, the role of media-sharing sharing technology is so significant that the Chicago Sun Times Newspaper laid off all full-time photographers, including a Pulitzer Prize winner, with the intention of moving toward more online video provision.