Consumer behavior is changing even more rapidly than you might think. In the past couple of weeks, my colleague Samantha Jaddou and I have been analyzing the data for the US version of our annual global series, “Understanding The Changing Needs Of Consumers.” We are seeing not only a decline in the number of US consumers with a computing device (a PC, laptop, or netbook) but also a drop in the amount of time that consumers spend on traditional media like watching TV (on a TV) or reading newspapers or magazines.
One of the biggest revelations in this year’s data was the change in attitude of consumers — particularly younger ones — toward the Internet. Since we started tracking this information in 1997, we have only seen the amount of time spent online increasing. But Forrester’s 2012 data shows that US online adults are now reporting a decline in the amount of time they spend using the Internet compared with 2011 and 2010.
What’s going on? Our analysis revealed that “being online” is becoming a fluid concept. Consumers no longer consider some of the online activities they perform to be activities related to “using the Internet.” In fact, given the various types of connected devices that US consumers own, many people are connected and logged on (automatically) at all times. The Internet has become such a normal part of their lives that consumers don’t register that they are using the Internet when they’re on Facebook, for example. It’s only when they are actively doing a specific task, like search, that they consider this to be time that they’re spending online.
Creators sit at the top of Forrester’s Social Technographics® ladder: They are the consumers who write blogs and articles, upload self-created video and music, post photos, and maintain their own web pages. More than any other group, Creators are shaping the face of consumer content online. We recently published a report called “Exploring The Social Technographics® Ladder: Creators.” It shows that Creators are great advocates for the brands they like, and that they have, on average, many more friends and followers to share their opinions with than any other group.
However, what was really intriguing is how much they value feedback from companies and brands. Even more importantly, more Creators expect companies to respond to positive posts about products/services than to negative ones.
This is contrary to popular belief. In fact, there’s plenty of advice out there on what you should do in a crisis or how to respond to someone who’s posted a complaint. There’s not much advice on how to handle positive feedback, but in fact, it’s one of the best ways to trigger (and motivate) your brand advocates.
The proliferation of mobile and portable Internet-connected devices has made TV multitasking the norm. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that about four out of five US online adults who own a laptop, smartphone, or tablet go online regularly while watching TV, but the intensity of interaction differs by device.
My colleague Tracy Stokes wrote about this in a report called “The New Layers Of TV Audience Insight.” Her take: Just because your TV audience is active on social and digital platforms doesn’t mean that they will blindly engage with your brand. To drive cross-media engagement, you have to have a clear call to action that easily conveys why consumers should be active across multiple media channels.
But when you do it right, there’s a lot to gain. Research from Discovery Communications shows that exposure to more digital touchpoints while watching TV can strengthen consumers' connection to content and brands, not detract from it. Discovery's study found that users who multitask with devices while they watch TV are more attentive and responsive to TV programming and advertising than the average viewer.
Consumer usage of alternative payment methods like contactless cards or mobile payments is still very limited in Europe, and the majority of European consumers aren’t interested in using these services (yet). But attitudes vary across Europe. In the UK, where consumers are more familiar with the concept thanks to public transport schemes like London’s Oyster card, about 4% of the population use contactless payment cards, and a further 22% are interested in using one. In Spain and Italy, a third of consumers show interest in such a payment system.
But security concerns and a lack of need are holding consumers back. While early adopters will more likely overcome them, these concerns represent a serious barrier to mainstream adoption.
Consumers have little motivation to adopt a new payment solution if it is purely a one-for-one replacement. Digital wallets must instead increase the value of the transaction for both consumers and merchants. Winning solutions will bring this to life through greater convenience, contextual relevance, and a compelling purchase experience.
We recently looked at consumer attitudes on this topic, and there’s definitely something to be said for online-to-offline expansion. Forrester’s Technographics® data shows that the use of "buy online, pick up in-store" has grown over the past few years. About 43% of US online adults currently use this feature, up from 33% in 2010. In-store pickup is a great way for retailers to create upsell opportunities, as a third of consumers who go to the store to collect their goods state that they buy additional products when in-store. On top of that, US online consumers that regularly use pickup services are more likely to use coupons, and they are the consumers most likely to use their mobile phone or tablet to purchase goods.
For consumers today, online and mobile channels have become an integral part of the shopping experience — for both researching and purchasing products and services.
In their transition to agile commerce, companies must understand how consumers are interacting and using multiple touchpoints to research, transact, and get service. Our recent report Segmenting Buyers: Introducing Super Buyers, Connected Traditionalists, And Traditionalists examines how three distinct retail segments of US online consumers — Super Buyers, Connected Traditionalists, and Traditionalists — leverage various channels for their shopping needs and explains how companies can best engage with each segment.
Some highlights from the report, which is based on a survey of more than 4,500 US online consumers:
· Super Buyers are the most connected shoppers and buy from many channels: online, offline, and mobile. Super Buyers like to mix and match their shopping by either researching online and buying offline or vice versa.
· Connected Traditionalists do most of their shopping online on a computer or in an offline store.
· Traditionalists are the largest segment; they do most of their shopping in-store — although they are also shopping online on a computer. This group has the lowest uptake of tablets and smartphones.
Recently, my colleagues Brian Walker and Sucharita Mulpuru released a great overview of Amazon and its role in retail. What’s clear from this report is that Amazon is affecting everyone, both retailers and consumers. In fact, it shows that for many shoppers, Amazon is increasingly their first stop on the retail path: Thirty percent of US online buyers said that they began researching their most recent online purchase on Amazon.
In Europe, we asked online Europeans about the websites that they used to research products/services in the past three months. In the UK, France, and Germany, Amazon was mentioned most often. While some local retailers hold their own, such as Argos in the UK and fnac in France, eBay is the runner-up in most of these markets.
Earlier this year, Forrester’s published its tablet forecast for the US. With 55 million iPads sold through December 2011, and an estimated 5.5 million Amazon Kindle Fires sold in their first quarter on the market, tablets have gained unstoppable momentum. Forrester forecasted that tablets would reach 112.5 million US consumers — one-third of the US adult population — by 2016. Since then, a slew of new tablets have been unveiled, including the recently announced Windows Surface and Google Nexus 7.
For now, the US is definitely the leading market for tablet adoption. Forrester’s European and North American Technographics® Surveys show that both uptake as well as interest are highest in the US.
Email marketing is at an important crossroads because email is losing its appeal for consumers. Research shows that younger people in particular feel email is too formal. Forrester’s European Technographics® surveys show that consumers’ attitudes toward email marketing have only grown more critical over time. In 2007, 24% of European Internet users agreed that email was a good way to learn about new products, but only 12% agreed in 2010. And 54% of European online consumers state that they delete most promotional emails without reading them.
Are consumers deleting your promotional emails as well? Are you wondering what content and updates your customers value? You should just ask them! Surveys, social media, and offline anecdotes will give you insight into what email content, offers, and even style your users like. For instance, the BBC's GoodFood magazine asked its Facebook fans, "What theme would you like to see in today's newsletter?" and used the results to craft its email content.
Does your brand include Seniors (those ages 65+) in its digital marketing strategy? It should. Here’s why. Forrester recently published a demographic overview of Digital Seniors, and the findings are suggestive: 60% of US Seniors are online — that’s more than 20 million online Seniors in the US.
How are US Seniors using the Internet and technology? While they trail behind younger generations when it comes to device ownership and online usage, they integrate technology into their lives in ways that are relevant for them. For example, they use it as a way to connect with family and friends — 46% of US online Seniors send and receive photos by email, and just under half have a Facebook account.
Seniors aren’t as active on the Web and are less likely to own a smartphone or tablet as younger generations, so many campaign managers don't see them as an obvious target for digital campaigns. But they do have a number of advantages compared with younger consumers, including 1) their size — there are about 21 million online Seniors in the US; 2) their income — they have far more money to spend than 18- to 24-year-olds; and 3) their brand attitudes — they are more brand-loyal, with 63% of online Seniors agreeing that when they find a brand they like, they stick to it, compared with 53% of all US online adults.