In the recently published report “US Online Holiday Retail Forecast, 2012” Forrester estimates that US holiday season online retail sales will grow 15% from 2011 to 2012. While the number of US online holiday shoppers is expected to grow very little compared with last year, the average US online shopper will spend about 12% more than last year. But, as my colleague Sucharita Mulpuru shares in her blog on this topic, consumers are harder to impress this year. Satisfying the expectations of online shoppers during the holiday season is crucial to the Q4 success of retailers.
This holiday season, consumers are more likely than ever to visit a website before buying gifts; in fact, it will be the channel of choice for many. Retailers already go big on promotions, but if they don't have their basics in order — such as search, navigation, and checkout — customers will quickly move on to a competitor to find that great deal.
One of my responsibilities at Forrester is editing our Technographics® research deliverables globally. In recent years, we have regularly published reports on consumer behaviors in emerging markets, including the BRIC countries. One aspect of this global data really intrigues me: the success of luxury brands and the profile of luxury goods buyers in these markets.
China has emerged as one of the world's largest luxury goods markets: According to the World Luxury Association, shoppers from Japan represent 29% of the world market share of luxury goods sales; China, 27%; Europe, 18%; and the US, just 14%.
How are Chinese luxury goods buyers different from their non-luxury goods buyer counterparts? Forrester's Technographics® data shows that Chinese luxury goods buyers are similar in terms of age and gender to non-luxury buyers, but they tend to have higher incomes. However, they differ significantly with regards to lifestyle and social attitudes.
This week the news broke that Newsweek, one of the most recognized magazine brands in the world, will cease publishing its print edition after nearly 80 years and go all digital in 2013. The news got quite a bit of attention globally — it even made it into the printed edition of a Dutch newspaper. Of course, this didn’t come as a complete surprise, and Forrester has published enough about digital disruption and the media meltdown to know that newspapers and magazines have to change their strategy.
But the news got me wondering to what extent consumers use their digital devices for media consumption at this moment. Forrester’s North American Technographics® Media And Advertising Online Benchmark Survey, Q3 2012 (US) shows that about one-fifth of US online adults consume magazine content digitally, meaning they visit magazine websites or read digital publications.
This is lower than for newspapers, where about one-third of the US online population reads newspapers digitally — and 14% digital only (compared with 5% for magazines). Those who read digital magazines only are far more likely to be male, the average age skews younger than 35 years old, and only one-quarter of them regularly spend money on magazines.
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.