If Thursday morning’s controversial tweet from McDonald’s is any indication, brands are no longer safe. I’m not just talking about the threat of a data breach or hack — I’m talking about the threat of consumers who force brands to expose their ethics and beliefs or remain at the mercy of consumer perception and interpretation in a polarized environment. As we’ve seen with other examples of ubiquitous and once universally loved brands like Kellogg’s and L.L. Bean, consumers increasingly judge companies on the basis of their values — and while customers are skeptical of firms that stay silent, they open their wallets for those that champion appealing causes.
Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data reveals that this is hardly a passing cloud; customers are becoming more aware of — and sensitive to — social issues overall. For instance, more consumers regularly follow politics, read about science, and identify as being environmentally conscious today than in 2014:
The holidays have a way of bringing people together in more ways than one – and every holiday season I’m reminded of just how universal the power of human emotion is. Regardless of lifestyle, background, and world view, people everywhere are truly emotional beings, moved by fundamental feelings of joy and sadness, hope and fear, love and loss. And anyone who has observed frantic shoppers careening through store aisles or the unbearable anticipation of children on Christmas morning can see that, at this time of year, emotions are at their peak.
Advertisers know holiday shopper emotions better than anyone; they have perfected the art of tugging at heart strings or prompting tears to spur a purchase. But as consumers wear their hearts on their sleeve, retailers broadly must be in tune with – and responsive to – customer sentiments. For example, when passionate shoppers turn to social channels, retailers mustn’t dismiss their cheering or venting. In fact, Forrester’s Customer Experience Index (CX Index™) data shows that consumers often experience their most positive brand interactions on social media – and remember them more favorably than engagements on websites, over email, through phone conversations, and even in person:
The tug of war between reason and emotion has fueled contentious debate since the days of Socrates. But, Socrates and subsequent thinkers didn’t anticipate the influx of data in our contemporary world. Today, our modern media saturation, infinite social connection, and sensor-laden bodies and buildings mean that we create, consult, and critique data more than ever before. How does the vast amount of information – that is now literally at our fingertips – actually influence our daily decisions, and why?
Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® survey data proves that individuals are steeped in information and are keenly aware of it. In fact, the insight shows that US online adults increasingly lean on data to make daily choices across spheres of life:
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, but for marketing and insights professionals, the love between a customer and a brand should be present all year round. Today, building loyal customer relationships is increasingly challenging; it requires effort, patience, and empathy. “Love at first sight” may be a fairytale and few consumers commit to a brand until death do them part, but those companies that forge deeply emotional bonds and align with consumer values gain a competitive edge.
Therefore, professionals striving to foster customer love must understand consumers holistically by answering questions like “What are consumers naturally most passionate about?” “Where are consumers engaging when not with my brand?” and “How do current lifestyles create opportunities to connect with new customers?”
My latest report, which blends Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® survey, behavioral, qualitative, and social listening data, reveals that US consumers who prioritize their health have a distinct attitude that sparks broader lifestyle choices. “Health-conscious” is not just a descriptor; it is also a driver, as consumer commitment to health stems from a deep need for self-improvement.
The market research industry is built on a fundamental assumption: that any enterprise, product, team, or person can be better than it is today. Researchers mine insights because we are constantly seeking opportunities for greater success and are eager to illuminate the path forward. But researchers aren’t the only ones doing this; although it’s our profession, people around the world share this drive for improvement. These sentiments are at their peak today on New Year’s Eve as we reflect on the highs and lows of the year behind us and resolve to do something better in the year ahead.
Seeking improvement is part of human nature, but in some cases, it’s demanded of us. In the business world, companies that set higher standards also set new consumer expectations and secure customer loyalty. For instance, our Consumer Technographics® data shows that Amazon offers one of the most loved customer experiences across the globe because it provides an unparalleled sense of emotional satisfaction:
Back in 2013, we conducted a study to figure out how the “summer of Snowden” was affecting consumer opinion on privacy. A year later, we combined that data with a current pulse of consumer sentiment, and found that mainstream attitude signaled imminent behavior change.
Fast forward another year: Today, US presidential candidates are talking about privacy and personal data protection during the pre-primary season. We have recently witnessed three more major data breaches affecting millions of Americans. The adblocking debate is at fever pitch, while Internet giants make privacy a point of differentiation. So, we ran our study a third time, and incorporated behavioral tracking data into the methodology.
Our findings? Consumers are more willing than ever to 1) walk away from your business if you fail to protect their data and privacy; 2) adopt technologies like tracker-blockers and VPNs to limit their exposure to data misuse; and 3) extend their protective actions to the physical realm. And, Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that this story pertains to millennials and their older counterparts alike:
I always love this time of year. Here in Cambridge, Mass., we’re at a turning point: With the close of the World Series and the start of daylight savings, we face the reality that evenings are colder, nights come faster, and the holidays are imminent. With summer escapes behind us and holiday shopping ahead of us, recent media stories made me think about one phenomenon that does not change with the seasons: the relentless efficacy of advertising.
For example, REI’s latest ad, which urges consumers to forego Black Friday, may look like commercial suicide at first glance, but don’t underestimate the effects of an unexpected message. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that while ads may not directly spark a purchase, they immediately enhance awareness and can spark consumer behavior that subsequently drives consumption:
And this data only quantifies the advertising effects of which consumers are aware; more often than not, advertising has a deeper, subconscious impact on consumer behavior and attitudes.
The US health insurance industry is in the midst of a tectonic shift. Since federal legislation mandated health coverage for all US citizens, health insurers have been pivoting away from pure B2B models to reinvent themselves as B2C services – and they’ve been responding to the demands of a new target group: consumers who purchase their own health insurance.
Earlier this year, we published a blog post detailing the channels customers use when purchasing health insurance. But mapping customers’ physical interactions with a company is only part of the story – understanding their emotional evolution is just as important. According to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data, a mere 50% of consumers who purchase their own health insurance feel that the brand puts them first; others believe health insurers do what’s best for their own bottom line at the expense of customers. The former are not only emotionally satisfied, they are also loyal to their current health insurer and willing to spend on additional products and services:
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: