With the winter shopping holidays now behind us, Forrester is wrapping up its annual qualitative exploration of US consumers’ perceptions of the holiday season, both for their own behavior as well as what they observed across retailers. The retail industry has seen an increase in consumer spending compared to last year — possibly due to savings from lower gas prices. Overall, we saw that consumers felt less compelled to go out and buy gifts on Black Friday itself, but they still love a good bargain. Some other insights we gathered:
Black Friday sales effectively crossed over from in-store to online. While in-store shopping dropped on Black Friday, online shopping sales rose, resulting in an overall increase in sales. Consumers were quite conscious of the fact that online deals appeared even before the Thanksgiving holiday (and therefore before Black Friday). This year, these sales also carried the “Black Friday” label — traditionally an in-store-specific event. By re-associating Black Friday with deals first and foremost, this could restore positive sentiment and downplay what has otherwise become a stressful shopping event.
Targeted outreach drives online sales — but retailers shouldn’t overdo it. A smaller number of targeted deals and offers will help reduce the overall volume of email that consumers receive. This will in turn minimize the chances of consumer recipients being overwhelmed by holiday communications.
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:
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’re probably aware that there was a new release in the Star Wars saga this week. I’m not a fan of science fiction and have somehow managed never to have seen a Star Wars movie in my life — so all of the discussion about what will happen to Luke, Leia, or the Jedi in ‘The Force Awakens’ is completely lost on me. But what I do find extremely interesting is the huge passion of my colleagues and friends to see this movie in a cinema — and as quickly as possible. In the US, Star Wars opens in 4,100 theaters and the movie is a leader in advance ticket sales around the world. And Star Wars is just one of the big blockbusters of 2015 — in fact, analysts expect this year to be Hollywood's biggest box-office year ever.
When we look at our North American Consumer Technographics data, we see that movies certainly have a place in US online consumers’ video behaviors; watching movies in theaters is just behind watching free and paid online video services like Netflix and Hulu.
A week ago, my family crowded around our living-room TV to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, and I couldn’t help thinking about the ironic clash between tradition and innovation: On the one hand, we mirrored that classic tableau of the family gathered around a single source of entertainment; on the other, our smart TV offered a distinctly modern viewing experience.
This fine balance between tradition and innovation is widespread — especially in regards to the evolution of TV media. Our Consumer Technographics® data shows that US consumers’ love for TV is unwavering, but the ways in which viewers access content are rapidly changing. Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime have been catalysts for this change; now Comcast’s recently launched Stream TV opens a new avenue for TV consumption that lives somewhere between cable and Internet properties. With Stream TV, Comcast is targeting a growing group of TV lovers who don’t actually have a TV:
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.
For US online adults, wearable technology is no longer the stuff of myth. Over the past year alone we’ve witnessed the launch of the Apple Watch and iterations on early wearable products. Wearable devices are now making their media cameo across a variety of channels and topics ranging from politics to pop culture.
According to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® survey data, around one-fifth of US online consumers use a wearable gadget. While the adoption rate is higher among young, wealthy males, wearables are already breaking into segments that aren’t typically considered among the early adopters. Most individuals tend to use the technology for health- and fitness-related activity; however, consumers demonstrate a growing interest in using wearables for several different functions:
In 2015, consumers of all ages are extremely connected — the average US online adult uses more than four connected devices, and 70% use a smartphone. Marketers today want to know who the early adopters are, how far behind the laggards are, and what types of technologies they need to incorporate into their marketing and customer interaction mix.
Because of sharp differences in technology adoption by age, we analyze our findings through a generational lens, including Gen Z, Gen Y, Gen X, Younger Boomers, Older Boomers, and the Golden Generation. So what did we find this year? Not surprisingly, younger generations lead in technology uptake, with Gen Yers leading the way — showing the highest uptake of Internet-connected TVs, smartphones, and tablets. Older generations lag behind, but even members of the Golden Generation use more than three connected devices, on average.
Few consumers categories have seen the explosive adoption that wearables have - especially fitness wearables.The category has gone from zero to tens of millions in sales in less than five years.
Without smartphones, however, the wearables market is likely nothing more than a fad for devoted athletes and passionate (or overzealous) weekend warriors. Smartphones have fueled growth in two core ways:
Mass adoption of smartphones made the components cheap.
Apps allowed for and created the engagement (e.g., gamification, competition, support, coaching) consumers need to meet their goals.
“It takes a village” – but when it comes to building smart cities, it takes far more than that. Developing smart cities requires strategic partnerships, creative business models, change management – and according to my latest report, co-authored with my colleague Jennifer Belissent – citizen buy-in. In order for smart city technology to take hold, governments must incorporate citizens’ perspectives into their strategy long before giving their plans the green light.
Gathering citizen perspectives on so nascent a concept is a classic challenge; however, current attitudes and behaviors signal citizen readiness for smart cities. For instance, as US and UK online adults become aware of smart city solutions, they grow deeply intrigued. And, according to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® survey and behavioral tracking data, online adults’ current device activities lend themselves to participating as engaged digital citizens:
US and UK citizens are equipped to interact with their community and governments through new technology, which suggests a readiness for smart city applications and services. However, citizens are conscious of the fact that this smart city sophistication comes with tradeoffs, like threats to data privacy and the risks of relying on one digital system.