Happy 2017! Settling in to the New Year often renews hope and excitement for the future, and rekindles anticipation for the brands, products, and experiences on the horizon. This year, it’s hard to think about imminent innovations without considering a modern imperative that is rapidly moving to the forefront of conversation: customer empathy.
We are barely three weeks into 2017 and already the cry for customer empathy – and brands’ responses to it – are popping up frequently. At the Consumer Electronics Show, the “insanely cute” Kuri personal robot stole consumers’ hearts, and took the notion of “tech love” to a whole other level. The progression of Artificial Intelligence is sparking public debate about the role of compassion in human connection. And people find themselves seeking meaning, purpose, and understanding over happiness.
The need for empathy affects how customers evaluate brands too: Consumers increasingly prefer companies that resonate with shoppers’ personal values. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® social listening data shows that consumer buzz about company values is on the rise:
As a music lover, this has been a year of goodbyes for me, with many of my teenage heroes like David Bowie, Prince, and earlier this week, George Michael, passing away. It makes you realize how fast time moves on, and nothing lasts forever. As I’ve shared before, I love this time of year: Thinking about what has been, and having a world of opportunities in front of us. And I can’t wait to see what next year will bring.
This year, there were a number of surprises and new developments that nobody predicted. And 2016 was the year of Pokémon. As my colleague Anjali Lai shared in an earlier blog post about this phenomenon: “The Pokémon Go phenomenon is not only about adopting technology or using new, cutting-edge features; it is also about designing a sticky experience that is enabled by the ways customers are changing.”
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:
Here in Boston, we are at a precious moment in the year: The early onset of cool, dark evenings sets the stage for the imminent holiday season — but doesn’t eclipse the warmth of the autumn sun quite yet. As the seasons change, we have a few rare days of mild weather that I can’t pass up, so, like my fellow city-dwellers, I make a little extra time to walk and window-shop.
Except — I hardly ever return with empty hands. Especially when I spot a sale at my favorite clothing retailer, it doesn’t take long before my intended walk turns into a shopping spree. Fortunately, our data shows that I’m not the only one who falls for the spontaneous clothing purchase. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data reveals that women in particular buy apparel on impulse:
In fact, our data shows that 43% of women don’t research clothing at all prior to making a purchase, compared with only 36% of men. And those women who do research apparel predominantly count the in-store browsing experience as their product research, while men often use both online and offline tools.
If you follow my blog regularly, you already know that I love to travel. And while I’ve had my fair share of travel hiccups (missed flight connections, last-minute assignments to the dreaded middle seat, lost luggage – you name it), I’ve always glossed over these snafus and accepted the fact that traveling inevitably comes with a few small challenges.
Until this year, when I hit executive traveler status on a major airline thanks to the loyalty points I amassed during my trips. Suddenly, my tolerable travel experiences became overwhelmingly enjoyable ones, and I quickly came to love (a word I don’t use loosely!) flying with this airline because of the VIP treatment. My reaction isn’t unique. In fact, it’s characteristic of my generation: Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that Millennials highly value loyalty programs that reward customers with enhanced customer service and special status, as Millennials cherish this sense of validation and exclusivity.
Specifically, our data shows that the loyalty program reward tactics that work for middle-aged and older consumers are not enough to satisfy Millennials. While customers of every generation want discounts, Millennials also expect loyalty programs to offer a premium customer experience. And what’s more, younger consumers want the flexibility of applying loyalty points to a variety of benefits – from travel upgrades to digital media content to charitable donations – while their older counterparts are happy using their points to get cash back.
Consumers in Asia Pacific are in the midst of a digital transformation. Within the past decade, online penetration in China grew from 8% to 54%, while mobile internet access grew more than sevenfold. Today, the rate of customer evolution is gaining speed, as consumers are increasingly willing to experiment with new products, rely on devices, demand seamless digital experiences, consume large volumes of information, and are committed to seeking out the best experiences for themselves.
Forrester’s Empowered Customer Segmentation measures these key shifts in customer behaviors and attitudes and anticipates how consumers both respond to digital innovation and demand it. An analysis of our Consumer Technographics® data for Asia Pacific shows that the most rapidly evolving customers dominate in metropolitan China and metropolitan India:
Charles Dickens once wrote that: “Change begets change. Nothing propagates so fast.” In today’s evolving marketplace, where innovators are setting new customer expectations and companies are racing to meet rising demands, Dickens’ words ring true. The first step on a company’s path to thriving in this environment is understanding customers accurately – specifically, identifying how consumer expectations are changing and how fast.
Our Empowered Customer Segmentation measures critical shifts in customer behaviors and attitudes to gauge how consumers are both responding to innovation and demanding it. While the segments are globally consistent, we see insightful differences when applying the framework to unique markets. For example, Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows how the segments differ between Spain and France:
These country differences reveal unique opportunities and challenges for companies aiming to win or retain customers in Europe. For example, forward-looking brands such as Banco Sabadell and BBVA can engage Progressive Pioneers in Spain to test innovative concepts before planning a broader rollout. On the other hand, brands with large proportions of French Settled Survivors or Reserved Resisters can retain customers by convincing them of the effectiveness of an experience.
What did we find this year? In 2016, the average US online adult receives an overall score of 40 and fits into our Social Savvies category. Social Savvies consider social tools a part of their everyday lives. On average, US online adults score highly for explore and discover— they use social tools to discover new products and also to explore them when they’re considering their purchases. Compared to last year, US consumers are slightly more social media savvy in 2016: The Social Technographics Score for the average US online adult has increased from 37 in 2015 to 40 in 2016.
Within 24 hours of its launch, Pokémon Go broke app download records and user numbers began multiplying by the minute. It wasn’t long before mysterious names like “Jigglypuff” and “Squirtle” peppered daily conversation, stampedes of mobile-obsessed gamers became commonplace, and augmented reality approached a tipping point.
The web impacted more than a third of total retail sales in 2015 and will impact 48% by 2020. Smartphones are becoming consumers’ most widely used mobile device, and consumers are using them to find information about a product irrespective of their location. They use them to research products, even when they are shopping in physical stores; to compare prices with online retailers; to check specifications; and to read user reviews. This behavior is making the web a more powerful medium — one that retailers can no longer ignore. We expect web-influenced retail sales in Asia Pacific to reach $2.1 trillion in 2020, up from $1.2 trillion in 2015.
South Korea leads in web-impacted sales . . . High penetration rates for the internet, smartphones, online retail, social media, online payment options, and messaging platforms are powering the web’s impact on retail sales in South Korea. Similar factors mean that Japan, China, and Australia closely follow South Korea in terms of web-impacted sales.