A recent Forrester report "US Online Holiday Retail Forecast, 2010" forecasts online retail sales during the 2010 US holiday season to grow 16% year over year. Consumers are showing a willingness to spend this season, with affluent consumers driving the most growth. Respondents to our North American Technographics® Retail Online Survey, Q3 2010 (US) plan to complete 37% of their November/December holiday shopping through an online channel, up from 30% last year.
Let’s have a look at the post-mortem of the 2009 US holiday season to understand what is really important to customers: In spite of the economic slowdown last year, nearly three-quarters of US online holiday buyers maintained or increased their spending in the online channel compared with 2008. Online holiday buyers are buying more online for the same reasons that the online channel is a successful and growing component of retail in general: convenience, selection, and price.
His big takeaway is that consumers are still much more likely to provide feedback directly to companies through more traditional channels (like surveys, phone calls, email, and postal mail) than provide feedback through social channels. More specifically, 71% of US consumers who had unsatisfactory service interactions in the past 12 months provided feedback through at least one traditional channel (including email), while only 16% provided feedback through any of the social channels we asked about.
Despite the buzz around social media, this data shows that the majority of customer feedback comes directly to companies via surveys, phone, and email. Organizations should implement sophisticated voice-of-the-customer programs that use text analytics and other technologies to mine this information to better understand customers' needs and the issues they're dealing with, identify best practices, and come up with improvements whenever possible.
In the past five years, the global Internet population has grown from about 1 billion to 1.6 billion, and this growth isn't about to stop any time soon. However, the future growth isn't equally spread across regions. Forrester's ForecastView model shows that the Internet population will increase in every country in the world over the next five years, but emerging markets will grow at a faster pace. In 2014, one-third of Internet users will come from Brazil, Russia, India, or China (the so-called BRIC countries).
The sheer number of online buyers and the increased online spending per capita will position several emerging markets to challenge North America and Europe from an eCommerce perspective. Companies that want to capture this growing number of online users — and their growing funds spent online — will need to look beyond the markets of North America and Europe and approach their online strategies much more globally.
Having analyzed consumers' technology behavior for more than 11 years now here at Forrester, I've seen a certain pattern surface in the uptake of technology: When new technologies become available, it's Generation X (ages 31 to 44) that adopts it first, but it's Generation Y (ages 18-30) that runs with it. Gen Xers have money to spend on technologies when they're still premium-priced, but Gen Yers have the time on their hands to really explore all possibilities. For example, when we look at online activities, young consumers spend more time online and are involved in more activities (especially when we look at social networking). However, for mobile Internet, we see a different pattern emerge.
Forrester's Technographics® data shows that Gen Xers are equally active on their mobile phones, and in some instances, like playing games, they rival the usage of their younger counterparts. In other instances, like checking news, sports, or weather or checking travel status, Gen Xers actually outpace Gen Yers.
Companies that want to target these groups should ensure that their mobile Internet experience is consistent with the regular Internet presence, ensuring a seamless experience for their consumers. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group is a perfect example of a company that identified the mobile needs of its clientele and then created a unique experience that allowed users to effortlessly connect both through their mobile device and online.
Ever wondered how consumers in emerging markets feel about online security? Forrester Technographics® tracks this kind of information in 17 countries worldwide, including China, India, Brazil, and Mexico. We found, for example, that in Latin America there are huge differences between Mexico and Brazil: 65% of Mexican PC owners are concerned that their PCs will become infected with malware, compared with 48% of Brazilians. However, Brazilian PC owners are much more hesitant to share any information online. Ninety-three percent of Mexican PC owners and 95% of Brazilian PC owners use some form of security measure on their home PCs.
Although Mexican PC owners are more concerned about malware and are more likely to share personal details online, they do less to protect themselves than Brazilian PC owners: They’re significantly less likely to install a pop-up blocker, spam filter, or antispyware. My colleague Roxie Strohmenger has published other posts on how Latin American consumers feel about technology, and how Brazilian and Mexican consumers show different interests and behaviors. You can check them out here.
Social media has forever changed the way travelers interact with each other and companies — and its use is still growing. Forrester Technographics® data shows that 26 million more US online leisure travelers use social media in 2010 than in 2008. In fact, leisure travelers are really connected to travel companies beyond booking: A high 41% of US online leisure travelers have become travel social fans (TSFs) by friending, following, or becoming fans of a travel company or destination on a social networking site like Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, or Twitter. But why do they do this?
As the data shows, discounts are a powerful motivator. One in three friends, follows, or fans travel companies and destinations to learn about the seller's offers and discounts. As a result, smart travel organizations will start using social networking sites as extensions of their Web sites for travel deals. Travelocity, for example, has a 'roaming gnome' on its Facebook page that offers and promotes the company’s "Deals Toolkit." JetBlue Airways has a dedicated Twitter account, @JetBlueCheeps, to push special deals. Who will follow with the holiday season coming up?
With the adoption of more and more devices that can connect to Wi-Fi, it’s interesting to understand the uptake of home networks. Forrester's Technographics® data shows that 30% of online Europeans have already set up a wireless home network, and a further 11% are planning to get one in the next six months. The adoption of wireless home networks has grown in Europe since 2006, while the adoption of wired networks is declining (dropping from 12% in 2006 to 6% in 2009).
Three-quarters of online Europeans with a wireless home network share an Internet connection among multiple PCs, and 17% have already connected their PC to their TV set. Wireless networks are especially popular among families and multiple-PC households: 86% of wireless home network owners have more than one PC at home, and 40% have children living at home.
The concept of traditional TV watching needs to be redefined. The TV has evolved from a passive device with a single content source to a simple, large-display screen on which numerous activities come together. In the past, consumers had a TV device (typically the set-top box), a movie device (typically the DVD player), and possibly a gaming device connected to the TV. But now, the game console streams movies, the set-top box records TV, and the PC does everything. The next step is connected TVs — HDTVs that incorporate a direct connection to the Internet, whether wired or wireless.
Connected TVs are a big deal to manufacturers, but Forrester Technographics® data found that consumers are struggling to understand the benefits. One of the challenges that manufacturers of these TVs face is that when viewers are in "TV mode," they seem unable to imagine doing anything with these TVs other than watching more TV. When questioned, people appear to want one thing: more video. The top responses focus on getting access to well-known sources of TV shows and movies like Netflix, Blockbuster, or regular broadcast and cable networks, both for men and women.
Despite the early success of the Apple App Store, the market for mobile applications is still in its infancy. Many players haven't really launched or marketed their offerings yet, but the market is already crowded, with around 80 would-be application stores available worldwide as of June 2010. On the other side there's the consumer interest. Last week Nielsen published its State of the Mobile Apps 2010 report that showed that as of June 2010, 59% of smartphone owners report having downloaded a mobile app in the last 30 days. But a recent study of the Pew Internet and American Life Project shows that “Having apps and using apps are not synonymous.”
However, companies that want to develop a mobile strategy should begin with a data-based understanding of how mobile-advanced their brand's consumers are and will be. Mobile Technographics® places consumers into groups based on their mobile phone usage. The groups are defined by the extent to which the mobile phone user has adopted mobile data services, the frequency of use of these services, and the level of sophistication in the mobile applications he or she uses.
To understand how consumers migrate across channels, we analyzed Forrester's European Technographics® Benchmark Survey to determine where they start their purchasing journey and where they end up buying the product. In general, shoppers tend to ultimately purchase in the channel in which they started their research. This inclination is stronger among shoppers who began their research offline: 91% of European shoppers who began their research offline also purchased offline. Meanwhile, 58% of those who started to look for information on the Internet eventually made the purchase online.
However, this purchasing journey differs by product. For example, when we look at leisure travel, about two-thirds of European consumers start researching online. And only one-fifth don’t involve the Internet at all in the researching phase. However, about one-third of consumers who start their research online purchase their travel offline.
Summarizing, European online adults use a mix of channels to research and buy products, and the Internet is a key channel in the purchasing path. Yet deals are still mostly closed in the store. A seamless customer experience in which consumers can achieve goals like returning products across channels is key to driving multichannel success.