Do industry innovations change the consumer or do consumer demands change the industry? That's the question when looking at how US online adults prepare their annual income tax returns. When the IRS ceased its mailings of paper forms before the 2011 tax season, approximately 15 million more consumers began filing their taxes online. But would this have happened anyway? We could argue that as media consumption, financial management, shopping transactions, and other traditional behaviors moved online, it’s only natural that consumers’ tax filing practices would have too.
At a subliminal level, the decision about how to file taxes speaks to one's comfort level with new technology, sensitivity to data privacy, desire for convenience, and embrace of old habits. Our Consumer Technographics® data shows a variation in how US online adults prepare their taxes: While 33% defer to professionals, 27% file their own taxes by downloading computer software, and 22% do so through a website. One in 10 of these consumers still files taxes by hand using paper forms.
When March comes to a close, the madness in the US picks up: March Madness, the national college basketball championship, gives sports fanatics the chance to rally around their alma maters, while sports novices get to observe college basketball culture at its best. Personally, I tend to lean to the latter end of the spectrum — but this year, thanks to a redesigned mobile app and enhanced social engagement strategy, I find myself moving away from observer status toward that of participant.
My story isn’t unique: The features and functions of sports-related mobile apps allow fans of any knowledge level to receive immediate updates, learn more about players and teams, and connect with fellow spectators across the region — and globe. From reviews of the recent winter Olympic Games to preparations for the upcoming FIFA World Cup, “sports fever” is universal. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that while the impulse to engage with sports-related apps on portable devices is evident around the world, it is most noteworthy among consumers in Metro China and Metro Brazil:
Walt Disney once said, “of all our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language.” Perhaps he was more prescient than anyone realized at that time: Decades later, the onslaught of social media and the emergence of mobile phones have made his assertion seem truer than ever, as consumers have gained the tools to share a picture with the global population in a matter of seconds. Today, the fascination with pictures has come to define communication that spans both the offline and online worlds.
According to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data, sharing visual content is indeed a universal phenomenon — but it is most prevalent in countries like China, India, and Brazil:
Some believe that our obsession with taking and sharing photographs speaks to a modern narcissistic culture. Indeed, Pew Research reports that the majority of Millennial consumers post “selfies” on social networking sites. However, when Ellen DeGeneres’ Oscar “selfie” became the most retweeted tweet ever this week, narcissism was hardly part of the conversation. Instead, Ellen’s post exemplified what can happen when the power of the picture meets the power of social media: large-scale awareness, excitement, and engagement.
At the intersection of technology, mobility, and consumer centricity, the automotive industry is kicking into gear. From the International Consumer Electronics Show highlights early this year to commercials aired during the nightly Winter Olympics coverage this week, it’s hard to miss the news and promotions around increasingly sophisticated in-car technologies. Vehicles are:
Evolving as channels for media consumption. Last month, Pandora announced that it would begin monetizing its in-car audience by integrating ads into its in-car stream tailored to consumers en route.
Becoming an extension of your network of connected devices. Google’s latest partnership with Audi, GM, Honda, and Hyundai promises to put Android OS-synched cars on the road this year.
Emerging as self-regulating “smart” devices in their own right. BMW’s recently launched “i” series boasts a navigation function that identifies the most energy-efficient route according to range and environment, along with other technology that improves vehicle performance and safety.
Between the tackles and touchdowns of Super Bowl XLVIII, about 35 brands went head to head in a competition for consumer attention by airing highly anticipated commercials at $130,000 per second. Which brands won? It’s hard to tell: Bets were in well before Sunday, play-by-plays have been highlighted, trends analyzed, and commentators are still discussing them.
The truth is that the games have just begun. For consumers, the Super Bowl ad spectacle is part of the “discovery” phase — the first of four stages constituting Forrester’s customer life cycle — as commercials educate markets about a new product or momentarily make an impression on individuals. The resulting waves of social chatter now rippling across the Web amplify each brand’s capacity to be noticed.
But with these questions comes a recognition that the once-imagined future is less distant than we may think. A digitally enabled household no longer means simply maintaining a personal Internet connection or even syncing portable devices to a home network. Now, the digital home is becoming a conscious home — one that adapts and responds according to our behavior.
Cutting-edge devices like the smart thermostat might be low on the adoption curve today, but consumer appetite is evident. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that more than a third of US online adults are interested in using technology to remotely control their home’s lighting, energy, and security:
A recent opinion piece in The New York Times describes the unique beauty of ecotones, an environmental term for the border between two habitats where cultures merge — where forest meets grassland or water meets shore. According to the article, people are deeply attracted to these areas of convergence and interaction because the edge is where the action is. Like the periphery’s significance in ecology, the edges we create in our society generate energy and are the places we push things to for the best results — borders between diverse urban communities, schools of thought that intersect and cross-pollinate, and, now, our relationship with technology.
Are we ready to live on the edge? Consumers say yes. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that a tenth or more of US online adults are interested in wearing sensor devices on their wrist, embedded into clothing, embedded in jewelry, or as glasses:
This week, Facebook announced its rollout of auto-play advertising videos – starting with a teaser for the upcoming movie Divergent. The video ads automatically start playing, without sound, when they appear. Users can click on the video to view it with sound or scroll past it if they aren't interested.
Video definitely has the future. In a blog post by my colleague Michael O’Grady last year, he revealed that video was the fastest-growing digital content category. The Forrester Research Online Display Advertising Forecast, 2013 To 2018 (Western Europe) shows that European Internet users spent 68% of their online time in 2012 watching online videos, and we expect more than 90% of the online population to watch online video regularly by 2017. As a result, video advertising will account for a third of total display advertising spend in 2018.
Last week, my colleague Sucharita Mulpuru published Forrester’s annual US online holiday retail forecast. In her blog, she shared that Forrester expects this year’s holiday season to generate $78.7 billion in US online sales, a 15% increase on 2012's total. This optimism is largely due to ever-increasing numbers of consumers choosing the Web over physical stores as well as the rise in mobile commerce.
To better understand consumers’ attitudes and behaviors regarding shopping during the holiday season, my team conducted a qualitative research project last year with our ConsumerVoices market research online community, starting before Thanksgiving and ending the first week of January. We found that consumers are always on the hunt for holiday deals, not just during the holiday season. Most consumers have an idea of what they are willing to spend on holiday gifts, and while most stay within their budget, they will gladly spend the extra money if it comes down to staying on budget or giving the ideal gift.
On Tuesday at 8 a.m., I received a call from my mother. Instead of driving to her office, as she’s faithfully done at that time for more than a decade, my mother was caught between shelves of cashmere. Macy’s was having a pre-holiday one-day sale, and my mother was thrilled to be part of the early-bird crowd getting first dibs on cardigan colors at 50% off. I was struck — not by my mother’s rare excitement about the discount but by Macy’s success in changing her behavior. My mother traded her comfortable weekday rhythm for a detour to the mall, thanks to Macy’s timely, exclusive promotion.
This example is representative of a major potential shift in which consumers break traditional habits thanks to strategic sales and effective marketing. My mother’s impromptu spree is only a precursor to the behavior that could play out next week when Thanksgiving Thursday becomes the new Black Friday. For the first time in its history, Macy’s will open on Thanksgiving itself to compete with retailers like Target and Best Buy, which open their doors moments after the pie crumbs and coffee cups are cleared away. For Wal-Mart, Black Friday 2013 will start one full week early.