At the root of human behavior is the impulse for connection. History is our witness: As times change, certain trends emerge that anchor shared experiences, around which people collectively rally. Today, with social media acting as a platform for ubiquitous connections, diverse consumers build solidarity around digital experiences. Beyond simply looking for deals and discounts, individuals who “friend,” “follow,” and “like” brands seek closer brand relationships.
However, while consumers around the world want to be part of a brand community, some cultures are more enthusiastic than others. Forrester's Consumer Technographics® data shows that Latin American online adults are more passionate about engaging with brands for affective reasons than their European and Japanese counterparts:
This variation roughly parallels Hofstede’s dimensions of culture, which suggests that the differences are partially a reflection of cultural nuances: Those populations that are most motivated to share in the brand community are all-around collectivist rather than individualist.
Recently, I’ve been on the go: I’ve just returned from a two-week sprint that took me to five different cities by plane, train, and car. Any frequent traveler is familiar with the logistical challenges that make multimode transport inconvenient – whether it's dashing between connecting flights or strategizing a taxi pickup to catch the train, switching between methods of transportation can make for a trying, disjointed journey overall.
As I settled into one flight by turning off my mobile phone and opening my laptop, it dawned on me that our path through the fragmented digital world is similar to my multiphase journey. As our physical location changes and as we realize the limitations of certain device experiences, we reach for various devices to carry out the task at hand – often, we complete one activity sequentially across screens and expect a seamless experience.
In fact, Forrester's Consumer Technographics® data shows that more than half of US online adults who begin tasks on their mobile phone continue them on their laptop. These consumers are most frequently purchasing products, checking emails, and researching items:
From Time Warner and Comcast to AT&T and DirecTV, corporate mergers appear to be the latest tactic in winning the battle for market share and driving innovation. From a business perspective, the strategic advantages of such mergers may be clear — but what do these changes look like from the consumer’s viewpoint? To understand consumer reaction to the latest series of merger announcements, Forrester leveraged its Technographics360 approach of linking multiple data sources to give a holistic view of consumers. Specifically, we tuned into online chatter with our social listening platform and engaged our ConsumerVoices market research online community for this analysis.
According to the data, consumers associate mergers with increased costs, fewer opportunities for choice, and decreased product and service quality. While a few individuals appreciate the potential for innovation that mergers might afford, the prevailing sentiment is uncertainty:
The fact that individuals are wary of these corporate mergers partially stems from the timeless truism that “people are afraid of change.” To mainstream consumers, a large merger suggests a loss of customer control and greater uncertainty; according to the Harvard Business Review, these are the top two qualities that underpin a fear of change.
In her recent report, my colleague Reineke Reitsma revealed that European consumers interact with a diverse suite of social networking sites, with Facebook and YouTube leading in terms of consumer engagement. Pinterest, however, is an outlier: European consumers demonstrate minimal interaction with Pinterest compared with both other social media sites and their US peers. According to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data, 18% of US online adults regularly visit the website but only 2% of European online adults across the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain visit Pinterest once a month or more:
In the early 1900s, author Kin Hubbard said, “A bee is never as busy as it seems; it’s just that it can’t buzz any slower.” A century later, things haven’t changed much — except that today, those bees are us and that buzzing comes from our mobile phones.
Survey data tells us that consumers regard their mobile phones as catalysts for productivity. Considering the amount of time consumers spend using the device and how essential they characterize the technology to be, it’s easy to take their word for it. But not so fast: Mobile tracking metrics show that consumers rarely ever conduct productivity-related tasks on their devices. In fact, the official US productivity rate has dropped to its lowest point in the past two decades.
In this case, the conflicting data points are not wrong, they are complementary — and the resulting insight is even more valuable than the sum of its parts. A combination of Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data, mobile tracking numbers, and ConsumerVoices output reveals that consumers engage far less frequently in productive behaviors than expected — and suggests a new understanding of what “mobile productivity” really means.
When Satya Nadella assumed his role as CEO of Microsoft, he shared a profound statement in a companywide email: “I truly believe that each of us must find meaning in our work. The best work happens when you know that it’s not just work, but something that will improve other people’s lives. This is the opportunity that drives each of us at this company.” Nadella’s message speaks to the importance of employee satisfaction in driving organizational success.
Research demonstrates that psychological and social fulfillment directly influences an employee’s commitment to staying with a company and contributing to the firm’s overall success. For example, a report by Deloitte shows that corporate teams that foster a sense of diversity and inclusion among employees outperform others by more than 80%.
Even in business, feelings are facts — employees’ feelings about their company are a corollary to their productivity. And when it comes to the Asia Pacific workforce, those strong emotional connections that yield employee engagement vary greatly across the region. Forrester’s Business Technographics® data shows that India has the largest share of “engaged employees,” while Japan has the smallest:
Coffee-lovers just about anywhere around the world are intimately familiar with the sweet feeling of indulging in a Starbucks Frappuccino – but their blended beverages of choice might be starkly unique. Although the Starbucks brand is familiar to consumers worldwide, the taste of a Starbucks beverage varies regionally according to the diversity of palates. Chinese consumers may seek out a Red Bean Green Tea Frappuccino while their Japanese counterparts prefer a Coffee Jelly; Argentinians may count on that Dulce de Leche Granizado Frappucino where Brits treat themselves to a classic Strawberries and Cream.
The Starbucks Frappuccino phenomenon is a metaphor for any global retailer’s optimal international approach. By catering to consumers’ varying tastes, global companies can hone a strategy that is sensitive to diversity — the “art of thinking independently together,” in the words of Malcolm Forbes.
When it comes to eCommerce specifically, consumer tastes differ not only in relation to products but also to purchase methods. According to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data, more than half of metropolitan Chinese online adults regularly buy products through both traditional and mobile devices, but only one in four US online adults and even fewer European consumers do this.
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.