This week, Google announced that it will shut down Google Reader on July 1, 2013. In its announcement, Google states that it’s doing this because the usage of Google Reader has declined and it wants to concentrate on fewer products. There was a lot of buzz online about this decision, and some fanatical Google Reader fans put together a petition to keep the RSS reader alive. They garnered more than 50,000 signatures in just a few hours.
This whole debate sparked my interest, and I analyzed Forrester’s Technographics® data to get a better understanding of the usage of RSS feeds over time. I found that Google is right about the decline. Our data shows that it was always only a dedicated group who used RSS feeds at least weekly — about 7% of US online adults in 2008; this had declined to just over 4% last year, with about one in 10 US online adults using RSS feeds about monthly.
On Sunday, February 24, TVs around the world were tuned to the 85th annual Academy Awards show (aka The Oscars). While the very first Academy Awards ceremony took place in 1929 — with guest tickets costing only $5 and fewer than 300 people attending the event in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel’s dining room — today the event is broadcast live to millions of fans across 200 countries. But The Oscars’ impressive growth in viewership is not the only thing that signifies the changing times; the technological advances that the awards program has embraced position the event as a leader in the modern-day media consumption landscape.
In 2011, Oscar.com’s supplementary footage offered an overwhelmingly popular second-screen viewing experience; it won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media. Several weeks ago, the Academy launched a second version of the official Oscars app that engages consumers all year round but provides exclusive real-time updates during the dazzling event itself.
The Academy’s mobile development, which allows consumers to connect with supplemental real-time content for an enhanced entertainment experience, is a timely one: Forrester’s North American Technographics® Online Benchmark Survey (Part 2), Q3 2012 (US) shows that 69% of US online adults use Internet-connected devices while watching TV today. Not surprisingly, younger consumers are most likely to turn their devices into TV companions: 61% of 18- to 24-year-old multitaskers use a mobile phone to interact with programming-specific content.
Earlier this week, I attended a briefing with a vendor around analyzing and structuring consumer ratings and reviews; the vendor aims to give companies more guidance during the product development stage or help them understand where a current product is in its life cycle depending on the number of reviews that product is getting compared with its competitors.
The concept is interesting, but it got me thinking about the process of ratings and reviews a bit more. How many people are actually giving ratings and reviews, who are they, and why are they giving feedback?
Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® global online benchmark surveys in Q2 2012 revealed a wide variation between countries in terms of the share of the online population that actually gives feedback. In metropolitan India and China, about three-quarters of online consumers post ratings/reviews of products or services at least monthly; in Brazil, it’s about a third; while in the US and Europe, it’s less than 20%.
However, far more people rely on ratings and reviews than give them — particularly in the US and Europe. More than 50% of US online consumers check ratings and reviews regularly, for example. And consumer reviews and ratings are the second most trusted source of online shoppers when buying a product, after family and friends.
Mobile payments saw continued innovation and competitive disruption throughout 2012, but consumer adoption lagged behind the industry hype. The Forrester Research Mobile Payments Forecast, 2012 To 2017 (US) shows that US consumers will adopt mobile payments at an accelerating rate over the next five years, reaching $90 billion by the end of 2017. Lower barriers to adoption, increased convenience, and early entrants striving for scale will be important drivers of growth.
I was in the US this week, visiting our headquarters in Cambridge, and the topic of loyalty cards and loyalty programs came up. I live in the Netherlands, and although there are plenty of loyalty programs to subscribe to, the benefits aren’t any way near what you get from loyalty programs in the US. Because of that, I normally base my travel choices more on convenience and price than on the hotel chain or airline. But our North American Technographics® Travel And Auto Online Benchmark Recontact Survey, Q3 2012 (US) shows that this is different for US travelers.
US hotel travelers clearly see the benefit of subscribing to a loyalty program for the hotels they visit regularly. In fact, our data shows that about 40% of US online leisure hotel travelers belong to at least one hotel loyalty program. And those who belong to a hotel loyalty program are 10 percentage points more likely to recommend a hotel than leisure hotel travelers who are not part of a loyalty program.
However, the majority of leisure travelers who belong to a loyalty program are Gen X; younger travelers account for only a quarter of current loyalty program subscribers. Hoteliers who want to benefit from social sharing and recommendations should tap the potential of their loyal younger customers in particular.
At this time of the year, many people make resolutions — and many of these are health-related: quit smoking, exercise more, or eat healthier. As anyone who has ever made one of these resolutions knows, it's really hard to make a change. But there’s plenty of technology out there that can help track your progress and give you a bit of support.
Forrester’s Technographics® data shows that about one-third of US online smartphone owners use their phone for healthcare-related activities, ranging from tracking what they eat to text alerts about medication:
However, using technology to track your health hasn’t reached the mainstream yet. In fact, many consumers don’t consider this to be very appealing. Recently, my colleague Lindsey Colella hosted a project in Forrester’s market research online community to better understand the relationship between technology and health. In her report 'Digital Health Management Needs A Makeover To Broaden Its Consumer Appeal', she shows that the average consumer is skeptical about health-tracking technologies. Our respondents believe that using technology to track your health is either for people with a chronic disease or people who are obsessed with their health. Most of them prefer to rely on their doctor for guidance instead.
This week, there was a lot of blogging and commenting around Facebook possibly acquiring mobile messaging company WhatsApp. And although WhatsApp quickly denied that Facebook acquisition talks were happening, I still really enjoyed all the analysis shared by the different technology blogs on why this would be an interesting deal. Many of these mentioned the differences between adoption of Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp in Europe versus in the US.
In fact, the news got me wondering to what extent consumers use mobile messaging at the moment. Forrester’s European Technographics® Consumer Technology Online Survey, Q4 2012 shows that just over one in 10 online European adults (16+) use mobile messaging (e.g., WhatsApp, Skype, or Viber), and this rises to 21% for European smartphone owners. Further analysis shows that usage is very much driven by age:
In the recently published report “US Online Holiday Retail Forecast, 2012” Forrester estimates that US holiday season online retail sales will grow 15% from 2011 to 2012. While the number of US online holiday shoppers is expected to grow very little compared with last year, the average US online shopper will spend about 12% more than last year. But, as my colleague Sucharita Mulpuru shares in her blog on this topic, consumers are harder to impress this year. Satisfying the expectations of online shoppers during the holiday season is crucial to the Q4 success of retailers.
This holiday season, consumers are more likely than ever to visit a website before buying gifts; in fact, it will be the channel of choice for many. Retailers already go big on promotions, but if they don't have their basics in order — such as search, navigation, and checkout — customers will quickly move on to a competitor to find that great deal.
One of my responsibilities at Forrester is editing our Technographics® research deliverables globally. In recent years, we have regularly published reports on consumer behaviors in emerging markets, including the BRIC countries. One aspect of this global data really intrigues me: the success of luxury brands and the profile of luxury goods buyers in these markets.
China has emerged as one of the world's largest luxury goods markets: According to the World Luxury Association, shoppers from Japan represent 29% of the world market share of luxury goods sales; China, 27%; Europe, 18%; and the US, just 14%.
How are Chinese luxury goods buyers different from their non-luxury goods buyer counterparts? Forrester's Technographics® data shows that Chinese luxury goods buyers are similar in terms of age and gender to non-luxury buyers, but they tend to have higher incomes. However, they differ significantly with regards to lifestyle and social attitudes.
This week the news broke that Newsweek, one of the most recognized magazine brands in the world, will cease publishing its print edition after nearly 80 years and go all digital in 2013. The news got quite a bit of attention globally — it even made it into the printed edition of a Dutch newspaper. Of course, this didn’t come as a complete surprise, and Forrester has published enough about digital disruption and the media meltdown to know that newspapers and magazines have to change their strategy.
But the news got me wondering to what extent consumers use their digital devices for media consumption at this moment. Forrester’s North American Technographics® Media And Advertising Online Benchmark Survey, Q3 2012 (US) shows that about one-fifth of US online adults consume magazine content digitally, meaning they visit magazine websites or read digital publications.
This is lower than for newspapers, where about one-third of the US online population reads newspapers digitally — and 14% digital only (compared with 5% for magazines). Those who read digital magazines only are far more likely to be male, the average age skews younger than 35 years old, and only one-quarter of them regularly spend money on magazines.