With the winter shopping holidays now behind us, Forrester is wrapping up its annual qualitative exploration of US consumers’ perceptions of the holiday season, both for their own behavior as well as what they observed across retailers. The retail industry has seen an increase in consumer spending compared to last year — possibly due to savings from lower gas prices. Overall, we saw that consumers felt less compelled to go out and buy gifts on Black Friday itself, but they still love a good bargain. Some other insights we gathered:
Black Friday sales effectively crossed over from in-store to online. While in-store shopping dropped on Black Friday, online shopping sales rose, resulting in an overall increase in sales. Consumers were quite conscious of the fact that online deals appeared even before the Thanksgiving holiday (and therefore before Black Friday). This year, these sales also carried the “Black Friday” label — traditionally an in-store-specific event. By re-associating Black Friday with deals first and foremost, this could restore positive sentiment and downplay what has otherwise become a stressful shopping event.
Targeted outreach drives online sales — but retailers shouldn’t overdo it. A smaller number of targeted deals and offers will help reduce the overall volume of email that consumers receive. This will in turn minimize the chances of consumer recipients being overwhelmed by holiday communications.
This past summer, we at Forrester continued to explore new and innovative methodologies. One of my highlights was visiting the IIeX conference in Atlanta back in June. And although I was impressed by the variety of new (qualitative) methodologies, it’s rarely a matter of choosing one or the other. The recent GRIT report by GreenBook shows, for example, that many market research online community (MROC) vendors dropped a few places in terms of innovation, but I agree with Andrew Leary from Ipsos SMX that these online communities will continue to play a relevant (and innovative!) role thanks to their flexibility and variability when it comes to size, duration, integration, and scale.
I recently researched the MROC space, interviewing all the major players to understand their capabilities and how they support organizations. I found that there are a number of ways that MROCs aid customer insights professionals, including:
Creating a better understanding of consumers’ drivers. MROCs allow us to ask consumers in an open-ended way to describe their experiences across the purchase journey, anywhere from the point they learn about or research the company to when they follow up for customer support. In turn, these findings can have an impact at any level of the organization. These insights become even more valuable for ongoing communities.
The holiday season is one month behind us, and while the celebratory spirit has faded, the effects live on through the gifts we’ve exchanged. If you think the shiny new object you presented to your loved one had its greatest impact when she unwrapped its box, think again. Apart from the occasional toy tossed to the back of a closet, gifts may have a stronger influence on our long-term behavior and lifestyle than we might think —particularly when it comes to consumer electronics.
For example, according to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data, consumers who have received a tablet computer as a gift end up using traditional devices like laptops, desktops, and digital cameras less often. Qualitative insight from our ConsumerVoices Market Research Online Community reveals that sentiments of surprise and delight characterize the experience of these tablet recipients; regardless of their initial technology attitudes, most community members find the devices exceed their expectations and inadvertently change their lifestyle:
According to the National Retail Federation, consumer electronics stores saw more than $23.4 million in holiday sales in 2013 and even more by the close of 2014. However, the more interesting story is unfolding now, as consumers who have leapfrogged the purchase experience begin experimenting with —and embracing —their new devices.
Thanksgiving weekend has traditionally been highly lucrative for retailers, but this year saw another drop in spending specifically on Black Friday. In the meantime, online shopping continues to soar, and the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving weekend provided consumers with deep-discount sales. In short, the weekend itself is becoming less valuable to the average consumer. But how does consumer sentiment match up with this shift in behavior? How do perceptions of the 2014 holiday season differ from those of years past and consumers’ initial expectations?
As part of our recent research efforts, we leveraged Forrester’s Technographics® 360 multimethodology research approach to gain a better understanding of consumers’ shopping habits (using our ConsumerVoices Market Research Online Community) and to track online conversation and sentiment relative to Black Friday and Cyber Monday leading up to the holidays and afterwards (using NetBase aggregated social listening data).
Forrester has been analyzing device adoption since the launch of its Consumer Technographics® studies in 1997. Over the years, it has become evident that although demographics and attitudes influence technology adoption, these elements alone do not predict consumer behavior – subtle factors like context and psychological needs must be taken into account to piece together the technology adoption prediction puzzle. This is because of two essential contradictions that exist between:
What consumers say they will do and what they actually do: The concept of introspection illusion reveals the discrepancy between stated intent and subsequent behavior. Consumers are bad predictors of their own technology adoption patterns and are often conservative when estimating their own device usage.
What consumers say they want and what they really want: As Steve Jobs famously put it, “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” And even then, consumers might not recognize the benefits of the product – needs are transient, circumstantial, and often conflicting.
The tide is turning on privacy. Since the earliest days of the World Wide Web, there has been an increasing sense that the Internet would effectively kill privacy – and in the wake of the NSA PRISM program revelations, that sentiment was stronger than ever. However, by using our Forrester’s Technographics 360 methodology, which blends multiple qualitative and quantitative data sources, we found that attitudes on privacy are evolving: Consumers are beginning to shift from a state of apathy and resignation to caution and empowerment.
In our recently published report, we integrate Forrester's Consumer Technographics® survey data, ConsumerVoices Market Research Online Community qualitative insight, and social listening data to provide a holistic view of the changes in consumer perceptions and expectations of data privacy. In the past year, individuals have 1) become much more aware about the ways in which organizations collect, use, and share personal data and 2) have started to change their online behavior in response:
When news about the Heartbleed bug captured worldwide attention last month, consumers learned that their personal information, initially thought to be secure, had in fact been vulnerable to hackers for years. Arguably the worst Internet breach of all time, the revelation left many questioning what to do next.
To understand how consumer reaction to Heartbleed unfolded, we tuned into online chatter and engaged Forrester’s ConsumerVoices market research online community immediately after the news broke. While Forrester’s social listening data reveals that sentiment of consumer conversation about Heartbleed was consistently negative, online community response tells us that the negativity doesn’t stem purely from shock – rather, from a sense of helplessness and jadedness.