I am delighted to announce that our annual report on The State Of Consumers And Technology: Benchmark 2012, US is now available. This report is a graphical analysis of a range of topics about consumers and technology and serves as a benchmark for understanding how consumers have changed over the years. For those of you who aren't familiar with our benchmark report, it's based on Forrester's annual Technographics® online benchmark survey that we've been fielding since 1998 and for which we interview close to 60,000 US online adults. The report covers a wide range of topics, such as online activities, device ownership — including penetration data and forecasts for smartphones and tablets — media consumption, retail, social media, and a deep dive on mobile.
We analyze our findings through a generational lens, including Gen Z, Gen Y, Gen X, Younger Boomers, Older Boomers, and the Golden Generation. Age is a key factor behind consumers’ usage of and attitudes toward technology. However, one finding spans the generations: Consumers of all ages embrace the opportunity to find information and connect with people and brands wherever they are. And while online penetration in the US remains the same as a year ago — at 79% of all adults — the depth of Internet usage has grown; more consumers go online on a daily basis and they connect on more devices. The graphic below illustrates our point: US smartphone owners use their device almost everywhere. They aren’t just connecting at home but wherever they go; in fact, they’re more likely to access the Internet on their phone in a store than in their own kitchen.
For social media evangelists, the question on everyone's mind is this: "How do we effectively measure the business value of social initiatives?"
Even when we get close, there's always that pesky issue of causation vs. correlation — can we really prove causation even for examples with high correlation between social initiatives and business outcomes? (Read Freakonomics, or watch the documentary, for insights into the challenges of causation vs. correlation.)
Take a second to think back to the year 2009. The US was in the thick of the financial crisis; companies were slashing budgets, and the unemployment rate was in double-digits. And do you remember a little thing called the “swine flu”? The World Health Organization (WHO) deemed the H1N1 strain of the swine flu influenza a global pandemic in June 2009. These were just some of the events top of mind for much of the nation and the broader global community three years ago.
2009 was also the year that the annual Forrester And Disaster Recovery Journal (DRJ) Survey focused on the role of risk management in business technology (BT) resiliency and crisis communications programs. Needless to say, the survey was fairly timely. Forrester found risk management was becoming a more common practice for business continuity teams, but that there was still more room for further collaboration with their risk management counterparts.
Fast forward three years, and the 2012 Forrester/DRJ survey is again focusing on the role of risk management in BT resiliency and crisis communications (you can take the 2012 survey by clicking here). A lot has changed since 2009 with a number of new events, technologies, and organizational challenges currently plaguing business continuity and risk management professionals.
A few minutes ago I had the pleasure of announcing the winners of the 2012 Business-to-Consumer Forrester Groundswell Awards at the Forrester eBusiness Forum in Chicago. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read through, not just the highlights below, but the full entries for all the finalists and all the winners — because once again this year we received many outstanding entries. It’s clear that social media has reached a tipping point, where savvy companies are using social tools to pursue real business objectives rather than simply chasing fans and followers. The 2012 winners put social programs to use in their organizations — successfully marketing their wares, supporting their customers, and generating insights.
Here, then, are our B2C finalists and winners for 2012.
ABC News and the United Nations Foundation partnered with BlogFrog to raise awareness and funds around issues affecting moms and babies around the world. This program identified more than 800 social influencers and activated them to create trusted content about motherhood. In total, the bloggers reached more than 15 million readers and garnered over 31 million total social media impressions. This in turn led tens of thousands of people to get actively involved: More than 15,000 people signed up for the Million Moms Challenge Community in the first two weeks.
Consumer behavior is changing even more rapidly than you might think. In the past couple of weeks, my colleague Samantha Jaddou and I have been analyzing the data for the US version of our annual global series, “Understanding The Changing Needs Of Consumers.” We are seeing not only a decline in the number of US consumers with a computing device (a PC, laptop, or netbook) but also a drop in the amount of time that consumers spend on traditional media like watching TV (on a TV) or reading newspapers or magazines.
One of the biggest revelations in this year’s data was the change in attitude of consumers — particularly younger ones — toward the Internet. Since we started tracking this information in 1997, we have only seen the amount of time spent online increasing. But Forrester’s 2012 data shows that US online adults are now reporting a decline in the amount of time they spend using the Internet compared with 2011 and 2010.
What’s going on? Our analysis revealed that “being online” is becoming a fluid concept. Consumers no longer consider some of the online activities they perform to be activities related to “using the Internet.” In fact, given the various types of connected devices that US consumers own, many people are connected and logged on (automatically) at all times. The Internet has become such a normal part of their lives that consumers don’t register that they are using the Internet when they’re on Facebook, for example. It’s only when they are actively doing a specific task, like search, that they consider this to be time that they’re spending online.
Creators sit at the top of Forrester’s Social Technographics® ladder: They are the consumers who write blogs and articles, upload self-created video and music, post photos, and maintain their own web pages. More than any other group, Creators are shaping the face of consumer content online. We recently published a report called “Exploring The Social Technographics® Ladder: Creators.” It shows that Creators are great advocates for the brands they like, and that they have, on average, many more friends and followers to share their opinions with than any other group.
However, what was really intriguing is how much they value feedback from companies and brands. Even more importantly, more Creators expect companies to respond to positive posts about products/services than to negative ones.
This is contrary to popular belief. In fact, there’s plenty of advice out there on what you should do in a crisis or how to respond to someone who’s posted a complaint. There’s not much advice on how to handle positive feedback, but in fact, it’s one of the best ways to trigger (and motivate) your brand advocates.
After moving to a new apartment in September, I needed to get a new TV. My first instinct was to gather information from a few sources. I browsed online retailers to get an idea of prices, and I looked at manufacturers’ marketing content to understand the latest technologies like 3D TV. After all of that, I turned to consumer reviews and discussions to get a feeling for whether I would actually find those features valuable. (For example, some customer reviews helped me confirm that I didn’t want 3D TV.)
Where did I find those reviews? Everywhere — there are star ratings and comments on product pages at retail sites (like John Lewis and Amazon.com), technology media sites (like CNET) and manufacturer websites. Interestingly — I got the feeling that the manufacturers still aren’t entirely comfortable with the transparency that social media brings. They’d like to put a spin on the message, even if they can’t entirely control it — For example, Panasonic’s UK site has a page that promotes “5 Star Reviews Of The Month” (see the screenshot below). I can't think of a situation when I'd want a firm to guide me only to the most positive reviews of its products. Can you?
It’s been a couple of weeks since Dreamforce ended, and in between client engagements and research I’ve had some time to digest the event — so I’d like to share some lessons from Dreamforce 2012:
1. If you build it they will come (no, really)
Setting a record for attendance at a vendor-led technology conference, Dreamforce 2012 was BIG. With over 90,000 attendees, it was hard not to be impressed by the logistical efforts taking place behind the scenes. Think of it ... How do you feed 90,000 people in a couple of hours? Not to mention the enormous bandwidth issues for Wi-Fi and even 4G providers when you put this many social people together. Back when I was running marketing at a tech vendor, I was planning events based on how many square feet of conference space we would we need ... the Salesforce team plans on a scale of how many conference centers will they need. This was an amazingly large event with very few crowd control issues. And the mobile app for the conference made everything much easier, despite occasional Wi-Fi outages. My hat's off to the conference team at Salesforce for pulling this off.
2. Salesforce.com has adopted a business strategy which embraces social business
The silver lining on Apple's iOS6 Maps App snafu is that it has fueled much humorous poking. My favorite so far is the photo going around Facebook of Tom Hanks in "Cast Away." There is also a blog called "The Amazing iOS 6 Maps" that includes a collection of Maps mishaps sent in by users. It seems that negative product and service experiences often turn into comedy (remember "United Breaks Guitars"?). A funny photo or link shared on Facebook is often how product issues are initially brought to our attention.
The proliferation of mobile and portable Internet-connected devices has made TV multitasking the norm. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that about four out of five US online adults who own a laptop, smartphone, or tablet go online regularly while watching TV, but the intensity of interaction differs by device.
My colleague Tracy Stokes wrote about this in a report called “The New Layers Of TV Audience Insight.” Her take: Just because your TV audience is active on social and digital platforms doesn’t mean that they will blindly engage with your brand. To drive cross-media engagement, you have to have a clear call to action that easily conveys why consumers should be active across multiple media channels.
But when you do it right, there’s a lot to gain. Research from Discovery Communications shows that exposure to more digital touchpoints while watching TV can strengthen consumers' connection to content and brands, not detract from it. Discovery's study found that users who multitask with devices while they watch TV are more attentive and responsive to TV programming and advertising than the average viewer.