Language is evolving; the written word is giving way to visual vocabulary.
Interpersonal communications are shifting from being text-based to image-based, and you don't have to look far for the evidence: We spell using the Emoji alphabet; we comment with photographs; we engage through pictures.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that consumer adoption of visual social networks is growing and that social chatter is becoming increasingly pictorial. Forrester's Consumer Technographics® data shows that US online consumers across generations are interacting with content on Instagram and Pinterest more than before:
As consumers become increasingly versed in the language of visual content, curated images become a powerful means of expressing opinions, conveying emotion, and recounting experiences. As a result, pure text analytics no longer suffice to interpret social chatter; instead, insights professionals have an opportunity to mine the wealth of media-rich data that increasingly pervades social networking sites.
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:
Although an event that takes place in the offline world may be finite, it lives on in the online world. When a single incident becomes part of the Web, which is buzzing with real-time updates, critiques, and responses, the event takes shape, is assigned value, and is made into something significant. As a recent New York Times blogger put it, “the way we share, watch, read and otherwise consume content doesn’t happen on a linear timeline . . . the Web is always churning.” Sometimes, the aftermath of an event conveys more than the event itself.
Watching Apple announce the iPhone 5S and 5C last month was enlightening, but more revealing was tracking the fluctuating online consumer sentiment and response days later. Using Forrester’s NetBase social listening data, we measured the proliferating online discussion related to the Apple iPhone and recognized an immediate trend of negative commentary. Our data shows that while the amount of online conversation grew across a host of public websites, the positive sentiment regarding Apple iPhones plummeted, as the audience's brand perception became more negative.
Early last year, Forrester published a report profiling digital natives — youth ages 12 to 17. They've grown up in a world of rapidly evolving technology, to the extent that they can’t imagine life away from their devices. While digital natives weren’t yet heavy online buyers in early 2012, they often engaged in dialogue about products and brands and were receptive to advertising. Since then, young online consumers have continued to adopt devices and deepen their roots in the digital world; today, around 45% of this young audience uses a smartphone.
Characterized by their vibrant online presence and shaped by a culture of increasing connectivity, digital natives offer a new window of opportunity for marketers — one that stems not only from the audience’s advertising receptivity but also from their rapid adoption of digital commerce.
Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that mobile commerce among US online youth has increased over the recent years; today, nearly half of young online smartphone users purchase digital or physical products on their mobile phones:
As the sun sets on the summer season, I made one last getaway to a local island to enjoy the final moments of warm weather. While this small, remote island offers a chance to disconnect, it doesn't forsake the conveniences we are accustomed to in the process. Despite my lack of cash to hand, making a purchase from the small businesses at a rustic farmer’s market couldn’t have been easier — thanks to the vendors’ alternative mobile payment option.
Leveraging new devices for complex tasks that involve sensitive information or personal data demands consumer trust. The mobile payment adoption curve has been gradual for several reasons, one of which is the lack of trust, but recent news hints at the impressive connections that become possible once consumers put their trust in a service. PayPal recently announced several updates to its mobile phone application that make the app as relevant, complex, and functional as a mobile wallet. By winning the trust of a vast consumer base, PayPal is able to introduce more advanced features with the knowledge that consumers will seamlessly engage with the new offerings.
In fact, Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that US online adults trust PayPal more than any other financial institution to act as a mobile wallet platform:
Summer 2013 may be bringing about a renewed enthusiasm for surfing — and not only on the beach: Many consumers are turning to online video services to skim the waves of new content.
In Q3 2012, Forrester’s Technographics Data Insight showed that around one in ten US online adults had canceled their TV service in order to stream content exclusively from the Internet; those who did not cancel their programming cited their desire to channel surf as the primary reason for maintaining TV service. However, as online video evolves, consumers are finding that the Internet enables an equivalent channel-surfing experience. Participants in our ConsumerVoices online community say they look to Netflix to discover new entertainment content rather than to simply stream a specific show:
“Every time I use Netflix, it is to discover what is on. I never go on there at certain times looking for specific shows. I like having all their movies and shows available to me when I want it.”