Around this time of year, one can’t help but become reflective. I know I’m not alone when I say that, on the one hand, this year somehow shot past faster than the last one, but on the other hand, it was jam-packed with new discoveries, fresh ideas, and memorable experiences. In particular, this has been a milestone year for the data insights innovation team here at Forrester, as we officially launched our Technographics 360 research approach, which synthesizes mobile behavioral, social listening, online qualitative, and survey data. As I think back on my experiences with the Technographics 360 initiative inside Forrester, paired with my industry learnings outside Forrester, a few key lessons come to mind that I will take into the new year:
1. Synthesis is “in.” In fact, I learned so much about this topic, I wrote a full blog post dedicated to it! In essence, we now live in a world where the truest insight is a product of synthesis – building knowledge up – rather than of analysis – breaking ideas down. I recently attended SSI’s seminar featuring Simon Chadwick, who proposed that data synthesis is “the next big thing” in insight skills. I agree: With so many diverse data sources at our fingertips that offer unique perspectives on consumers’ lives, researchers need to put the puzzle pieces together to construct a comprehensive understanding of consumer behavior.
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).
As researchers, we can’t underestimate the power of perspective. When the Eiffel Tower was erected 125 years ago, it became the tallest manmade structure in the world and, more importantly, allowed visitors to look down over Paris for the first time; perhaps it was the first real instance of a “birds-eye view.” At the same time, artists like Picasso and Stein were pushing the limits of perspective by portraying every angle of 3-dimensional concepts in one painting or poem. In many ways, the research world today is akin to this historical period of creativity. With more data at our fingertips than ever before, we are able to observe consumer behavior from new vantage points and produce a fresh understanding of customer trends by analyzing multiple angles at the same time.
Here on the data insights innovation team at Forrester, we’ve called our multiperspective research approach Technographics 360. Officially launched this year, Technographics 360 blends Consumer Technographics® survey output, ConsumerVoices Market Research Online Community insight, social listening data, and passive mobile behavioral tracking to synthesize a 360-degree view of consumer behavior. Instead of analyzing research questions by breaking them down, we can synthesize comprehensive solutions by building our knowledge up.
The unveiling of the Apple Watch in early September left consumers and industry analysts with more questions than answers. After the sluggish sales of smartwatch predecessors, what is the actual market opportunity for Apple’s wrist-based wearable? Will consumers’ perception of the technology motivate them to make a purchase? And what type of consumer is most receptive to this device?
In my recently published report, I leverage Forrester’s Technographics®360 multimethodology research approach to answer these questions. So far, reaction to the Apple Watch has ranged from skepticism to enthusiasm, and our data shows that the story of Apple Watch adoption is indeed two-sided. Our evaluation of consumer behavior and attitudes reveals an immediate market opportunity for the device as well as psychological barriers to adoption:
However, the story doesn’t end there. Between the advantages and challenges of Apple Watch adoption emerges a third reality, which synthesizes the two. Apple Watch uptake will evolve, with early adopters, motivated by excitement, biting first and a second wave of mainstream consumers – who can see and experience the benefits of the device – buying next.
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: