For the past decade, the number of customers using the Web to manage their bank accounts and policies and to research and buy financial products has grown steadily. For many customers, the Web has already replaced bank branches, financial advisors, and insurance agents as the heart of their relationship with their financial providers. For example, in the Netherlands and Sweden, less than one in 10 consumers go into a branch on a monthly basis — they do most of their banking activities online or, increasingly, on mobile phones..
But this doesn’t mean that these consumers don’t need support. Forrester’s European Technographics® Financial Services Online Survey, Q4 2011 shows that although uptake of money management tools is still low in Europe, already one-third of online Europeans are interested in tools that will give them more insight into their spending.
Last Sunday my washing machine broke down. And for a family with young children, a washing machine is right up there with shelter and food in Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
As the shops are closed on Sundays in the Netherlands, I turned to the Internet to look for a new one. And because I wasn't very satisfied with my old brand, I was looking for another with similar features but (hopefully) better quality. Within minutes I was completely lost in washing cycles, special programs, and all the other fancy features washing machines have nowadays. I clicked picture after picture, trying to enlarge to see the controls, with little success. But I was saved by video. I came across a site that shows a video of each of the products they sell — how they work, what they do, the control panel, explaining what the fancy features mean, and so on. This information, together with the price, helped me decide which washing machine to buy (at that site, of course).
China represents a huge opportunity for most organizations — the nation has a population of 1.35 billion people, consumer spend has gone up progressively in the past few years, and Forrester expects 268 million Chinese consumers to buy online by 2014. And, we are committed to providing our clients with the data and analysis required to be successful in the country. In fact, as part of our Technographics product, we have been investigating the impact of technology on consumer behavior in the Asia Pacific region since 2006.1
Recently, I collaborated with my colleague Sam Yanling Jaddou on a report called “Understanding China: The Opportunities And Challenges” that will help marketing and strategy professionals understand the uniqueness of the Chinese market, as well as key consumer trends.
Some highlights from the report, which is based on a survey of more than 3,600 metropolitan Chinese consumers2:
Chinese consumers are very receptive to new trends. They not only show high interest in new technologies like cloud services, Internet-connected TV, and tablets, but the uptake of these devices is already higher in China than in the US and Europe. However, because of their relative high price, new technologies are mainly bought by high-income Chinese.
I’m sure you’ve noticed from the latest data digests that I'm really in a mobile mood, but there's just so much going on with mobile globally! Last week, I was at a research conference on “Mobile Research in a Mobile World”; it presented many interesting case studies on how to use mobile for research purposes in both developed and developing markets.
One of the most intriguing presentations was by Mikhail Zarin from Mobiety and Artem Tinchurin from Tiburon Research. They shared the challenges they encounter with doing research in Russia and how adding mobile adds a layer of complexity with regards to questionnaire design, engagement, and sample management.
This reminded me about a report I recently worked on with a colleague called “The Introduction To The Russian Consumer.” My colleague is from Russia, and she taught me that many consumers pay their bills or top up their phones at machines that take cash. And these machines also act as eCommerce platforms: You can use them to purchase airline tickets, for example. During their speech at the mobile research conference, Mikhail and Artem shared how they use these machines to ask people to participate in research. Although response rates are low, overall participation is quite good because there are so many ATMs.
Recently, I've been editing some reports on how consumers are using their mobile phones and how that has changed in the past couple of years. We only have to think back to the Nokia 6510 or Motorola flip phones that we were using a few years ago to see how the introduction of smartphones has changed our world. In many countries, people spend more time texting and doing other data-related activities on their phone than using it for actual voice calls.
And in many countries, the impact of mobile uptake and its evolution has been even bigger and more different than in the US and Europe. In the West, mobiles are often an addition to a PC or game console; in many developing countries, a mobile phone is the only device that most consumers own. This is reflected in the activities for which they use their mobile. For example, Forrester's Technographics® studies — involving 333,000 respondents in 18 countries — shows that Indian, Chinese, and Mexican mobile phone owners use their phones more to listen to music and play games than their European and US counterparts. [Note: this graphic shows selected activities from a list of possible activities]
On April 2nd I'm attending the TEDx event in Maastricht, the Netherlands, which is dedicated to healthcare. Given my market insights background, this may sound a bit out of my league. But you're mistaken. Of course, the healthcare element is sometimes a bit alien to me, but healthcare is not just about curing disease — it's also about culture, technology, and consumer behavior. And those elements are very familiar to me as market researcher.
Last year the event got me very energized. It's great to see how technology can help people in very difficult situations. I listened to e-patient Dave, a cancer patient who talked about how he used patient support communities like epatients.net to better understand his illness; he has since become a noted activist for healthcare transformation through participatory medicine and personal health data rights. And Lucien Engelen advocated crowdsourcing to create a map of defibrillators (AED devices) globally. (Note: you can download the app here.)
We know that consumers are ready for healthcare-related activities on their mobile phones. Forrester’s Technographics® data shows that a third of smartphone owners use their phone for healthcare-related activities, ranging from tracking what they eat to medication text alerts.
Last week, I ran into an infographic on Ad Age about The People of Walmart. It compares the demographics of Walmart, Kmart, Kohl’s, and Target shoppers: for example, age, sex, income, and region of the customers. It shows that more women than men shop at Walmart, and that their audience is quite equally spread across age as well as income. Recently, Forrester conducted a survey where we gained insights on customers of retailers like Walmart. We found that while it’s great to examine the demographics of shoppers, it’s much more powerful (and actionable) to look at other insights about these retailers’ customer base, like marketing preferences, spend levels, and brand consideration.
Below you'll find some of the results from this Forrester study. You'll see that the average US online adult who shops at Walmart spent about $848 on average in the past year, but that only about half are likely to recommend the retail giant to a friend or family member. When these results are compared to other retailers, and by demographic, you create real insights.
I’d love to hear from you: How do you target your customers? Are there any behavioral and attitudinal variables that have been very helpful in defining your target segments?
In 2009, we started the Latin American Technographics® product to understand how emerging Latin American markets like Brazil and Mexico are adopting and using technology. During this time, we have seen some very cool findings with respect to social media and social tools. We found that:
As part of our Demographic Overview series, we just published Digital Natives: A Demographic Overview; previously, we published research on digital dads and digital moms. For readers who haven’t heard the term before, Digital Natives are the individuals currently ages 12 to 17, and they will soon become the most sophisticated consumers in the digital world. Forrester defines Digital Natives as “individuals whohave grown up in the age of technology and cannot imagine a life without computers, cell phones, and social networking.”
With the increasing numbers of these Digital Natives, it is imperative that companies get to know them — and the earlier the better. They adopt digital technology faster than older generations; they can’t imagine a life without digital “essentials”; and they combine these digital activities in sophisticated ways.
For example, Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that boys, on average, spend 6.1 hours playing video games per week, and when they have discussions on social networks, video games are the No. 1 topic. Moreover, despite having little disposable income yet, more than one-third of Digital Natives have either researched or purchased a product or service online in the past three months.
Customer advocacy is the perception among customers that a firm does what’s right for them, not just what’s best for its own bottom line. Customer advocacy matters because in every country we survey in our Consumer Technographics® research, we’ve found that customers who view their main bank as a customer advocate have more accounts at their main bank, are more likely to consider their bank for their next financial purchase, and are more likely to recommend it to others.