Data Digest: Announcing Our Annual Benchmark On The State Of US Consumers And Technology In 2015

Gina Fleming

In 2015, consumers of all ages are extremely connected — the average US online adult uses more than four connected devices, and 70% use a smartphone. Marketers today want to know who the early adopters are, how far behind the laggards are, and what types of technologies they need to incorporate into their marketing and customer interaction mix.

Our annual report on The State Of Consumers And Technology: Benchmark 2015, US answers these questions. This data-rich report is a graphical analysis of a range of topics about consumers and technology and serves as a benchmark for US consumers’ level of technology adoption, usage, and attitudes. Our annual benchmark report is based on Forrester's Technographics® online benchmark survey that we've been fielding since 1998.

Because of sharp differences in technology adoption by age, we analyze our findings through a generational lens, including Gen Z, Gen Y, Gen X, Younger Boomers, Older Boomers, and the Golden Generation. So what did we find this year? Not surprisingly, younger generations lead in technology uptake, with Gen Yers leading the way — showing the highest uptake of Internet-connected TVs, smartphones, and tablets. Older generations lag behind, but even members of the Golden Generation use more than three connected devices, on average.

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Consumers Will Manage All Brand Interactions Via Their Smartphones

Thomas Husson

I spent the last couple of months interviewing marketers and vendors to understand how brands integrate push notifications and in-app messages in their marketing strategy.

Even though my research was primarily focused on mobile apps, I was convinced that there was much more at play. In fact, brands that can harness the power of contextual data to consistently deliver customer value will deliver compelling brand experiences that will build brand preference and, ultimately, loyalty.

Even with the emergence of connected objects that send notifications, smartphones will remain the primary interface in which consumers will personalize their digital experiences. Smartphones will become the hub for most interactions between a brand and its customers. In the next five to 10 years, consumers will use smartphone apps to define and control the communication environment in which brands can interact with them. In particular, we see that:

  • Mobile will become the primary touchpoint for brands to engage consumers. Mobile traffic has already overtaken desktop traffic in five major countries: Nigeria, India, South Africa, Indonesia, and Poland.No doubt this will happen across the globe in the next couple of years. B2C marketers will become smarter in engaging customers via mobile, maturing their approach and moving progressively to the holy grail of one-to-one marketing.
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Differentiate Your Digital Business With A Device Innovation Lab

JP Gownder

I've just released a significant new report, How To Build The Device Innovation Lab That Differentiates Your Digital Business. Innovation is a huge topic – just ask my colleague Martin Gill, who leads Forrester's digital business transformation research. But I&O leaders have their own role to play in innovation: Specifically, the use of devices and similar technologies to drive business results.

I interviewed companies from a variety of verticals – travel, retail, energy, clothing, financial services – and spoke to thought leaders in innovation theory to help I&O leaders solve a series of problems: How can we innovate using customer-facing interaction technologies such as mobile devices, robotics, digital signage, and virtual reality (VR)? How can we establish a device innovation lab (DIL) to help technology and business leaders at our company develop technology-infused, customer-obsessed strategies? And what are the success factors for DILs – from mission statement to staffing to key performance indicators?

In the context of my report, a device innovation lab is an a in-house space for designing, experimenting, piloting, and deploying device-based innovation projects. Done right, a DIL can differentiate your business's digital business efforts in impressive ways. Take, for example, Lowes' robotic retail associate, OSHBot.

Lowes' OSHBot Redefines Retail Customer Service

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Augmented And Virtual Reality Are Ready For Prime Time

JP Gownder

I've just released a major new report on Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented And Virtual Reality Should Be Part Of The Innovator's Toolkit. My research finds that it's time to give AR and VR their due consideration when solving business problems involving either workers or for customer interactions.

AR and VR technologies aren't new. Virtual reality first experienced a boom of interest in the early 1990s, spurred by the 1991 book Virtual Reality by Howard Rheingold. In 1995, Angelina Jolie starred in the movie Hackers, which introduced mass audiences to head-mounted VR display technology. But the early promise of the technology fell apart due to underperforming graphics, attention-jarring lag times, outlandish hardware requirements, and the lack of an application ecosystem. No VR market emerged (outside of niche categories like military usage) until Facebook acquired the Kickstarter startup Oculus for $2 billion in March, 2014.

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The Quantified Workforce Drives Improved Productivity And Safety

JP Gownder

You've probably heard about the Quantified Self (QS), a movement that aims to capture, analyze, and act upon data from the human body in the interest of better health, fitter athletes, and sharper minds. Today, QS is giving way to QW -- Quantified Workforce. A variety of technologies -- devices, software, services -- can quantify the health, fitness, mental acuity, timeliness, and collaboration of workers. Many of these services are ready for prime time, but present some challenges in implementing. These challenges aren't primarily technological; they're related to privacy, workers' rights, and human resources policies. Done right, though, quantifying the workforce can drive both top- and bottom- line growth in your company's business.

I've analyzed this trend in a new report, Smart Body, Smarter Workforce. Here are just a couple of examples of how quantifying the workforce can drive better business outcomes:

  • Lower the company's insurance rates. In January, 2014, Forrester predicted that insurance companies would offer lower rates to individuals who donned wearables -- and we are now seeing that response. In April, 2015, John Hancock announced an opportunity for buyers of its term and life insurance policies to earn up to 15% discount on their insurance rates by wearing a Fitbit, sharing the data with the company, and meeting certain activity levels.  
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Run On Smartphones Before You Walk On Smartwatches

Thomas Husson

Apple will sell more than ten million Apple Watches and dominate the smartwatch category in 2015. Despite the hype, this will only represent 1% of the 2 billion smartphones’ installed base. Should B2C marketers even care? Yes, because the Apple Watch is a good way to learn how to deliver extremely contextual experiences to a niche of early adopters and influencers. Because Apple Watch will boost sales for the entire wearable market, it is also a good opportunity to anticipate and innovate on connected objects.

However, smartwatches are a double-edged sword for marketers. On one hand, they offer unique opportunities to develop brand proximity and hyper-contextualized alerts for consumers in their micromoments. On the other hand, they risk damaging the brand by oversaturating customers with irrelevant messages and raising privacy concerns.

Most branded apps I had the opportunity to test did not deliver value. I even ended up deleting some iPhone apps that did not offer relevant messages. I think marketers should not even consider Apple Watch if they haven’t implemented a mobile messaging and push notification strategy. To differentiate among other apps, you must mature your push notification approach to deliver truly personalized experiences in the context of your overall customer relationship management.

For marketers having a more advanced mobile strategy, now is a good time to start working with app developers or their agencies to plan for native Apple Watch Apps by taking advantage of all the sensors on the device, and to build their own “complications”, mashups of data that would be pertinent for a given user at a given time.

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Build Trust Or Die

Thomas Husson

Trust is the most critical component to develop and maintain a healthy brand. Customers are more likely to trust experts, friends and relatives than marketing campaigns. That’s why it matters to deliver the experience you promise and to build a trusted community around your brand.

As marketers will need to use more personal data to power mobile and contextual experiences, we expect consumer distrust for brands to increase

No matter how quickly wearables and connected objects emerge in the next 10 years, mobility has already introduced a paradigm shift: the ability to collect and use data about individuals in the physical world. Mobility will change the nature of the data marketers can use and act upon. Data collected via mobile will be much more sensitive, more personal and more contextual. Via sensors on wearables or smartphones, marketers will access data on our bodies and our whereabouts in real-time. This represents a huge opportunity for marketers to power better marketing across all channels not just mobile. Mobile and connected objects will not only change the nature of the data marketers can access, it will also bring privacy concerns to the physical space and it risks breaking anonymization.

Together with my colleague Fatemeh Khatibloo, co-author of the report, we digged into our Technographics data to better understand consumers’ perceptions on mobile privacy. We also conducted many interviews to discuss with marketers, vendors, and regulators how they approach mobile data and privacy. Here below are a couple of facts we learnt:

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What Can We Expect At Mobile World Congress 2015?

Thomas Husson

I remember the first time I attended 3GSM in Cannes: It was primarily a B2B telecoms trade show and centered on DVB-H, WiMAX, and other technology-centric acronyms. Fast-forward 11 years, and Mobile World Congress (MWC) will be the center of the business world for a couple of days (March 2 to 5). Some things don’t change: We will continue to hear too much about technology. Simply ignore the hype, especially around 5G; it will have no impact at all on your marketing strategy for the next five years!

However, the list of keynote speakers is a good indication of what MWC has become: a priority event for leaders willing to transform their businesses. The CEOs of Facebook, Renault-Nissan, SAP, MasterCard, and BBVA will be speaking, and more than 4,500 CEOs will be among the 85,000 attendees (only 25% of which are from operators). It is fascinating to see how mobile has changed the world in the past 10 years — not just in the way that we live and communicate but also in terms of disrupting every business. I strongly believe that mobile will have a bigger impact than the PC or Web revolutions. Why?

First, mobile is the fastest and most ubiquitous technology ever to spread globally. People in Asia and Africa are skipping the PC Internet and going direct to mobile phones; they’re the ultimate convergent device and often the only way to reach people in rural areas. As Andreessen Horowitz's Benedict Evans put it, mobile is “eating the world”. It has already cannibalized several markets, such as cameras, video recorders, and GPS, and is now disrupting entire industries, changing the game for payments, health, and education, especially in emerging countries. Second, mobile is the bridge to the physical world. It is not just another “subdigital” channel. This alone has a huge impact on business models. Last, mobile is a catalyst for business transformation.

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The Future Of Insurance Is More Mobile Than Ever

Ellen Carney

When I started  in the tech industry in the late 80’s, I used to think that we lived in dog years:  The pace in “high-tech” (a term that sounds so quaint now, doesn’t it?) was that we packed seven years’ worth of work, development, business, play, pressure—you name it—into a single year. 

Fast forward to today, and the pace of digital change—and pressure—has accelerated to pack even more change into smaller units of time.  Technologies like QR codes, Near Field Communications (NFC), photo-image capture, and now voice control are maturing. What was a mobile novelty two years ago now feels dated.  

And consider that we are addicted to mobile. As consumers, we have enthusiastically embraced mobile devices, thanks to a regular stream of flashy new interfaces and capabilities. For many people, a mobile device is the last thing they touch before going to sleep and the first thing they grab for when they wake up. The behavioral changes that these feature-dense devices have encouraged is transforming how customers engage with their insurance companies and with the extended insurance ecosystem—all while pressuring digital insurance and business technology teams, processes, and budgets.   Consider just two of the impacts that the ubiquity and proximity of mobile devices has resulted in:

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Microsoft HoloLens Is A World-Changing Mixed Reality Product

JP Gownder

It’s not often that a new product release has the potential to reshape the way people work and play. The PC, the browser, the smartphone – all of these products fell into that category.

Microsoft’s new HoloLens has the potential to do the same. (Check out some photos from Gizmodo here -- they don't live up to the actual experience even a little bit -- and this video, which doesn't do it justice, either).


Yes, that’s a big claim. But I’m here to challenge your thinking with this assertion: Over the next few years, HoloLens will set the bar for a new type of computing experience that suffuses our jobs, our shopping experiences, our methods for learning, and how we experience media, among other life vectors. And other vendors will have to respond to this innovation in holographic, mixed reality computing. 

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