Last week, my colleague Sucharita Mulpuru published Forrester’s annual US online holiday retail forecast. In her blog, she shared that Forrester expects this year’s holiday season to generate $78.7 billion in US online sales, a 15% increase on 2012's total. This optimism is largely due to ever-increasing numbers of consumers choosing the Web over physical stores as well as the rise in mobile commerce.
To better understand consumers’ attitudes and behaviors regarding shopping during the holiday season, my team conducted a qualitative research project last year with our ConsumerVoices market research online community, starting before Thanksgiving and ending the first week of January. We found that consumers are always on the hunt for holiday deals, not just during the holiday season. Most consumers have an idea of what they are willing to spend on holiday gifts, and while most stay within their budget, they will gladly spend the extra money if it comes down to staying on budget or giving the ideal gift.
On Tuesday at 8 a.m., I received a call from my mother. Instead of driving to her office, as she’s faithfully done at that time for more than a decade, my mother was caught between shelves of cashmere. Macy’s was having a pre-holiday one-day sale, and my mother was thrilled to be part of the early-bird crowd getting first dibs on cardigan colors at 50% off. I was struck — not by my mother’s rare excitement about the discount but by Macy’s success in changing her behavior. My mother traded her comfortable weekday rhythm for a detour to the mall, thanks to Macy’s timely, exclusive promotion.
This example is representative of a major potential shift in which consumers break traditional habits thanks to strategic sales and effective marketing. My mother’s impromptu spree is only a precursor to the behavior that could play out next week when Thanksgiving Thursday becomes the new Black Friday. For the first time in its history, Macy’s will open on Thanksgiving itself to compete with retailers like Target and Best Buy, which open their doors moments after the pie crumbs and coffee cups are cleared away. For Wal-Mart, Black Friday 2013 will start one full week early.
Earlier this week, Groupon celebrated its fifth birthday — and its party was certainly hard to miss. The countdown to the big day began last week, when my daily deal emails arrived with pomp and circumstance — images of crowns in the subject lines, extra exclamation points in the text, and heavy promotions based on the need to celebrate. On November 4, Groupon gave out $5 million in “Groupon Bucks” to thank its customers for fueling its five-year evolution from daily deal provider to searchable marketplace.
But the party isn't stopping there. The company continues to identify marketplace opportunities and engage its consumers in a seamless, meaningful way. Groupon’s recently redesigned mobile application and website aim to enhance user experience and allow the company to start optimizing its audience potential. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that Groupon's US online customers are a particularly valuable target, as they spent around $200 more shopping online in the past three months than the average US online consumer:
This week, I’m on holiday. As a follower of my blog, you know that I quite regularly take a couple of days off. I live in Europe, where we have more holidays (on average) than some other regions. So with my head already "on" my next trip, I was intrigued by the results of the recently published report US Mobile Travel Bookers.
Mobile bookers are tech-savvy travelers who are willing to share their experiences by creating travel-related online content, like blogs and reviews, or uploading videos. In fact, four out of 10 online travel-related content creators are mobile travel bookers. Travel companies need to cater to this advanced group and support them in their travel journeys across devices. As my colleague Tony Costa shares in his report Build Seamless Experiences Now, "customers don't see individual touchpoints. Rather, they perceive the quality of a firm's services through their overall experiences. When disconnects occur, customer satisfaction takes a nose-dive."
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.
Our recently published Forrester Research Online Retail Forecast, 2013 To 2018 (Asia Pacific) reveals some interesting insights on the evolution of online retail spending and the online buyer populations across Australia, China, India, Japan, and South Korea. The forecast details online spend for each of the following categories: computer hardware and software; consumer electronics; beauty and cosmetics; media (books, music, and videos); apparel and accessories; footwear; and appliances (personal and home).
Each country is at one of three different stages of eCommerce adoption:
Nascent: In the nascent stage, online buyers form a very small share of the total online population, with only a small percentage of Internet users purchasing online; India is one example. Although the retail opportunity is huge in India, we believe that India is still at least eight years behind China in terms of eCommerce adoption because of infrastructure issues and only minimal government support.
Ascending: In the ascending stage, online buyer penetration increases much faster. If it takes 10 years for online buyer penetration to increase from 5% to 25% of the total online population in the nascent stage, it can grow from 25% to 50% in half that time during the ascending stage — driving faster growth in online retail spending. China is in the ascending stage. As a result, the number of online buyers in China will surpass the total population of the US by the end of next year.
Mature: eCommerce in Japan, Australia, and South Korea is now (relatively) mature. Although the opportunity for growth still exists, it is constrained by the tailing off of growth in the number of online buyers.
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:
eCommerce is becoming more globally pervasive. Therefore, retailers must continually adapt their expansion strategies to reflect changing retail consumption behaviors. But what makes a country ready for eCommerce? When making investment decisions, it's certainly important to get the facts about macroeconomic conditions, Internet access, and consumer market size. However, there is much more driving the eCommerce market.
In order for firms to get a full view of a country’s online retail readiness, they must also consider its online activity, consumer payment behavior, and postal courier infrastructure. In a recent study conducted by Forrester's ForecastView team, we investigated 55 global economies to discern the readiness of each eCommerce market. The underlying quantitative framework captures 25 variables under four pillars: consumer behavior, merchant adoption, macroeconomic conditions, and the retail opportunity. The analysis is distilled in the Forrester Readiness Index: eCommerce (FRI).
It's been more than a year since Forrester published its original Facebook factor report, which quantified the impact of a Facebook fan on brand interactions for US online adults, and social media has only become a bigger part of consumers’ online experience. Social media is engrained in the lives of US consumers, and we found this to also be true for US youth. Our latest report, “The Facebook Factor: US Online Youth” answers the question, “How much more likely are youth Facebook fans to purchase, consider, and recommend brands than non-fans?” We also analyzed youth engagement with brands on other social networking sites like Twitter and Google+. As in the original report, we used logistic regression modeling to uncover the effect of Facebook fans or Twitter followers on brands for the youth market.
In the report, we analyzed the “Facebook factor” for four brands that are popular with youth: Converse, Disney, iTunes, and Starbucks. We found that US online youth who engage with these brands on social media are much more likely to have made a purchase from, consider, and recommend each of these brands than non-engagers.
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: