Do industry innovations change the consumer or do consumer demands change the industry? That's the question when looking at how US online adults prepare their annual income tax returns. When the IRS ceased its mailings of paper forms before the 2011 tax season, approximately 15 million more consumers began filing their taxes online. But would this have happened anyway? We could argue that as media consumption, financial management, shopping transactions, and other traditional behaviors moved online, it’s only natural that consumers’ tax filing practices would have too.
At a subliminal level, the decision about how to file taxes speaks to one's comfort level with new technology, sensitivity to data privacy, desire for convenience, and embrace of old habits. Our Consumer Technographics® data shows a variation in how US online adults prepare their taxes: While 33% defer to professionals, 27% file their own taxes by downloading computer software, and 22% do so through a website. One in 10 of these consumers still files taxes by hand using paper forms.
When March comes to a close, the madness in the US picks up: March Madness, the national college basketball championship, gives sports fanatics the chance to rally around their alma maters, while sports novices get to observe college basketball culture at its best. Personally, I tend to lean to the latter end of the spectrum — but this year, thanks to a redesigned mobile app and enhanced social engagement strategy, I find myself moving away from observer status toward that of participant.
My story isn’t unique: The features and functions of sports-related mobile apps allow fans of any knowledge level to receive immediate updates, learn more about players and teams, and connect with fellow spectators across the region — and globe. From reviews of the recent winter Olympic Games to preparations for the upcoming FIFA World Cup, “sports fever” is universal. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that while the impulse to engage with sports-related apps on portable devices is evident around the world, it is most noteworthy among consumers in Metro China and Metro Brazil:
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.
The Indian online retail market is still nascent, yet it is growing rapidly. Despite all of the existing challenges — underdeveloped logistics and supply chain operations, poor last-mile connectivity, delivery rejections at the doorstep when cash-on-delivery payments are used, and low conversion rates — online retail in India grew by 67% in 2013. Forrester expects India’s online retail spending to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 50% over the next five years as more Indian consumers start purchasing online. Our recently published report India Online Retail Forecast, 2013 To 2018 discusses our online retail forecast and the growth drivers for India.
On the demand side, Forrester sees a lot of room for growth in the number of Indian online buyers.
India had a total population of 1.28 billion in 2013, nearly 16% (or one in six) of whom are online. While higher PC penetration rates have driven Internet adoption in the developed economies over the past two decades, faster mobile penetration is helping boost the Indian Internet population, thanks to “mobile-only” Internet users.
Of all Indian online users, just 14% currently purchase online. Forrester expects the online buyer population in India to grow to 128 million by 2018.
It is safe to say that online and mobile banking have hit mainstream. Today, more than half of all adults with a bank account in France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and the UK use banking services — which we define as information requests, transactions, or alert delivery — on their PCs, tablets, or mobile phones. The uptake of tablets and smartphones gives banks an opportunity to engage their customers deeply across platforms. Our recently published Forrester Research Digital Banking Forecast, 2013 To 2018 (EU-7) explores how each Internet-connected device will drive future online and mobile banking adoption across seven key European markets.
The forecast identifies some key trends in the European digital banking market.
1. Mobile banking adoption continues its sturdy growth. As recently as 2009, mobile banking activity was negligible, representing fewer than 5% of all adults with accounts. Adoption has risen nearly fourfold since and will continue to grow at double-digit compound annual growth rates through 2018. However, consumer concerns about device security will restrain growth: In all the European countries we track other than Italy and Spain, consumers are more than twice as likely to cite security concerns as a reason for not using mobile banking than for not using PC/tablet online banking.
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.
We just published our annual report on The State Of Consumers And Technology: Benchmark 2013, US. This data-rich report is a graphical analysis of a range of topics about consumers and technology and serves as a benchmark for 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. The report covers a wide range of topics, such as online activities, social media activities, retail behaviors and preferences, and device usage—for ‘traditional’ technologies like TVs and laptops—as well as more emerging technologies like smartphones, tablets and wearables.
We analyze our findings through a generational lens, including Gen Z, Gen Y, Gen X, Younger Boomers, Older Boomers, and the Golden Generation. While most Americans are already online, we are seeing major strides in mobile Internet access. In 2013, all generations are connected—81% of the US adult population goes online. But there are still generational differences in smartphone usage: Seven of ten Gen Zers and Gen Yers use a smartphone, but only 18% of the Golden Generation do.
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: