Evolving Behaviors Of The Empowered Consumer

According to a new study from Forrester, and report by Anjali Lai, empowered consumers fuel the age of the customer, but they now have more choices, richer resources, and higher demands than in the past. It is a measurable trend. This report reveals how evolutions in customer behaviors and attitudes are manifesting themselves and measures how urgently brands must move toward customer obsession.

From Napster to the iPhone, and the once improbable reality of wearables and self-driving cars, our world has changed, and so have consumers, says the report. Business leaders can no longer assume that consumers make rational decisions about which products to buy and use. Today’s empowered customers buy experiences. Models of customer understanding must include more than historical behavior, demographics, and lifestyle trends. Now, they must account for the empowered customer’s expectations, emotional motivations, and contextual decisions.

Since Forrester’s Consumer Technographics surveys in 1997, Forrester has seen dramatic changes in consumer behaviors and attitudes. Expectations of speed and personalization are upending traditional business models, resulting in a seemingly chaotic marketplace that appears to be at the mercy of empowered customers, says the report. But, these changes aren’t as random as one might think, finds the study. Consumers are evolving in five measurable ways that explain what they have done so far and predict what they will do next:

1. Willingness to experiment.

The economics of digital disruption mean that the barriers to engaging with new products and experiences are falling fast. As a result, consumers use emerging technologies and try new experiences more rapidly and more easily than before. Empowered customers have become accustomed to not only seeing, but also participating, in marketplace innovations. In the year after the iPod’s release in 2001, 3% of US online adults expressed an interest in buying an MP3 player; within 12 months of Apple unveiling the iPad in 2010, 14% were ready to purchase a tablet, says the report.

2. Device usage.

In October 2014, the number of gadgets on Earth surpassed the number of people, and device production continues to grow five times faster than the global population. Between 2013 and 2015, the percentage of US online adults owning a personal computer, a tablet, and a smartphone grew from 6% to 37%. Consumers now rely on and are empowered by technology to accomplish everyday tasks: US online adults spent an average of 1 hour a day using their mobile phone in 2013; by 2015, the daily average had grown to just over 2 hours.

3. Digital/physical integration.

As devices have become ingrained in consumers’ daily lives, the gap between digital and physical experiences has narrowed, says the report. Given mobile technology’s high penetration rates and increasing sophistication, empowered customers rarely think of digital experiences as separate from their physical ones; the two are becoming seamlessly integrated. For example, says the report, 17% of US online adults use their mobile phone to get additional product information while walking through a brick-and-mortar store, while 46% want to use in-store tools to visualize a product in their home today. As the line between the physical and digital worlds blurs, mobile is morphing from an independent “channel” into an essential component of the empowered customer’s experience.

4. Information savviness.

In 2010, scholars announced that media consumption had hit saturation point among US youth because there simply weren’t enough hours in the day for children to spend more time using media. But time spent with media continued to grow as young people began consuming content heavily across multiple devices simultaneously. Now, the average adult consumes five times more content than she did 30 years ago. Empowered customers are not only exposed to more information than before, they are referencing more resources and developing greater finesse when navigating, evaluating, and discerning the value of that information. While 21% of US online adults in 2013 frequently read detailed peer reviews before making a purchase decision, 42% did so in 2015.

5. Self-efficacy.

If today’s “selfie” culture is any indication, says the report, consumers are fueled by an urge for attention, a desire to be seen as unique, and a need to project the best version of themselves. They want to be in control of their choices so that they can discover what’s best for them. They are hyperaware of how others perceive and treat them, striving to win their loyalty. This drives consumers to seek out personalized, enriching, and emotionally satisfying experiences. This concept isn’t new, but the way in which it appears today is: Digital services and accessible, comprehensive information allow empowered customers to evaluate myriad options and take control of their experiences. 

N.B. The Rise of the Empowered Customer is an extensive and detailed report, supporting the previous text. We urge you to visit here in order to obtain the complete report from Forrester to appreciate the helpful details, graphs, charts and commentary.

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