Consumer technology markets are being redefined by a new set of consumer expectations and values shaped by global economics, technology and social change, according to Gartner, Inc. Analysts have identified 10 consumer macro trends shaping the technology, media and service provider markets over the next 10 years. All 10 of these trends converge around questions of value — what consumers value enough to pay for, how consumers' values are changing, and how technology and service providers (T&SPs) can respond to this to increase their sales and margins.
"Technologies are changing fast, but so are consumers. An understanding of the major demand-side dynamics is critical in order to build a 360-degree view of how the volatile market for digital technologies and services will evolve the next 10 years," said Nick Ingelbrecht, research director at Gartner. "Consumer macro trends are summaries of often complex and interrelated shifts in consumer behavior. All of these aspects of consumer behavior are dynamic and specific change drivers, and all of them impact technology markets."
Click through for 10 trends impacting technology and media over the next 10 years, as identified by Gartner, Inc.
Consumer technology markets are being redefined by a new set of consumer expectations and values shaped by global economics. In mature markets, many consumers have cut back on discretionary spending in the wake of successive financial crises. However, consumers seem to put a higher value on media and communications products in times of recession as they cut back on more-expensive substitutes. Tough times create "buyer's markets," meaning that T&SPs must adjust their operations to accommodate changing consumer expectations. This involves switching to more recession-friendly marketing messages, a greater range of "affordable" or "value" product options, more-strenuous customer engagement efforts and improved customer experience.
Structural acceleration is changing consumption patterns and leaving some consumers behind. Acceleration means consumers expect regular and increasingly frequent product upgrades. Over time, there has been a closing of the classic "digital divide" between the haves and have-nots in terms of access to basic technology products and services. However, new digital divides have opened up, especially inequalities in relation to the social graph and consumers' ability to access and manage — or not manage — real-time, nonstop ubiquitous connectivity that is the product of technological acceleration.
Acceleration should in theory give consumers more spare time to do the things they want. In reality, they experience the reverse. Therefore, the most valuable product that T&SPs can deliver to consumers is extra time in the day to do things that they want or need to get done. Products and services that help consumers fill their time more productively and/or pleasurably are the most compelling.
The consumer technology market is trending toward the production and marketing of more female-friendly technology products targeted at the market's single biggest demographic: women. Women are underrepresented in key job roles within the technology and media sectors. This is clearly a missed opportunity given that women typically control from 70 to 80 percent of household spending, including big-ticket items such as computers, cars and houses. T&SPs should conduct a gender audit and invest, if necessary, in recruiting suitable talent to redress underrepresentation of genders in key decision-making and creative roles.
Technology is facilitating more customized shopping experiences and putting greater power into the hands of the customer. Consumers have unprecedented access to the information they need to make more-informed decisions about switching between brands. Dealing with empowered consumers makes life more challenging for brands, but presents an opportunity for competitive differentiation to organizations that are prepared to invest in meeting the demands of power customers. Technology brands need to assess and improve their ability to interact and develop a relationship with their customers through customer care initiatives, including after-sales and technical support.
The consumer market is increasingly turning to social networks for news and information and tuning out of mainstream media news feeds. Increasingly, consumers are turning to social networks to get their daily fix of news and information about the wider world, as well as sharing their news and posting their commentaries. As a result, news format and content are progressively being reconstructed around social media channels. News media and content providers need to move to a multiscreen distribution arrangement using social, mobile and interactive channels. Social media will continue to challenge traditional brand relationships and business models, and a whole-organization response will ultimately be required in building a cohesive social CRM.
The market is being driven by self-reinforcing patterns of technology usage that are fundamentally changing consumer behavior. The self-reinforcing characteristics of technology usage shows that not only will the consumer technology market grow, but it will also take a bigger share of the consumer wallet in the future, as well as creating new markets. Technology providers must anticipate changes in consumer behavior early in order to create a credible presence in the new media environment. At the same time, two-thirds of the market can be considered later adopters, who will be slow to absorb new services and digital interactions, and T&SPs should consider developing bridge products and services that will allow later adopters to embrace these technologies and products.
The consumer market is seeking new institutions, brands and values to trust in. The collapse of confidence in traditional institutions following bank failures, government collapse, corruption, economic and civil unrest and the disruption to previously accepted "norms" (such as local communities and nuclear families) have sent consumers searching for new brands, values and social organizations that they can trust. Brands that help their customers through hard times can build strong emotional and cognitive loyalty among consumers, leading to significant opportunity for brand extension.
The consumer market is shifting online, but consumers still expect a multichannel brand experience. In terms of scale, retail stores will remain dominant revenue generators for some time to come, and the importance of online channels depends on the product. However, customers don't think in channels; they just shop, and retailers, therefore, need to make the shopping experience as integrated and seamless as possible. T&SPs should build their multichannel operations around their business intelligence systems in order to understand the voice of the customer, using business analytics to track the behavior of consumers across channels, reallocate resources and rebalance priorities as necessary.
The consumer market is becoming progressively less tolerant of complexity. Although consumers tend to buy products with ever-richer features, they often prefer those that are simple and intuitive. The ability to provide appealing and intuitive user interfaces has become a critical point of differentiation among competing technology providers. As technology becomes more complex, vendors need to invest more in keeping the user interface simple and intuitive. T&SPs therefore need to focus on simplifying technology, pricing, brand messaging, and feedback and interaction, and consider offering chargeable help services for consumers challenged by installing and configuring new equipment and services in their homes.
The focus of innovation and consumption is shifting to emerging economies. By 2030, China will have world's most rapidly aging population, aging faster than Germany or Japan and, by that time, India will be world's youngest in terms of population trajectory. Demographics clearly impact consumption patterns, but so, too, do consumer culture, values and attitudes, including consumer expectations. Class matters to brands because the middle classes tend to control a disproportionate share of the national income and make brand choices based on factors other than price. T&SPs need to increase engagement and exposure to emerging markets, in particular recruiting and building an understanding of local consumer needs and preferences, and applying those to the broader innovation process and strategy.