Four Forces Drive The Consumer’s Tech Stack

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Today I’m on stage in New York speaking to hundreds of marketing executives at our Consumer Marketing Forum 2018. I’m there to unveil the 2018 US Benchmark Data Overview, which for the first time ever we are making available to all Forrester clients. See the report here: The Consumer Tech Stack.

The research is exciting. Over the two decades I have been involved in our consumer research, we have surveyed millions of consumers in 20 countries and over that time we have tracked the most important changes in consumer technology adoption and use. The lesson that became very clear upon analyzing this data is that while companies have spent the last 20 years building their tech stack to run their businesses, consumers, too, have been building their own consumer tech stack. What’s playing out now in the world of marketing is that the companies that have a sharp enough eye on the consumer’s tech stack are able to build and use their own business tech stack more effectively.

Importantly, as we note in the report, it’s not just about understanding how many people have a wearable (answer: 32% of US online adults), or how many homes have a smart speaker like an Amazon Echo (answer: 26 million US homes by year-end 2018). It’s about understanding how those technologies enable new modes of consumer experience and ultimately shape the kinds of conversations you can have with your customers (answer: far richer, more continuous than ever before).

To understand this, we took a much deeper look, we went beneath the tech itself to the fundamental aspects of human experience to see if we can understand why some technologies thrive while others struggle to get off the ground and some never take flight at all.

The deeper look led us to a fundamental model of human experience based on evolution. We grouped humanity’s uniquely evolved characteristics into four groups — tools, coordination, conversation, and emotion — four forces of technology adoption and use which we then described with our data.

The result is clear: We have moved from people who occasionally used technology in these realms of our experience to people who now use technology tools constantly, applying tech to every aspect of who we are, how we converse, what we do, and what we care about. That’s the consumer’s tech stack: A set of personally selected technologies that extend our ability to do all the things we evolved to do. And do so in such a way that we feel motivated to come back to those technology tools more often with higher expectations.

One of my favorite consumer themes comes out in the data as well: Emotion. I’ve written extensively about the role of emotion, especially in light of very compelling research that challenges what we thought we knew about emotion. Emotion is not an irrational secondary process leftover from our animal ancestry. Instead, it is a crucial observer, moderator, and director of our experience. As we write in the report: “Emotion commands our attention, directs our focus, and prioritizes our memories. Applied to technology, it guides us toward technologies that we feel we can use and away from those we don’t yet feel equipped to master. In some cases we trust the technology; in others, we use the technology to assign trust to key brands and services.” (From The Consumer Tech Stack). Very telling is this simple datapoint that we have tracked for nearly two decades.

Technology gets better and better at helping people meet their needs, and their emotional connection with it grows as well. That’s the future on which the consumer tech stack is built: an emotion-rich connection that guides consumers to the devices, services, and experiences that meet their needs.

In the coming weeks we’ll share more tidbits from this landmark report, focusing in turn on the other three forces: tools, coordination, and conversation. We’re building up to that last one because it’s a doozy. All your conversational marketing and conversational commerce thinking will need an upgrade. But we’ll save that for later.

in Retail See All

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