Six Digital Consumer Trends to watch out for

Earlier this year Mckinsey & Company published an interesting piece of research detailing six overarching trends in consumer digital behavior. I thought I’d recap these trends in today’s feature article and look at how they may impact word of mouth marketing (WOMM).

Before we get into the six trends, the report pointed out that almost half (48%) of video watched is now either ‘time shifted’ (using DVRs or Video on Demand) or ‘device shifted’ (watched on a laptop, tablet, or mobile phone). This point just goes to show how ingrained digital has become when it comes to video consumption. The television screen has taken a back seat to more mobile devices that offer the flexibility and autonomy of on demand viewing.

Another really interesting fact is that even the older generations (55 – 64 yr olds) are sacking their landlines in favour of mobile (with mobile phone usage overtaking landline usage for the first time in this age group)!

The six digital consumer trends

You can see an overview of the six digital consumer trends in the below chart, including how these shifts have diffused over the past four years.

1. Device shift – from PCs to mobile / touch devices

There’s nothing new here – we all know that the multi-skilled smartphone and its lightweight sister the tablet have usurped the humble PC. Smartphone penetration in the US is sitting at a massive 60%, with just over 30% of US homes having a tablet as well.

What does this mean for marketers?

At Contagious, we work with a lot of blogger influencers to create branded content, so aside from the obvious (ensuring all digital campaigns are optimized for mobile devices), we need to ensure that all branded content is user-friendly enough to catch mobile users before they switch off (research has shown mobile users will abandon their attempts to visit a website if it takes more than a few seconds to load).

Here are a few practical tips for developing user-friendly content for mobile:

  1. Use less images (they slow down mobile viewing times)
  2. Ban flash animation (flash is a big no no for mobile)
  3. Keep it short and sweet (a smaller screen size demands bite size content that can be easily navigated)
  4. Ensure video content is optimized (and will automatically resize on any mobile device)

2. Communications shift – from voice to data and video

Enter social networking. Exit good old-fashioned telephone calls. It’s true – email and telephonic voice have fallen from over 80% to 60% when it comes to communication, yet time spent on social media has doubled. Thanks to the pithy text message, and addictive mobile games and apps, only 20% of phone usage is spent talking.

What does this mean for marketers?

There are obvious opportunities when it comes to developing branded mobile games or applications. I would add that no –one’s really doing it well from a word of mouth perspective either.

One of the ways in which we have adapted as a word of mouth agency is to be aware of how people are communicating in this new digital age. It’s no longer about the ‘traditional’ conversation, but the ‘digital’ conversation and I would argue that there’s immense value now in digital conversations. This is why every word of mouth strategy we develop has a strong ‘digital conversation’ element to it. It’s fundamental really – we must ignite conversations in environments that are pre-disposed to conversations – and those environments are digital.

3. Content shift – from bundled to fragmented

Niche = power. The long tail has truly matured when it comes to media and content. As a result the value in traditional bundles of media is questionable. Mobile phone usage further proves this point with the number of specialized apps installed doubling to over 30 from 2008. Media has moved from being broad to becoming fragmented and eclectic.

What does this mean for marketers?

From a WOM perspective, it means we get to be more tailored with the influencers we work with. Whereas 5 years ago the categories of influential blogs was limited to ‘mummy’ and ‘fashion’, we’re now seeing a whole host of verticals popping up from travel and wellness through to niche subject matters like wine or chocolate baking. This is really exciting for brands as it provides an opportunity to reach highly targeted blog readers with a high propensity to like or buy their product.

4. Social shift – from growth to monetization

For the first time there has been a decline in total audience and engagement levels in social networking (in developed economies). Incredulously, social networking has matured and it hasn’t even reached its 10th birthday yet! Compared to the diffusion of other innovations in the past, this growth rate is pretty incredible. The shift has moved from rapid growth to identifying ways of monetizing large online databases and communities.

What does this mean for marketers?

As the social networking economy matures, so too will measurement and accountability. While traditional above the line forms of media have led the way with how marketing disciplines are measured, we’re seeing an acceptance of new forms of measurement such as # digital conversations generated, % digital share of voice and advocacy conversion rates.

5. Video shift – from programmed to user-driven

Live TV has done its dash and only represents 65% of all video viewing for US consumers. No longer are our favorite television programs dictated to us. We decide what we watch, when we watch it and on what device. On demand services like Netflix are cleaning up as consumers shift to a new way of viewing video.

What does this mean for marketers?

There are the obvious pressures on TV advertising as online channels steal market share. On the plus side, it does highlight an opportunity for more branded TV or webisodes that can be viewed on demand. From an advocacy perspective ‘d like to see more user generated content (UGC) that demonstrates brand advocacy in online forums such as blogs or social networks.

6. Retail shift – from channel to experience

Surprisingly e-commerce only holds about 5% of all retail sales. Clearly there is an opportunity for massive growth here. Almost half of smartphone users already use their devices for retail research and it’s only a matter of time before this research will convert into mobile purchases.

What does this mean for marketers?

Way back in 2011 I wrote about how Starbucks were ahead of the curve with their mobile loyalty program. Not only do they offer their customers the option to purchase via their mobile devices, they have also integrated their loyalty program to generate mobile advocacy. Now this is really smart thinking – and I would love to see more brands putting advocacy and WOM at the heart of their strategies – even when it comes to e-commerce.

Considering e-commerce is so low, there also lies an opportunity in engaging influencers to jump onboard the e-commerce train. My advice to brands is to get a powerful influencer campaign up and running to increase the success of your e-commerce programs and encourage diffusion among mainstream buyers.

What do you think?

So that sums up the six trends – all in all 2013 is an exciting time to be involved in word of mouth and the digital landscape. We’d love to hear your thoughts on this research and how you have seen these trends affecting your day-to-day business.

If you work for (or represent) a  brand and are interested in understanding how a word of mouth program can help you, we would love to hear from you. Please do get in touch.

More Feature articles:



Zoe Boalch

About Zoe Boalch

Zoë Boalch is co-founder of Contagious Agency. Zoë likes: hot chili, yoga, learning new stuff, positive people, taking risks Zoë dislikes: naysayers, grumpy people, rather large egos
This entry was posted in digital, feature articles, mobile, research & stats, trends, word of mouth and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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