The consumer tech stack – Forrester analysts breakdown the Australian tech drive

Brands aren’t the only ones building out their tech stacks. Forrester’s James L McQuivey and Reineke Reitsma outline the four forces that drive consumers’ tech stacks in Australia.

This article originally appeared in The Truth Issue, our October/November 2018 print edition of Marketing magazine.

Reineke-Reitsma 150 BWOver the past two decades, Forrester has surveyed millions of consumers in 20 countries and we have tracked the most important changes in consumer technology adoption and use. The data makes it clear that while companies have spent the last two decades building their tech stack to run their businesses, consumers, too, have been building their own consumer tech stacks. Where companies’ tech stacks can seem shaky, consumers’ tech stacks are firmly grounded and rising higher each day.

This is the marketer’s dilemma: you have to build your tech stack fast enough, sure enough, to serve today’s consumers through the powerful tools and services in which they are confident. Most importantly, it’s not just about understanding how many people have a smartphone, a wearable or a smart device in their homes. 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).

Reineke-Reitsma 150 BWTo understand this, Forrester took a much deeper look. We went beneath the tech itself to the fundamental aspects of human experience to see if we could understand why some technologies thrive while others struggle to get off the ground, and some never take flight at all.

The deeper look revealed 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. In Australia, these four forces manifest themselves in the same way as globally, but through different platforms or technologies.

Let’s see how these four forces drive Australians’ technology behaviours…

Tools: what makes our world useful to us

Truth Issue cover 200Think about the phone you use, the car you drive, how you tailor them to your needs, how you personalise them – and how you would feel if you no longer had access to them. Tools are not just a way of getting things done; they help you express yourself. The mobile phone is the first tool in history that the majority of people carry with them everywhere, serving as a completely personalised and immediately responsive extension of their will.

In Australia, 85% of Australian online adults use a smartphone, enabling them to engage in conversation, coordinate tasks and fulfil emotional expectations, wherever they are. Wearable devices have evolved to be part of this multitool experience, hitting critical mass in 2018 – 32% of Australian online adults use at least one wearable device. The smart home is at a similar turning point: 35% of Australian online adults use a smart TV, 8% use a voice assistant speaker and 13% use smart home devices like internet-connected thermostats or home audio systems.

Conversation: how we connect with each other

Conversations make all of modern life possible. Specifically, our species’ capacity for language enabled our capacity for sociality, which further enabled our capacity for culture. These three skills – language, sociality and culture – are woven from the same fabric: conversation. Technology further enables conversation.

And while today’s technology helps us converse, tomorrow’s technology will in some cases have conversations for us. About 74% of Australian from 18-29 use Facebook Messenger every week, 47% use Snapchat and 25% use WhatsApp. Technology shapes how people communicate not only with each other but also with companies – 48% of Australian ‘Progressive Pioneers’ already use social networks or tools to connect with representatives of their favourite brands at least weekly.

Coordination: how we get things done

Empowered Customer SegmentationHumans are social animals: they take pride in earning the respect of friends, they are unsettled when they are not in harmony with their tribes, however defined. They use emotionally motivated conversation to coordinate mutually beneficial tasks, including bartering for exchange. Enabled by tools, people shop, manage their finances, communicate and entertain themselves.

About seven out of 10 Australian online adults shop online regularly. Computers are the go-to device for online shopping and online banking, but 29% of Australian online adults already prefer smartphones when purchasing physical goods or paying bills. A high 82% of Australian online adults have used an alternative payment method in the past three months, mostly PayPal and BPAY.

Emotion: how we know what to care about

Forrester has written a lot about the role of emotion in what consumers do and how they interact with brands, how it defines the customer experience and how it shapes their brand preferences. Applied to technology, this means that how people feel about technology shapes how they use it. Emotion guides them toward technologies they feel they can use and away from those they don’t yet feel equipped to master – or that don’t yet add enough relevance to persuade them to invest time and/or money in mastering them.

 

Technology is getting better and better at helping us meet our needs, and our emotional connection with it is growing as well. We will build our consumer tech stacks on these emotion-rich connections that guide us to the devices, services and experiences that meet our needs. Winning technologies will expand and exploit these four human forces: mastery of tools, coordination, conversation and emotion. And winning companies must have the consumer understanding and corresponding tech stack that can keep up with this unprecedented rise in human capacity.

James L McQuivey is VP and principal analyst and Reineke Reitsma is VP and research director at Forrester.

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Image credit:Denise Johnson