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Are these the 10 consumer technology trends that will define the next decade?

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17th Apr 2012
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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.

In a new set of predictions, the analyst firm outlines 10 macro trends set to shape the industry over the next decade which all 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.

The 10 trends are as follows:

Market Trend No. 1 - The Great Depression, Part 2: Consumer confidence and the new normal

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.

Market Trend No. 2 - The impact of acceleration/deceleration: The temporal digital divide widens

Structural acceleration is changing consumption patterns and leaving some consumers behind. Acceleration means consumers expect regular and increasingly frequent product upgrades. 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. Products and services that help consumers fill their time more productively and/or pleasurably are the most compelling

Market Trend No. 3 - Women wanted: Unlocking gender opportunities

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. 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.

Market Trend No. 4 - The power customer replaces consumer power

Dealing with empowered consumers makes life more challenging for brands, but presents an opportunity for competitive differentiation to organisations 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.

Market Trend No. 5 - The social information lifeline

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-organisation response will ultimately be required in building a cohesive social CRM.

Market Trend No. 6 - Humanity 2.0: Consumers become the computer's ‘killer app’

The market is being driven by self-reinforcing patterns of technology usage that are fundamentally changing consumer behaviour. 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 behaviour 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.

Market Trend No. 7 - Renegotiation of consumer trust

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 organisations 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.

Market Trend No. 8 - Changing channels: Brands chase the migration of consumer mind share

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 behaviour of consumers across channels, reallocate resources and rebalance priorities as necessary.

Market Trend No. 9 - The death of complexity

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.

Market Trend No. 10 - The destiny of demographics and rise of the mainstream middle class

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.

Nick Ingelbrecht, research director at Gartner, said: “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.”

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