Over the past decade, we’ve watched firsthand as consumers have increasingly turned first and foremost to digital media. In a relatively short amount of time, U.S. consumers now spend, on average, about the same amount of time online as they do watching television.
Turning to Digital First, Foremost
According to Forrester’s 2009 North American Technographics Benchmark Survey, consumers spend 34% of their total media time online and 35% watching television. In fact, according to Forrester, if you are 45 years old or younger, you spend significantly more time using the Internet than watching television. We believe that this trend signifies the rise of “digital primacy,” where consumers are turning first and foremost to digital to help them navigate, connect, and make sense of the world—and we are only beginning to understand the impact of this shift in consumer behavior.
Our findings in the 2009 Razorfish Digital Brand Experience Study not only underscore the shift to “digital primacy” but also point to a “connected consumer” who is far more digitally sophisticated and venturesome than commonly believed.
According to our study, 57% of consumers have actively customized their homepages with specific content feeds, scheduled updates, or used other features; 84% share links or bookmarks with a friend with some frequency; 55% subscribe to RSS feeds with some frequency; and an increasing number are getting news from social media sites like Facebook and Twitter—more so than from popular blogs like the Huffington Post or Gawker.
Digital media consumption has also posted significant gains, portending a significant shift in the way that consumers engage with brands. According to our study, 84% of consumers rely on the web to get current news or information; 76% regularly watch online video on sites like YouTube and Hulu; 73% regularly visit social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn; and 62% listen to music online through services like iTunes and Pandora.
The rise of digital primacy is also changing the way consumers interact on-the-go and their expectations for mobile devices. Fifty-six percent of “connected consumers” own a smartphone. BlackBerry and Apple, to no great surprise, are the most popular—and overwhelmingly so.
But the real news is not about Apple or its ilk, but about how consumers will now demand mobile experiences that rival those built for a PC—with a twist, of course. We can get a sense of this by looking at the phenomenal rise of Apple’s iTunes App Store. As of October 2009, Apple reports iPhone and iPod touch owners have downloaded more than 2 billion “apps” from an inventory of over 85,000. This area holds great promise for marketers, as 24% of consumers in our study report have already downloaded a branded application for their mobile devices.
Given these statistics, plus the rapid rise of new technologies like location-based services and augmented reality browsers, it makes more financial sense for brands to invest in the development of mobile applications—especially useful ones—than in display advertising if they want to take advantage of this emerging consumer trend.
The New Mainstream
Based on this data, we believe that “connected consumers”—mirroring other industry research studies and the general broadband population in the United States—are shooting the adoption curve when it comes to Internet technologies.
“Connected consumers” are actively engaged with digital media, both at home and on the go, and are personalizing their experiences whenever possible. This type of behavior may sound a lot like your own, actually. That’s not a surprise—but the speed and scale at which such digital fluency is occurring across the U.S. population is. Simply put, “connected consumers” are the new mainstream.