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Forrester Unveils Consumer Technology Benchmark
Survey results of more than 40,000 American households shows that technology will continue to see strong adoption in daily life.
Posted Sep 19, 2009
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Forrester Research released the results of its 11th-annual "North American Technographics Benchmark Survey, 2009," last week, a study that examines the consumption of technology among United States adults spanning four different life stages. Across the board, digital technology is "taking an increasing role in consumers' lives," the report states, regardless of "age and family situations." The results are based on a mail survey of 47,946 respondents, 40,545 of whom are U.S.-based heads of households, covering 1,400 data points and 378 U.S. brands.

The four groups Forrester analyzed in this study are:

  • Young singles and couples (19 million U.S. households and 49 million adults): younger than 40 years; 87 percent are online (i.e., log onto the Internet at least once a month); 55 percent more likely than the average U.S. adult to access the Web on their phone.
  • Young families (19 million U.S. households and 40 million adults): younger than 40 years with children under 18; 88 percent are online; more likely to have a mobile phone equipped with advanced features (e.g., MP3 player) than one owned by an older consumer or childless contemporary.
  • Older families (16 million U.S. households and 32 million adults): 40 years and older with kids younger than 18 in the house; 84 percent are online; have on average the most personal computers (PCs) per household; spend slightly more time each week involved with traditional media, leading the high-definition movement.
  • Older singles (63 million U.S. households and 101 million adults): 40 years and older who do not have children or whose children have moved out; 70 percent are online; spend more on e-commerce than any other group in last 3 months.

Younger consumers are still the most avid users of the Internet, though all groups tend to spend more time online at home than at work, 91 percent to 43 percent on average respectively. In terms of hours online each week, time spent had a clear inverse correlation to the age of the group:

  • Young singles and couples: 16.6 hours;
  • Young families: 13.8 hours;
  • Older families: 12.3 hours; and
  • Older singles and couples: 10.1 hours.

Given their greater time spent online, young consumers (single/couples and families) are more likely to access social networks. Moreover, these two groups are more apt to telling their friends about products they're interested in, as well as seek product recommendations from their social circles.

In 2008, Forrester identified high-definition television as the fastest growing technology with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14 percent. This year, home networks -- having multiple PCs that communicate with one another in one household -- followed close behind with 13 percent CAGR.

Based on Forrester's forecast, technology adoption (in terms of spend) will grow steadily over the next five years:

  • All U.S. Households: 118.7 million in 2009, to 123.0 million in 2013;
  • PC: 92.3 million to 99.7 million;
  • Internet: 90.5 million to 98.1 million;
  • Broadband: 79.8 million to 92.5 million;
  • HDTV: 57.8 million to 85.4 million;
  • Home network: 46.2 million to 62.9 million; and
  • DVR: 30.9 million to 40.8 million.

According to Jacqueline Anderson, consumer insights analyst at Forrester Research, the results of the study reiterates the fact that technology is applicable to all demographics. "Even someone who is a laggard, not necessarily a technology optimist, or isn't super enthusiastic about it," she says, "there's a technology solution for them." While it's easy to target the younger generations who are readily consuming new technology the moment it hits the shelf, there is a huge market to be tapped among the older consumers. The key, Anderson says, is to understand the online and offline behaviors of the consumer in order to better understand what their technology usage is going to be.

For the most part, families represent the largest consumers of technology with more than 90 percent of U.S. families owning PCs today, and 45 percent of households owning two or more. Young and older families report doing more with their PCs in the majority of categories from media to productivity to PC management (e.g., virus scan) activities:

  • viewing, managing, and editing personal photos;
  • playing free computer games;
  • store and listen to MP3s;
  • manage personal or family finances and taxes;
  • do or help with homework; and
  • scan for viruses, spyware, or adware.

Not surprisingly, households with children tend to spend more on entertainment devices like digital video camcorders, portable MP3 players, and video game consoles.

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