Outlining The Changing Consumer

Consumer confidence in online credit card security and technology optimism has declined over the past several years, according to a new report by Forrester Research. More than 1 million consumers were surveyed, gaining valuable insight into today's complex, evolved multichannel consumer, according to Forrester. "The Changing Consumer" research series compares data collected between 1998 and 2003, revealing significant changes in consumer attitudes and behavior. For example, 42 million more households are online today than were in 1998. "Consumers have been through a lot in the past few years--highs and lows that have permanently changed the way they live," James L. McQuivey, group director at Forrester, said in a statement. "Businesses need to understand the shifts that have occurred, so that they can offer consumers a different kind of experience. To keep their loyalty, companies must integrate the Internet into a seamless experience that includes other self-service channels and traditional channels like the phone and retail locations." The report notes that consumer confidence in online security has fallen since its peak in 2001and shows no sign of improvement in 2003. Currently almost one-third of online shoppers are technology pessimists, compared to 16 percent in 1998. As online retail security issues emerge, this larger group of e-commerce pessimists is becoming less trusting with credit card transactions. The report also says that while more users are online more frequently, today's consumers spend less total time online than they did in the late 1990s. Consumers have come to expect integrated multichannel experiences incorporating on- and offline channels, the report says. To adapt to these changes Forrester says retailers should integrate marketing and merchandising efforts, connecting catalog, retail, and online operations. Another important trend identified by the report is that more shoppers are favoring price over brand. The report suggests smaller retailers must differentiate themselves in service, product quality, and overall shopping experience by implementing loyalty programs and store technologies that enhance consumers' overall shopping experience to compete with price giants like Wal-Mart. Forrester says that additional reports in this research series will focus on media consumption and the vehicles consumers use to retrieve news, sports, and other forms of entertainment, as well as consumer motivations and key shifts in Canadian consumer behavior.
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