Developing a fine-grained look at how digital consumers behave

Consumers are changing the ways they use digital platforms at lightning speed. To benefit, companies must take a refined look below the surface to understand who is doing what. 


It’s hardly news that consumer behavior is changing fast—digital activities are growing rapidly in every sphere.1 Almost half of all video viewing in the United States, for example, takes place in ways that barely existed a generation ago—either time shifted (using digital video recorders or video on demand) or device shifted (onto laptop, tablet, or mobile-phone screens). Music is even more digital: upward of two-thirds of usage involves streaming services, MP3 files, or satellite radio. And mobile-phone usage has overtaken landline voice among every age group.

To benefit from changing consumer behavior, companies cannot rely only on headline numbers and the trends they suggest. Today, the dramatic reversals suffered at the hands of digital media—think of falling newspaper-ad revenues and the sales swoon of compact discs—may seem obvious or easily foreseeable. In reality, understanding and acting on the probable contours of change requires reflection and a deep knowledge of customer behavior, industry dynamics, and feedback loops. These insights can help players reshape their business models to exploit structural changes and cushion potential shocks.

Our experience is that within broad consumer movements, small groups of users (often overlooked in cursory analyses) actually drive the economics. Achieving a more refined understanding of who is doing what requires a thoughtful segmentation—incorporating data about consumers’ demographics, household characteristics, usage patterns, spending, attitudes, and needs—supported by “big data” analytics.

For example, in our iConsumer research,2 we identified four kinds of European mobile-phone users and their usage patterns. Our analysis illuminated that market’s underlying value-creation potential. We called consumers who largely use voice, even with their smartphones, traditionalists in our study. Data practicals use very little voice but lots of data. Data entertainers also use little voice but are heavy users of video, music, and games. Mobile omnivores are superusers of both voice and data services (Exhibit 1). While the omnivores and entertainers collectively represent just 23 percent of the population, they consume more than 85 percent of all data traffic—and pay roughly the same monthly service fees that the other two groups do.


Microsoft Tests Bing Offers Linked To Credit Cards


cardlink_ctaIn the latest move to expand Bing Offers, Microsoft is testing a service in the Seattle area that allows consumers to link their credit cards to their account to redeem discounts and coupons.

Redeeming online offers requires consumers to swipe their credit card at the register without having to print coupons or show QR codes on their phones. In Seattle, Microsoft supports offers from Buca Di Beppo, Pizza Hut, Mooyah Burgers, and several other small- to-medium-sized business companies through transaction processing company First Data, and payment networks Visa, and MasterCard.

The service, an alternative to pre-purchased deals, will operate under a cost-per-acquisition (CPA) model to keep down advertising fees. Microsoft Vice President Erik Jorgensen explains in a postthat the service will regulate promotions by limiting the risk of over-subscription of coupons or high consumer traffic.

Perhaps the service also will allow consumers to use the Bing points they earn for searches on the engine. A Microsoft spokesperson said there is no connection between Bing Offers and Bing Rewards, which rewards consumers with points for searching on Bing. Bing Offers aggregates offers from favorite deal sites, such as Groupon, Living Social, Yelp, and others so consumers can see them all in one place.

Microsoft also partnered with Bank of America, Facebook, First Data, Linkable Networks, and others to form the CardLinx Association. The group will create standards, establish increase interoperability, and promote the growth of the card-linked offers industry.

Card-linked offers will aim to solve problem around redemption. It gives merchants and advertisers the ability to deliver an offer or deal to consumers via their credit, debit or other payment cards without having to use a paper coupon, voucher or promotion code on their mobile devices.

Consumer Brand Loyalty Investments Rising

Scanning Discount QR Code

Digital Media

More than 50% of marketers that took place in a Forrester Research study saw their loyalty budgets rise during the past two years, and only 10% saw a reduction in budget. This reflects the increase of loyalty programs attracting frequent buyers for everything from food to clothing to entertainment.

The Forrester study, “The State Of Loyalty Programs 2013,” reveals that on average only 45% of customers enroll in loyalty programs, and 35% redeem rewards. The most popular channels for reaching consumers are email, 92%; Web site, 82%; call center, 64%; and social media, 54%.

The study surveyed 50 loyalty program marketers about their strategies in an effort to understand the size, structure and performance of their programs. This report benchmarks customer insights from executives working to drive customer loyalty. Some 30% of respondents are from retail; 14%, travel; 12%, financial services; and 12%, media and entertainment.

The top three business objectives for customer loyalty programs are customer retention, 70%; customer engagement, 64%; and revenue, 34%. Only 14% cite customer experience as an objective. For nearly 60% of firms, loyalty is considered a top three strategic priority and 56% of marketers agree that loyalty has support from all parts of the organization.

The Forrester study suggests marketers focus on benchmarking loyalty campaigns, reassessing how consumers mature and expand their use of the cards, and invest in analysis technology to analyze customer data, trends and behavior.

Demonstrating growth in loyalty numbers, Microsoft introduced a Bing Offer loyalty and discount program Monday. The service aggregates offers from favorite deal sites, such as Groupon, Living Social and Yelp that allows users to see them all in one place. The company is testing a service in the Seattle area that allows consumers to link their credit cards to their search engine account to redeem discounts and coupons.