Consumers continued to flex their influence on businesses and institutions in 2008, despite dramatic shifts in global markets.
This is one of the findings that IBM has drawn from an analysis of surveys conducted with consumers throughout the year. The IT giant is advising clients to remain focused on understanding and adapting to the needs of today's empowered and informed consumers as a means of differentiation in 2009.
In 2008 the rapid proliferation of mobile devices and rise of social networking have dramatically changed consumer expectations and behaviors and have impacted the future of a number of industries including: consumer electronics, travel, media and entertainment, retail and auto.
Consumers are in more control than ever before, and through the use of these tools, can easily rally fellow consumers to demand products and services that are tailored to them and improve their lives.
Further evidence of this growing consumer control point was noted in IBM's Global CEO Study, the largest study of chief executives ever conducted. CEOs pointed specifically to their own customer base as the source of the most important changes they will have to address, as two new and more demanding classes of customers emerged: the 'information omnivore,' and the "socially-minded" customer.
Overall, CEOs are planning a 22% increase in investments in the next three years to serve these more sophisticated and demanding customers. CEOs in the US, Europe and China indicated they plan an average investment jump of 19% at these targeted customers over the next three years.
"Consumers are becoming 'producers,' often creating entertainment and advertising content for their peers while demanding flexibility and responsiveness from companies with whom they choose to do business. These customers are more demanding; however, the majority of CEOs do not see them as a threat, but as an opportunity for differentiation — based on meeting the heightened expectations of this group, and capitalizing on new market opportunities that will emerge," says Peter Korsten, global leader of the IBM Institute for Business Value.
"Dealing with this new breed of consumer in the midst of a whole new economic environment will play a major role in companies' agendas for the foreseeable future."
Consistent consumer attitude and behaviour was also seen across multiple industries based on the studies conducted by the IBM Institute for Business Value.
* Consumers desire greater affordability, awareness and better content and applications for the mobile Internet;
* In terms of device features, the survey found consumers prefer a large screen, high resolution, internal memory, and quick speed data transfer as the most important and desired features in their mobile device;
* Over 50% of consumers polled stated that they would substitute their Internet usage on a PC for a mobile device; and
* Consumers are most loyal to their preferred brands for communication services such as email and instant messaging.
* Consumers cited the biggest airline "rip-offs" to be baggage fees (78%), additional charges for redemption of miles (76%) and first class ticket prices (58%); and
* 58% prefer paying the lowest possible ticket price, sacrificing all amenities like food, blankets, pillows, beverages and headphones.
Media & Entertainment:
* Large scale adoption and usage of digital content services accessed via the PC and mobile phone, with ad-supported models (versus consumer-paid) was preferred almost three to one by respondents globally;
* Interest in mobile video content has more than doubled since last year to 55%;
* For both PC and mobile video, over 70 % of respondents prefer advertising-supported models as opposed to consumer-paid models, representing a huge growth opportunity for the industry;
* Consumers prefer to see advertising before or after a video; and
* Consumers listed free high-quality music/videos, discounts to favorite stores and air travel/hotel points as the most desired and attractive incentives.
* Between 46% and 50% of all shoppers in the US and the UK admitted to switching loyalties to retailers as they shopped across different channels. Overall, most consumers cited price as their primary motivation for change, followed by convenience and product availability; and
* Over 75% of shoppers cited that they prefer shopping "Online to Store" followed by "Store to Online" (+7%) and "Online to Call Center" (+3%) across all product categories — these combinations were nearly identical for US and UK consumers.
* Consumers are demanding more information and entertainment from their vehicles, as well as increased safety, economy, and environmental responsibility;
* Consumers will expect to purchase or lease a vehicle that comes with flexible access to a diverse "garage" of vehicles; and
* Consumers want an automotive experience that matches their lifestyles and lets them move seamlessly from life inside the vehicle to their world outside.