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    • 05/11/17
    • Technology
    • Trends and Forecasting
    • Connected Consumer
    • Global
    • English

    Looking for the future of mobile? Take a trip to Beijing

    ‘You can do without a wallet in Beijing these days but not without a smartphone.’ This came from the cab driver who picked me up at Beijing International airport when I landed with my mother last fall for the first trip back to my home country (and hometown) in years. He was completely right.

    Over the following weeks, I grew a renewed appreciation for my iPhone (now powered by a local SIM card), and constantly found myself pulling it out for all the things I had never used it for – to help open a bank account (you have to have a local mobile number and a phone that can at least receive authentication codes to be able to open an account in China), to make online reservations at restaurants (many of them don’t take reservations over the phone), to book an online appointment at a local salon and get a nice discount for the visit, to use an app to call cabs (Didi, the world largest ride-hailing service with nearly 400 million users across 40 cities in China), and of course, to make in-store purchases by scanning QR codes.

    Having followed and reported on tech trends for years, I was prepared for the role of smartphones in China. However, being there to experience and witness the smartphone culture first-hand, I still couldn’t help but constantly marvel at how involved my fellow citizens are today with their beloved phones.

    • Chinese are now the most engaged mobile phone users globally: Many visitors to China would probably share my amazement at Chinese consumers’ high smartphone engagements. According to data from GfK Consumer Life, Chinese today use their mobile phones to do more than their peers in any of the other 21 countries covered in our global study. On average, 61% of online Chinese consumers age 15+ did at least seven out of fourteen consistently tracked activities on their mobile phones in the past month, from social networking to online banking. This compares with 57% in South Korea, 34% in the US, and 32% in the UK.
    • Older consumers drive the latest growth: It’s no longer just tech-savvy younger Chinese who are inseparable with their phones. Increasingly, it’s their grey-haired parents – and grandparents – as well.

      The biggest increase in mobile phone engagement since 2014 came from older Chinese age 50+, whose growing fascination with their phones was visible when we toured around Beijing. From restaurants to buses to community parks, I was always able to spot seniors being totally immersed in the little screens in their palms. By the end of our trip, my mom’s group of 70-80 year-old friends had convinced her to install WeChat, China’s massively popular mobile social networking app with now 889 million users. And content sharing to her account has been flowing non-stop ever since.
    • China dwarfs the US in mobile commerce and payments: Our taxi driver wasn’t kidding when he said that you can survive in China’s large cities without a traditional wallet, as long as you’re equipped with a mobile one.

      From tiny street vendors to large supermarkets, numerous retailers of all types in Beijing accept mobile payments, often through popular apps Alipay and WeChat Pay. China’s relatively low plastic card penetration also contributes to the appeal of mobile wallets as a convenient non-cash alternative.

      Of course, smartphones are used not only for in-store payments, but online purchases. The latest data from GfK Consumer Life indicates that 61% of online Chinese mobile phone users used their handsets to buy something online in the past month, up 17 pts from 2014. This compares with 28% of American users, up 7 pts in the same time period. Last year, China’s biggest online shopping day Single’s Day raked in an eye-popping $17.8 billion in sales, with 82% coming from mobile transactions. To put that into perspective, last year’s record-setting Cyber Monday rang in $3.45 billion, with mobile accounting for around one-third of that revenue.
    • Chinese companies on the rise in mobile technologies: Chinese consumers’ high engagement with their smartphones can be attributed in part to the innovative solutions from local tech giants.

      Tencent’s WeChat, launched in 2011, has built itself into a ‘super app’ that allows users to not only make video calls and group chat, but shop, make payments, book a hotel, hail a ride and play games all on one intuitive platform. Its ‘super app’ approach is often seen as inspiring even to tech giants in the West.

    With a willing consumer and increasingly sophisticated local players, China is poised to continue to lead the evolution of the mobile culture. Brands trying to crack the Chinese market must recognize the essential role of mobile in the lives of these consumers. And for those curious about the future of mobile technologies, China – not the US – may be the closest to offer a glimpse.

    Veronica Chen is Vice President at GfK Consumer Life. To share your thoughts, please email veronica.chen@gfk.com or leave a comment below.

    [1]GfK PoS Measurement, 2016, Sales Units, USA and Mexico not included

  • Infographic: Smart Home and the Millennial devide
    • 05/08/17
    • Technology
    • Consumer Goods
    • Trends and Forecasting
    • Consumer Life
    • Smart Home
    • United States
    • English

    Infographic: Smart Home and the Millennial devide

    Most consumers may agree that having a tech-savvy Smart Home sounds appealing; but issues like device compatibility, affordability, and privacy could stand in the way.

  • Infographic: Smart Home and the Millennial devide
    • 05/08/17
    • Technology
    • Consumer Goods
    • Trends and Forecasting
    • Consumer Life
    • Smart Home
    • Canada
    • English

    Infographic: Smart Home and the Millennial devide

    Most consumers may agree that having a tech-savvy Smart Home sounds appealing; but issues like device compatibility, affordability, and privacy could stand in the way.

  • Premium opportunities despite challenging conditions for the IT market
    • 05/08/17
    • Technology
    • Point of Sales Tracking
    • United Kingdom
    • English

    Premium opportunities despite challenging conditions for the IT market

    The retail IT market continued to see challenging conditions in the first quarter of 2017, with the value generated by sales of IT products falling by 5% compared to the first quarter of 2016.

  • A slow start for total consumer electronics sales in 2017 but 4K and Audio HIFI are still positive
    • 05/08/17
    • Technology
    • United Kingdom
    • English

    A slow start for total consumer electronics sales in 2017 but 4K and Audio HIFI are still positive

    There is still considerable consternation among many in the consumer electronics industry that Brexit will have a negative effect on market volume sales and turnover in 2017 and beyond.

    • 05/05/17
    • Technology
    • Connected Consumer
    • Global
    • English

    The smart home finds its voice

    Voice-controlled technology has long excited the minds of sci-fi buffs and technological prophets. Today, its promise of freeing up our hands and eyes in exchange for a more seamless user experience seems closer than ever before. Indeed, voice recognition has evolved from providing farcical misinterpretations in its infancy, to a stage where it successfully detects 95% of human speech – as much as we humans do ourselves. The hype around voice tech was at full display at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year, where a central theme to new product launches, no matter how different from one another, was what kind of voice compatibility they would be offering.

    The arrival of Google Home

    This Thursday, Google Home arrived for British consumers – nearly six months after its main competitor, the Amazon Echo. Such “smart” speakers are a big part of the voice push, providing simultaneously the cockpit and pilot for your smart home products. Smart home products in this instance include anything that makes your home more interactive – from mood-sensitive lighting that can adapt to your entertainment needs, to plug sockets that will have fresh toast and coffee ready just as you are slipping out of bed in the morning.

    The appeal of smart home technology

    According to GfK Point of Sale data, almost 400,000 smart home products have been sold since the beginning of 2016 up until February 2017. Of these devices, over 60% work across multiple platforms. Lighting solutions have proven particularly popular so far, accounting for a significant proportion of the sales volume, perhaps because they offer the opportunity to test out the new technology without much expense and commitment.

    The take-up of these products is perhaps not surprising given that UK consumers rated smart home highest among the technologies they consider most likely to have an impact on their lives (47%), above other innovations such as wearables and mobile payments (GfK Smart Home, 2015). The areas respondents found most appealing were exactly the ones that the Amazon Echo and Google Home cater for – Security & Control (38%), Energy and Lighting (36%), and Entertainment & Connectivity (36%).

    For now, there seems to be willingness among manufacturers to provide early adopters with choice and integrate as many different voice assistants as possible. However, as the smart home becomes mass market, hub providers like Amazon and Google may demand exclusivity to encourage usage of their own platform. A potential lack of cross-platform compatibility that would make your smart devices “unwilling” to talk to each other could put consumers off the entire smart home proposition.

    The voice assistant arms race

    Amazon and Google may have been quickest to come to market in terms of standalone hardware, but they are by no means the only participants in the voice assistant arms race. While Apple has not released its own dedicated product, their popular voice assistant Siri in combination with the Apple Home app carries out comparable functions. Similarly, with Microsoft already possessing their own voice assistant in Cortana and Samsung recently launching Bixby alongside the Galaxy S8, this space looks set for further growth in the year ahead.

    We will continue to track adoption of voice automation and smart home technology. If you would like more information, please contact Toby Jarvis, Account Manager – Consumer Electronics, toby.jarvis@gfk.com.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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  • The game is on: the opportunities offered by the gaming market
    • 04/28/17
    • Retail
    • Technology
    • Connected Consumer
    • Global
    • English

    The game is on: the opportunities offered by the gaming market

    Gaming creates considerable revenue worldwide, but especially in Western Europe. Discover what opportunities are offered by the gaming market with our infographic.

  • UK Consumer Confidence drops to -7: Is pre-Brexit economic turbulence brewing?
    • 04/28/17
    • Financial Services
    • Retail
    • Technology
    • Consumer Goods
    • FMCG
    • Consumer Life
    • United Kingdom
    • English

    UK Consumer Confidence drops to -7: Is pre-Brexit economic turbulence brewing?

    GfK’s long-running Consumer Confidence Index dropped one point to -7 in April.  Four of the five measures decreased, leaving only the Major Purchase Index showing an increase.

  • UK Consumer Confidence drops to -7: Is pre-Brexit economic turbulence brewing?
    • 04/28/17
    • Press
    • Financial Services
    • Retail
    • Technology
    • Consumer Goods
    • FMCG
    • Global
    • English

    UK Consumer Confidence drops to -7: Is pre-Brexit economic turbulence brewing?

    GfK’s long-running Consumer Confidence Index dropped one point to -7 in April.  Four of the five measures decreased, leaving only the Major Purchase Index showing an increase.

  • Advertising still holds sway over consumers
    • 04/27/17
    • Retail
    • Technology
    • Global
    • English

    Advertising still holds sway over consumers

    We asked 20,000 consumers globally which factors influence most their shopping decisions. Take a look at our infographic and get the answer.

  • Three-quarters of US consumers have used voice commands to operate digital devices – GfK
    • 04/26/17
    • Technology
    • Home and Living
    • Echo
    • United States
    • English

    Three-quarters of US consumers have used voice commands to operate digital devices – GfK

    Though they are breaking new ground in many ways, “digital home assistants” – such as Amazon Echo and Google Home – are also leveraging consumers’ proven comfort with using speech to operate digital devices.

    • 04/25/17
    • Technology
    • Connected car
    • Global
    • English

    Digital Home Assistants: Are marketers listening closely?

    Digital home assistants (DHAs) – such as Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, and Google Home – have made great strides in a short amount of time.  Just two years after the Amazon Echo launch, slightly more than one in ten (11%) US households own a DHA, according to the latest findings from GfK’s The Home Technology Monitor.

    The right product at the right time

    This seems to be a case of the right product at the right time.  With the advent of Siri and Cortana, consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable with using their voices to control devices.  Our research shows that three-quarters of all US consumers have used speech to operate some sort of digital device – be it a smartphone or a smart TV.

    Despite the progress DHAs have made, though, their adoption level is still lower than tablets and DVD players at the same point in the same time “in market”. To tap DHAs’ full potential for market growth, marketers need to address two key issues:

    • Compatibility and seamlessness of working with other devices
    • Privacy and security

    The rebound in the housing market also has the potential to fuel DHA adoption.  GfK’s Consumer Life research, as reported in Tech Trends 2017, shows that Millennials represent just over one-half (53%) of those who plan to buy a home in the next two to three years – and they are also key to smart home adoption.  DHAs show potential as a controller device to save energy, keep their home safe and secure, and maintain a healthy living environment.

    How consumers are using DHA’s now

    We can gain great insights on how to unlock DHAs’ potential by looking at the ways consumers are using them now.  For example, nearly two thirds of DHA owners (63%) use them to play music.  By contrast, only 15% turn to them to play videos, watch TV, or movies – even though nearly one-half (43%) of US homes have an Internet-connected TV that they use to watch TV and movies.  This disconnect begs the question: What is holding consumers back from riding the video wave with their DHAs?

    The answer is clear: A lack of seamlessness!

    Currently, Google Home has built-in compatibility with Google’s Chromecast; however, Amazon Echo (which accounts for 10 out of every 11 DHAs owned) and Dot are not easily connected with smart TVs.  To make these devices talk to each other, users need to connect through a hub such as Samsung’s Smartthings or Logitech’s Harmony hub.  These are extra steps that the mass market may not take kindly to.

    At the 2017 CES, some TV manufacturers announced FireTV with Alexa built into their next generation TVs.  This development promises little to no set-up and a more seamless experience.

    DHAs show promise with other smart home use cases, with nearly one-fourth (23%) of DHA owners indicating that they use the devices to control their home lighting, thermostats, fans or security systems.  Manufacturers’ great progress in making their home products IoT-ready is starting to pay off!  The 2017 CES was rife with products featuring Alexa built-in, ranging from refrigerators to lighting to robots.

    Choosing the right standard for DHA’s

    A related compatibility question consumers are asking themselves is, “Which DHA should I hitch my wagon to?”  If I’m an Apple or Samsung lover, should I hold out for Siri or Bixby – or do I go with the first thing that works?  When a new technology comes out, choosing the right standard is really critical; no one wants to buy the next Betamax. You want to own the device that will speak to the largest number of other devices.

    Marketers also need to address some important privacy and security challenges. For example:

    • How long does a DHA keep voice recordings?
    • How does it protect the confidentiality of the owner and separate personally identifiable information (PII) from behaviors?
    • How can owners prevent the sharing of data to 3rd parties despite the potential commercial reward?
    • How do we protect the security of customers’ financial data?

    When exploring pain points, consumers in the GfK study expressed concerns about the possibility of hacks on their personal data.  It will only take one or two more DHA privacy stories in the news to turn this into a real impediment to uptake.

    As we run headlong into this Brave New World controlled by DHAs powered by artificial intelligence, marketers have great responsibility to help guide standards that will make for a seamless, life-improving and safe experience.

    Rob Barrish is a Global Account Director at GfK.  To share your thoughts, please email rob.barrish@gfk.com.

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