Posts Tagged ‘research’

Home smart home

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012
Home smart home

The home of the future will look like the home of today, only with a few more gadgets.

By 2020 experts believe our homes and appliances will contain more advanced technology but that many of us will prefer working with non-digital systems. That’s according to a survey of 1,021 Internet experts, researchers and observers conducted recently by the Pew Research Center.

In other words, predictions of the demise of the analog home run counter to behavior, much like those predictions of the paperless office.

“Hundreds of tech analysts foresee a future with ‘smart’ devices and environments that make people’s lives more efficient,” the Pew Center reported. “But they also note that current evidence about the uptake of smart systems is that the costs and necessary infrastructure changes to make it all work are daunting. And they add that people find comfort in the familiar, simple, ‘dumb’ systems to which they are accustomed.”

Smart technology can manage systems that control heating and air conditioning, power, appliances, security, entertainment and communications. Some systems allow remote monitoring and access by way of mobile devices.

Slow digital adoption could reflect the age of homeowners. Younger people who quickly adopt technology haven’t had the years to save for a down payment. The “typical” age of a homebuyer has remained at 39 years since 2007, according to the National Association of Realtors. Census figures show that while 43% of households with a householder under the age of 35 own a home, 81.6% of those with a householder between the ages of 55 and 64 do.

In the survey some experts believe homeowners will adopt technology that saves energy and money. Others think that for the moment the issue is a “marketing mirage.” Aside from programmable thermostats and Internet-enabled security cameras, which technology will nudge homeowners toward the digital domicile?

When uncertainty becomes taxing

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012
When uncertainty becomes taxing

Financial service firms do a good job of promoting their key messages—Vanguard and its mantra of reducing fees, T. Rowe Price and its call to maintain stock exposure throughout retirement. Other companies provide adequate boilerplate, such as American Funds’ drumbeat of steady investing in all environments. All sound strategy for the long-term investor, but not a lot of comfort in the short run.

When it comes to providing useful advice, there are a few standouts—Vanguard’s retiring Chief Investment Officer Gus Sauter (“Why stay in the stock market?”) and T. Rowe Price Chief Economist Alan Levenson (“Is the U.S. Approaching a Fiscal Cliff in 2013?”) come to mind. They balance corporate messaging with market realities. To that list I’d add Rande Spiegelman, a CPA who serves as vice president of financial planning at the Schwab Center for Financial Research.

Spiegelman has written a guide on how to play the impending fiscal cliff. He charts historic tax rates for income and dividends as well as figures that show what would happen should Congress allow Bush-era cuts to expire at the end of this year. It’s not only sound reporting but useful information. Case in point: some pundits urge investors to take gains and pay taxes now, while the long-term rate stands at 15 percent for high earners. Spiegelman suggests staying the course will yield a bigger net profit, charting a hypothetical investment at today’s rates as well as the higher rates politicians have floated.

Hats off to Schwab for trying to make sense out of uncertainty.

The age of distracted viewing

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012
The age of distracted viewing

Half of all cell phone owners use their devices while watching TV, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. Owners use their phones to engage with content, avoid advertising or interact with others. The report is based on a survey of 2,254 adults via landline and mobile phones.

The numbers drop dramatically with the increase in an owner’s age.

First the general stats. Of the 88% of American adults who own cell phones:

  • 38% use their phone to keep themselves occupied during commercials or breaks in something they are watching
  • 22% check whether something they’ve heard on television is true or not
  • 6% use their phones to vote for reality show contestants.

“Taken together, that works out to 52% of all adult cell owners who are ‘connected viewers’—meaning they took part in at least one of these activities in the 30 days preceding our survey,” the center reports.

A deeper dive into the numbers shows that as you age, you are less likely to use a mobile phone while watching TV:

  • While 81% of mobile phone owners in the 18-24 age bracket use their phone while watching TV, only 29% of those aged 55-64 and 16% of adults over age 65 multitask.
  • 73% of the 18-24 crowd uses phones to distract themselves during commercials while the numbers for the two older groups drop to 16% and 9%, respectively.
  • 45% of the 18-24 cohort uses the phone to fact check TV content while, in the two older groups, those numbers plummet to 8% and 4%, respectively.
  • Only 1% of adults over age 65 see what others are saying online about the program they’re watching. The figure rises to 28% for the youngest age group.

The numbers are similar for owners who use their mobile devices to interact with friends or contribute thoughts about televised content. In the 18-24 group, 28% post comments, 43% exchange test messages with others watching the same program and 7% vote for a reality show contestant. Compare that with adults over age 65, who rarely post comments (1%), seldom exchange text messages with other viewers (4%) and don’t vote for contestants (3%).

What does that say about engagement among older viewers? Are they too old fashioned to use new devices or do they have longer attention spans? Are they less inquisitive or more patient? What do you think?

Jeff Widmer

Access all areas

Friday, June 29th, 2012
Access all areas

Smartphones are replacing computers as our primary Internet devices.

More than half of American cell phone owners use their devices to access the Internet, according to a report issued this week by the Pew Research Center. That’s a big jump from the 31 percent of cell owners who said they used their phones to go online in April of 2009.

Nearly a fifth of cell phone users said they do most of their online browsing on their phone. The rapid adoption of the smartphone as a primary research and entertainment tool comes at the expense of other less-mobile devices such as desktop and notebook computers.

Why are people shifting their Internet portal to cell phones? The phones are convenient and always available. They fill access gaps and better fit people’s usage habits, the center reports.

The center conducted the national telephone survey this March and April. It included 2,254 adults age 18 and over, with 903 interviews conducted on the respondent’s cell phone.

Jeff Widmer

Working for life

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012
Working for life

The headline grabbed my attention: “The Secret to a Successful Retirement: Don’t Retire.” It adorned an article on The Street about a study by Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research: “The best financial advice for the growing number of Baby Boomers eagerly approaching retirement is: ‘Don’t.’”

The study found that a combination of depressed home prices, poor stock market returns, inadequate savings and diminishing pensions means that many people approaching retirement have one alternative: to work longer.

That wasn’t what I was expecting to read. From the headline I thought the article would take a contrarian point of view: that some people find fulfillment in work and would miss that in retirement, along with other benefits like socialization and lottery pools. That busy people seem happier than lazy ones, or just don’t have as much time to complain. That spending more time on Facebook or hugging the TV remote doesn’t lead to a spiritual awakening.

Look at Paul McCartney. He just turned 70 and he’s still performing.

If we believe what people say they’ll do–a big if–most Americans plan to work past age 65–some 74 percent, according to a study released in May by economists at Wells Fargo Securities LLC. Most seem worried that the Great Recession has blown a hole in savings and retirement plans, but I think the reasons for hanging on run deeper.

Work is as much about engagement as it is about money. Yes we need to pay the mortgage but we also need to stay sharp and work helps us to apply that focus throughout our lives, on and off the job. It’s good discipline.

So the next time someone asks when you’re going to retire say “never.” They’ll think you need the money. You’ll know the real payoff.

Jeff Widmer

Survey says companies, not products, drive brand perception

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012
Survey says companies, not products, drive brand perception

Here’s some food for thought: General Mills has replaced Amazon as the corporation with the best reputation among consumers, according to a survey by US RepTrak Pulse. Some of the others in the top 10 included Kraft Foods, Johnson & Johnson, Apple, Coca-Cola, UPS and Procter & Gamble. Amazon fell to fourth place.

The study was conducted in the first quarter of 2012 by Reputation Institute, a private research and consulting firm that surveyed 10,198 consumers to find America’s most- and least-reputable companies.

Hard goods dominate the list in the Reputation Institute’s global survey. The top 10 global brand were: BMW, Sony, Walt Disney Company, Daimler, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Volkswagen, Canon and LEGO. Last year’s leader, Google, fell from first to sixth place.

According to the institute, the study shows that in order to win support and recommendations, “a company needs to tell its story in a way that connects with stakeholders on a global level. This is a challenge that even the best companies struggle with.”

“In today’s reputation economy, what you stand for matters more than what you produce and sell,” says Reputation Institute’s Executive Partner Kasper Ulf Nielsen. “People’s willingness to buy, recommend, work for and invest in a company is driven 60 percent by their perceptions of the company and only 40 percent by their perceptions of their products.”

– Jeff Widmer

Forget Peak Oil. How about Peak Internet?

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012
Forget Peak Oil. How about Peak Internet?

The rapid rise of Internet adoption in the United States has peaked, a trend that has implications for marketers who have shifted their budgets to interactive from print.

One in five American adults does not use the Internet, according to the Pew Internet Project, which interviewed 2,260 adults age 18 and older in English and Spanish, by landline and cell phone, in July and August of 2011.

Internet adoption among U.S. adults increased rapidly from the mid-’90s to about 2005.  That means adoption topped out at least a year before the advent of the Great Recession. Since then, the number of adult Internet users has remained stable at around 75 to 80%. The Pew Internet & American Life Project’s latest poll shows that this trend continued in 2011.

Here are the major findings:

  • Senior citizens, those who prefer to take interviews in Spanish rather than English, adults with less than a high school education and those living in households earning less than $30,000 per year are the least likely adults to have Internet access.
  • Among adults who do not use the Internet, almost half said the main reason they don’t go online is because they don’t think the Internet is relevant to them. Most have never used the Internet before and don’t have anyone in their household who does.
  • The 27% of adults living with disability in the United States today are significantly less likely than adults without a disability to go online (54% vs. 81%). That’s a small number, thought. Pew found that only 2% of adults have a disability or illness that makes it more difficult or impossible for them to use the internet at all.

While Internet use has reached saturation among most residents, another trend—the move toward mobile computing—may counteract the former. Pew reports that 88% of American adults have a cell phone, 57% have a laptop, 19% own an e-book reader and 19% have a tablet computer. About six in ten adults (63%) go online wirelessly with one of those devices.

For marketers, that means a deeper dive into data on those subgroups.

Drill, baby, drill.

Survey gets a read on e-readers

Thursday, April 5th, 2012
Survey gets a read on e-readers

A fifth of American adults say they have read an e-book in the past year. They read more frequently than their print-loving counterparts and they’re more likely than others to have bought rather than borrowed their most recent book.

Those are some of the findings of the Pew Research Center Internet & American Life Reading Habits Survey, which was released this week. As with most research from the Pew Center, the report goes into some detail. Here are the highlights:

  • A fifth of American adults have read an e-book in the past year and the number of e-book readers grew after a major increase in ownership of e-book reading devices and tablet computers during the holiday gift-giving season.
  • The average reader of e-books says she has read 24 books (the mean number) in the past 12 months, compared with an average of 15 books by a non-e-book consumer.
  • Some 30% of those who read e-content say they now spend more time reading, and owners of tablets and e-book readers particularly stand out as reading more now.
  • The prevalence of e-book reading is markedly growing, but printed books still dominate the world of book readers.
  • E-book reading happens across an array of devices, including smartphones.
  • In a head-to-head competition, people prefer e-books to printed books when they want speedy access and portability, but print wins out when people are reading to children and sharing books with others.
  • The availability of e-content is an issue to some.
  • The majority of book readers prefer to buy rather than borrow.
  • Those who read e-books are more likely to be under age 50, have some college education, and live in households earning more than $50,000.

Most of the findings in the Pew report come from a survey of 2,986 Americans ages 16 and older, conducted on November 16-December 21, 2011, that focused on people’s e-reading habits and preferences.

Who controls the news . . . and who profits?

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012
Who controls the news . . . and who profits?

A report out today by the Pew Research Center suggests the large digital companies have wrested control of the news you receive from the traditional media companies.

The report on the “State of the News Media 2012” draws two major conclusions:

  1. Rather than siphon viewers from news sites, mobile technology is increasing news consumption.
  2. Major digital networks like Google and Facebook increasingly exert control over news content and delivery.

Here’s the bright side of the report:

“New research released in this report finds that mobile devices are adding to people’s news consumption, strengthening the lure of traditional news brands and providing a boost to long-form journalism. Eight in ten who get news on smartphones or tablets, for instance, get news on conventional computers as well. People are taking advantage, in other words, of having easier access to news throughout the day – in their pocket, on their desks and in their laps.”

Here’s the dark side:

“At the same time, a more fundamental challenge that we identified in this report last year has intensified — the extent to which technology intermediaries now control the future of news.

“In the last year a small number of technology giants began rapidly moving to consolidate their power by becoming makers of ‘everything’ in our digital lives. Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and a few others are maneuvering to make the hardware people use, the operating systems that run those devices, the browsers on which people navigate, the e-mail services on which they communicate, the social networks on which they share and the web platforms on which they shop and play. And all of this will provide these companies with detailed personal data about each consumer.”

It’s like allowing the electric company to control your data, or the telecom companies to tap your phones. For free. Then charge you for delivery.

Maybe the New York Times should change its motto.

More than skin deep

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011
More than skin deep

Beauty pays. That’s the conclusion of Daniel Hamermesh, economics professor at the University of Texas in Austin, who measured the economic benefits of looking good.

His conclusions:

  • Attractive people are likely to earn about 3% to 4% more than a person with below-average appearance.
  • Better-looking people tend to sell more products or attract more new customers.
  • White-collar criminals are more successful if they are better-looking.

For us mortals, is plastic surgery the answer? Hamermesh says research doesn’t support that conclusion. “Surgery pays back less than $1 for every $1 spent. But it might make you feel better.”