In the past few months, my colleague James McQuivey has written several blogs about the exciting times we live in. In these posts, he focuses on how technology is fundamentally changing the way we interact with the world around us and how that change is grounded in evolution. His research shows that our uniquely evolved characteristics — tools, coordination, conversation, and emotion — are the four driving forces of technology adoption. We have moved from using technology occasionally to using it constantly, applying tech to every aspect of who we are, how we converse, what we do, and what we care about.
These four forces have compelled consumers to build their own tech stack — devices and software services that they personally select and use to navigate their world. Our personal tech stack extends our ability to do all the things we have evolved to do and motivates us to return to those technology tools again and again with ever-increasing expectations of their utility.
In Europe, these four forces manifest themselves in the same way as in the US but through different platforms or technologies, as we share in Forrester’s recently published report, “The European Consumer Tech Stack.” Let’s see how these four forces drive Europeans’ technology behaviors:
- Tools are what makes our world useful to us. Think about the phone you use, the car you drive, how you tailor them to your needs, how you personalize them — and how you would feel if you no longer had access to them. Tools are not just a way of getting things done; they help you express yourself. The mobile phone is the first tool in history that a majority of people carry with them everywhere, serving as a completely personalized and immediately responsive extension of their will. But the tools that consumers select and use differ in the US and Europe. For example, in the US, 51% of smartphones are iPhones versus just 28% in Europe.
- Conversation is about how we connect with each other. As James states in his original post on this topic, “Conversations made all of modern life possible. Specifically, our species’ capacity for language enabled our capacity for sociality, which further enabled our capacity for culture. These three skills — language, sociality, and culture — are woven from the same fabric: conversation.” Technology enables conversation. And while today’s technology helps us converse, tomorrow’s technology will do it for us. In Europe, 10% of online adults already use a voice assistant, 13% are interested in using a chatbot when talking to their bank, and 19% feel comfortable using video chat to talk to a customer service representative after a purchase.
- This leads to coordination, which is about how we get things done. The internet has made this so much easier for consumers, and apps now play a huge role in supporting people in their moment of need. Back in January 2000, my first Forrester report — “eCommerce Enters Europe” — revealed that only 4% of European households had purchased a product online in the previous three months. Today, 71% of European online adults have done so, and one in five prefers to use their smartphone when buying products online.
- Last, but not least, is emotion — how we know what to care about. Forrester has written a lot about the role of emotion in what consumers do and how they interact with brands, how it defines the customer experience, and how it shapes their brand preferences. Applied to technology, this means that how people feel about technology shapes how they use. Emotion guides them toward technologies they feel they can use and away from those they don’t yet feel equipped to master — or that don’t yet add enough relevance to persuade them to invest time and/or money in mastering them.
Technology is getting better and better at helping us meet our needs, and our emotional connection with it is growing, as well. We will build our consumer tech stacks on these emotion-rich connections that guide us to the devices, services, and experiences that meet our needs. Winning technologies will expand and exploit these four human forces: mastery of tools, coordination, conversation, and emotion.