May 14, 2014

Q&A with Michael Björn, head of research, Ericsson ConsumerLab

Posted by: in North America

In his role at Ericsson—the Stockholm-based provider of communications technology and services—Michael Björn studies global consumer trends, as well as the process of assimilating this technology into consumers’ lives. We talked to Björn while researching our new mobile trends report, discussing some of the consumer-driven trends that Ericsson outlines in its 2014 forecast and how fast change is happening in the mobile sphere.

It seems that mobile is starting to rewire the consumer’s brain or cause a major shift in mindset—do you think we’re entering a new phase in this regard?

We are very much in a phase where people are changing their view on how to use the Internet. We had one trend last year that we call “computing for a scattered mind.” The point was that our ways of using computing devices are extremely different these days. Everything we’ve done with computers in the past has been built on an idea of, you sit down and you’re task oriented. Whereas, smartphones and tablets and so on, they are adapted to a lifestyle where we do all our computing needs while doing something else. The important computing we actually perform as individuals, it happens while you’re waiting to pay for your groceries or while you’re on the bus or you’re doing other things in life, and that’s where all the computing power happens.

One of your trends for this year is “Apps change society.” Can you describe what you mean by that?

We went to 27 major cities in the world, and we asked people what they thought was really positive about living in those cities and also what’s really negative. We realized that a lot of people saw that ICT [information and communications technology] could probably help them to increase satisfaction with things they thought were already good but also to remove some of the frustration with things they thought were really bad—such as the traffic situation or child and elder care and such areas.

So we realized what’s happening now is that the expectation in more consumers is that the positive experiences they’ve had with apps is going to continue into all sectors of society and all walks of life. The expectation is that this will happen very quickly. 

There are many sectors in society that you don’t really have all of that [app utility], if you think about elder care or child care or communication with authorities or stuff like that. There’s many areas where this is not really happening at the pace that people are expecting. So we’re seeing a lot of demand-driven thinking from consumers rather than just the pure technology push. 

Another big mobile trend is that a lot of content consumption has moved to mobile, especially video viewing. Your trend report for this year included “Play, pause, resume elsewhere,” looking at how consumers are switching devices to suit their location.

This new mobile content consumption is happening across devices and very much, of course, in mobile situations; kind of in the “scattered mind” situation. You’re doing a lot of things, but then you also want to watch a bit of video while you have a few minutes. And you pause it and you do something else maybe and you move to a different situation and you continue watching it there.

Your report also found that people see the benefits of connectivity as outweighing the concerns. But do you think people are getting anxious about the privacy and security of their mobile devices?  

We haven’t really seen any sort of division between mobile devices versus other types of devices. We do see that people have reasonably high concerns. But at the same time they realize there is a lot of benefit in using the Internet, of course. So even though people have high concerns about some of these issues, very few say this would actually cause them to use the Internet less.

We’ve asked people, for example, if they would be concerned if email apps targeted advertising toward you. People say they would be concerned, but in reality this has been available for a long time. So on the one hand people say, yes, that would be a concern. On the other hand, they don’t really seem to notice it when they are using email, for example. So one of the things we have talked about is that people don’t really connect all those thoughts very clearly.

Another new topic this year is wearables. Do you think we’ll see a lot more consumer interest or do you think they need to evolve a bit before most people get interested?

What’s interesting with the wearables right now is that the interest levels are very high at the moment. I think it goes back to this idea that people are realizing you can download an app and do things because the smartphone has a couple of sensors that you can do things with. For example, all of a sudden it becomes a pedometer without you having to think about it.

So the question is then, Will there be products that actually can live up to those expectations or not? Right now this interest is there as an extension of the overall interest in smartphones too, which will hold on for a time, but eventually, of course, if nothing new comes along that’s really grabbing attention, maybe that can change.

This whole industry [of wearables] is only beginning. But normally you wouldn’t see this very strong consumer interest around something that hasn’t really gotten to market yet. There’s a couple of products out there. But what’s surprising to me is the big interest comes before the big product are really mainstream in the market.

We even asked about a ring—maybe there is some ring out there, but we tried to use fictitious products to see what the response would be, and people are quite interested in that as well.

Another big topic this year has been WhatsApp and the messaging apps. There are so many social tools on mobile, a bit different from what we have on a desktop. Have you done any research around that topic?

There are two aspects. The social connection has been important for quite some time. This year we look specifically at video, but we can see the same things for other types of media—it’s the fact that there are fewer people that are the recommenders of things in your social network. A lot of people say they have been recommended to watch things or read things or look at pictures or whatever. But always around half only are saying they themselves are actively recommending to other people.

So of course the whole media landscape is changing. And a lot of that goes on on mobile, of course, because mobile is a very heavily used media consumption device.

The other aspect is, we looked at the overall messaging situation. We still see that there’s an overall rise of total communication volume. So yes, all of these mobile messaging apps and channels are becoming very important, but at the same time, what people seem to be doing is  increasing the overall volume of communication they do. And partly this is because of, of course, the proximity of your mobile phone. You can easily respond to a couple more messages than you could in the past, when you had to find a computer to do some of that communication.

It seems like people are continuously in touch throughout the day, especially when you look at the volume of messages.

That brings us back to the importance of the social dimension for a lot of other activities we do in everyday life, not the least on our overall media consumption. That would be heavily influenced with our constant keeping in touch with our social network.

And when we say social network, we have to distinguish a little bit. It’s not only Facebook and Twitter that help us maintain our social network. We use all of our communication channels to maintain this social network. When that overall volume goes up, then of course the impact on other activities will also rise.

Another theme your report covers is reducing the digital divide and the phone becoming the primary Internet device for many people, especially in the developing world.

For us who are in these markets the change will be lower than in some of the developing markets where this is of course a leapfrog effect. So if you think from a Swedish or an American perspective, if you want to launch a service in a developing market, you may have to take the product that was designed for the cutting edge of our own market, because they can skip a step.

Every year at the Mobile World Congress, the theme seems to be that change is happening so fast. Do you see substantial changes from year to year in consumer expectations and behaviors?

ConsumerLab was formed back in 1995. So we’ve been doing this type of research for quite some time. And I have been with ConsumerLab for quite a long time myself. We have had a lot of years where not a lot really happened, back in the years when mobile Internet was first launched. We spent quite a number of years with not a lot of big change in the consumer market.

It wasn’t all that many years ago when we thought the U.S. was a reasonably laggard kind of marketplace when it came to mobile phone use. For example, talking about youth culture and mobile phones in the U.S. was not very popular at all, because mobile phones were something that businesspeople were using. And this was not all that long ago, if you put it in perspective.

So I would say that during the last three to five years, the pace of change has been much, much quicker than it was the previous three to eight years. There’s probably some kind of pattern, because in the early days with the ConsumerLab work, there was a lot of change when the traditional mobile phone was spreading every quickly and SMS became the new platform for communication among young people. And now we’re back into this phase where there is a very, very fast pace of change.

I would say it’s not so much the device perspective that is the big change area. It’s actually the apps and how they’re spreading into a lot of new areas of life. You don’t think about it while you do it, but you kick up a new app and try something new and then you’re connecting yet another human activity into your Internet life. So that’s where I see the big, big change right now.

No Responses to "Q&A with Michael Björn, head of research, Ericsson ConsumerLab"

Comment Form

New: 2014 iPad App

The Brazil Opportunity

Updates

Sign up for Email Updates

JWT AnxietyIndex

Things to Watch

  • Chinese mega-cities
    July 24, 2014 | 1:15 pm

    Tianjin

    China, home to the world’s second largest rural population, is expected to add close to 300 million more urbanites by 2030, when Shanghai and Beijing will likely account for two of the world’s Top 5 mega-cities, according to new UN research. “We are observing one of the most significant economic transformations the world has seen: 21st-century China is urbanizing on a scale 100 times that seen in 19th-century Britain and at 10 times the speed,” notes a new McKinsey paper on cities and luxury markets. China’s wealth will be concentrated in these urban areas: Over the next decade, McKinsey expects Beijing, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Chongqing and Shenzhen, in addition to Hong Kong, to join the list of “top luxury cities.” —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Jakob Montrasio

  • Brands + Google Glass
    July 15, 2014 | 6:09 pm

    SPG

    As Google Glass makes its way into the hands of more people (last month it became available in the U.K.), brands are experimenting with the new possibilities that the platform affords. In March, Kenneth Cole became the first to launch a marketing campaign—the “Man Up for Mankind Challenge”—through a Glass app. Users were challenged to perform and document good deeds for the chance to win a prize.

    Starwood’s new Glass app, billed as the first such app from the hospitality sector, lets people voice-search its properties, view photos and amenities, get directions and book rooms. An array of other marketers have turned out apps for early adopters, from Sherman Williams’ ColorSnap Glass (easily create a paint chip that mirrors anything in view) to Fidelity (delivers daily market quotes for Glass wearers). —Tony Oblen

    Image credit: SPG

  • Ugly produce
    July 10, 2014 | 2:45 pm

    Intermarche

    Ugly Produce, on our list of 100 Things to Watch in 2014, is proliferating in Europe, thanks in part to government efforts to reduce the 89 million tons of food wasted in Europe each year. In France, Intermarché has been getting buzz for creating a produce section dedicated to “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables”; a whimsical ad campaign reportedly drove a 24 percent rise in store traffic.

    U.K. supermarket Waitrose recently began selling packs of tomatoes that are misshapen or have fallen off the vine naturally. And in Portugal, Fruta Feia (“Ugly Fruit”) is a cooperative launched in late 2013 that sells unsightly produce that would have gone to waste. Per The New York Times, the group already has a waiting list of 1,000 customers. In line with one of our 10 Trends for 2014, Proudly Imperfect, watch for ugly produce to catch on with both retailers and shoppers. —Jessica Vaughn

    Image credit: Intermarché

  • The $1.25 Cube
    July 3, 2014 | 12:30 pm

    As we outline in Immersive Experiences, one of our 10 Trends for 2014 and Beyond, entertainment and narratives are becoming more enveloping in a bid to capture consumers’ imagination and attention. An immersive project from JWT Israel, a winner of the Cannes Chimera challenge, aims to help people experience what it’s like to live in extreme poverty. Once it’s created, the cube will create a multisensory experience that uses tools like augmented reality to simulate sights, sounds and smells and elicit certain feelings. Participants can exit only when the person in line behind them inserts $1.25, a metaphor for the collaborative efforts needed to fight poverty. The aim is for the cube to travel to international events like the Davos conference in order to influence global leaders. —Hallie Steiner

    Image credit: JWT Israel

  • Google’s Android Auto
    June 26, 2014 | 3:00 pm

     

    Android

    The connected car is rapidly becoming a reality. Fast 4G LTE connections are turning vehicles into hot spots that come with a data plan, while Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android are making their way onto dashboards. This week Google introduced Android Auto, with the first compatible cars expected by year-end. Apple’s similar CarPlay, which turns the car into a platform for an iPhone’s content, was announced in March and is included in new Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo models.

    Car-based app ecosystems will provide relevant info (traffic, maps, vehicle diagnostics, restaurant suggestions) and entertainment, combined with safety precautions like voice control. As we outline in our mobile trends report, connected cars—complete with Internet hot spots, a suite of apps and sensors that communicate—will eventually link up with drivers’ homes, mobile devices and other gadgets to form a seamless system. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Android

  • American Eagle Outfitters’ recycling boxes
    June 19, 2014 | 3:45 pm

    American Eagle

    In a bid to create a more closed-loop production cycle, retailers including Puma and H&M are partnering with I:CO, a Swiss reuse and recycling firm that sets up collection points in stores for used clothing and shoes. The latest retailer to link up with I:CO is American Eagle Outfitters, which has added collection boxes in all its North American stores. Customers who participate in the “Live Your Life. Save Your Planet” initiative get a $5 credit toward AEO jeans. Any proceeds gleaned from the program will be donated to the Student Conservation Association.

    “The vision is for all products to be designed with future uses in mind, so materials can be 100% reused in a truly endless cycle,” explains a post from I:CO on American Eagle’s blog. An array of brands are taking steps toward a similar vision, as detailed in our upcoming report on the circular economy. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: American Eagle Outfitters

  • Marriott’s #LoveTravels
    June 11, 2014 | 1:45 pm

    Americans are now largely open to seeing LGBT characters or couples in ads, as recent JWT research confirmed, and thus “advertising is coming out of the closet, with visible and innovative LGBT Pride campaigns from a diverse range of brands,” writes GLAAD’s Rich Ferraro in Brandchannel. One of the more notable campaigns this Pride month is Marriott’s #LoveTravels, featuring portraits of people including gay NBA player Jason Collins, transgender model Geena Rocera and two dads with their kids. The campaign includes print and display ads and building wraps at five Washington, DC, hotels; a microsite details the individual stories.

    “This is one of the most diverse and inclusive campaigns to have ever run in mainstream advertising,” writes Ferraro. Meanwhile, rival Hilton has revamped its LGBT-focused site and is hosting a wedding reception at the Beverly Hilton for the co-plaintiffs in California’s Proposition 8 gay-marriage court case. —Marian Berelowitz

  • Vogue’s shoppable Instagram
    June 4, 2014 | 2:36 pm

    As we outline in Everything Is Retail, one of our 10 Trends for 2013 and Beyond, shopping is shifting from an activity that takes place in physical stores or online to a value exchange that can play out in multiple new and novel ways. Instagram, a platform ripe with potential, is among those new ways. Vogue’s Instagram feed is now shoppable for consumers who have signed up with rewardStyle’s Like to Know service; liking certain images triggers an email with instructions on how to buy featured items.

    RewardStyle tells DigiDay that more magazines will be signing up shortly. Other firms helping brands monetize Instagram include Soldsie and Hashbag. —Marian Berelowitz

  • Ethically sourced electronics
    May 29, 2014 | 10:45 am

    Last year’s launch of Fairphone, an ethically sourced and produced mobile phone, put a spotlight on the raw materials in our digital devices. Currently taking orders for a second batch of 35,000 phones, the Dutch company ensures that minerals come from conflict-free areas so they’re not helping to fund armed groups. Now a two-minute spot from Intel showcases the company’s commitment to using conflict-free minerals in its microprocessors. Intel’s website delves into the issue, and CEO Brian Krzanich also spoke on the topic at this year’s CES.

    Alongside sourcing sits labor issues, another ethical consideration that Fairphone addresses. Expect more tech companies to start improving their track record when it comes to how their products are made. —Will Palley

  • ‘Look Up’ and the ‘Heads-Up Movement’
    May 20, 2014 | 3:45 pm

    As noted in our new mobile trends report, people are developing a love-hate relationship with our phones. We’ll see a “heads-up movement”—something we forecast in our 100 Things to Watch for 2014—as people try to become better attuned to their real-life environment. The video “Look Up” from Gary Turk, a British writer-director, dovetails perfectly with this idea, with lines like “Look up from your phone, shut down the display, take in your surroundings and make the most of your day.”

    After its release in late April, “Look Up” quickly went viral; it’s now accumulated some 38 million views, approaching the numbers racked up by last year’s similarly themed “I Forgot My Phone,” and inspired a few parodies. —Marian Berelowitz

  • RSSArchive for Things to Watch »