Consumer Adoption and Engagement with Technology

How COVID stressors have shone light on potential marketing opportunities

Technology can be a fickle mistress. It’s always changing, evolving and reinventing itself. It has infiltrated every part of our lives from televisions and dishwashers, to healthcare and food.  Everyone is affected by technology to at least some degree, but the impact varies among populations.  So, it should come as no surprise that COVID has had a tremendous impact on our relationship with technology.  

Understanding people’s varying relationships with technology can drive differences in how brands interact and engage with consumers.  These relationships are not stagnant so being mindful of consumers’ changing needs around technology is crucial. 

COVID has caused rapid adoption of some virtual connection technologies that previously were either under-utilized or not considered good alternatives.  A prime example would be telehealth – while it existed on the periphery before COVID, roughly 66% of survey respondents said the pandemic has increased their willingness to try virtual care. Events like conferences and professional workshops have also seen a massive shift to a virtual environment.  47% of consumers globally said they had an increased interest in streaming events since before COVID and there has been a 1000% increase in online events year over year as of April.

The landscape of households has been massively impacted by COVID.  Home has now become the full-time office and/or school room for many.  Empty nesters have college kids back at home with campuses shut down, while other family members may be moving in with one another due to job loss or trying to save money in these uncertain financial times.

These altered home environments have increased the demand on technology for the household as people are adjusting to a new lifestyle.  Beyond the obvious needs like better internet and dishwashers that can keep up with the increased usage, there has been a shift in how different age groups are adopting technology.  This shift emerges as technology has become more of a necessity, as well as increased influences from social circles. 

Let’s consider the multi-generational family social circle now living under the same roof and members’ influences on one another.  These are examples from a GenX friend of mine who is a “sandwich” parent within a three-generation household. 

  • GenX’s Boomer mother asked about purchasing a health tracker. Since COVID she hasn’t been able to go to the gym and wanted to understand if a certain brand would help her to better track her change in routine compared to how she exercised before. After unpacking what her mom wanted, GenX was able to identify a product that would serve her mother’s need, be compatible with her current devices, and ultimately resulted in her Boomer mother purchasing a tracker she otherwise may not have.
  • GenX’s GenZ child also plays into the influence mix in their house.  He talked to GenX about ordering food through an app, as COVID has changed their normal restaurant routine.  Now this was in addition to the discussion about why he needed new gaming system remotes, what would be possible by adding voice-assistant devices to his room, and him helping his Boomer grandmother navigate some other apps she was interested in trying.

Marketing hones itself by focusing on a target audience which is typically corner-stoned by an age group. What marketers oftentimes overlook is the outside influence factor on the target’s purchase potential.  This is especially true within the technology space as demonstrated by the two examples provided above.  Providing selling points to your target, as well as understanding the influence their social circle has in their decisions is extremely important in order to successfully facilitate a final sale or encourage adoption of some type of technology.

In instances like these, often the biggest determinate for technology adoption is the younger generation’s, or someone who is seen as more tech-savvy’s, influence and guidance on the purchase decision.   

Younger generations are interested in technology but are not always financially able to invest or purchase.  This is where the older generations come in to help fund the purchase, but typically only once they understand the benefits the purchase will provide.  Conversely, older generations are seeing technology become more beneficial for their lives, but may not be as confident in their understanding of how it works so they are often consulting younger gens before making decisions.