Sébastien Houdusse, Chief Strategy Officer at BETC, talks about our newest Prosumer Report, which assesses attitudes towards technology at a time when much of the world has spent more than a year working, learning and shopping at home.
Can you tell us about Tech Forward*, the latest Prosumer report, and what motivated its focus on tech companies?
Tech companies have faced mounting criticism in recent years; they’ve been accused of evading taxes, mistreating gig economy and warehouse workers, compromising user privacy contributing to disruptions ranging from mass protests to insurrections. We wanted to explore if what we’ve seen in the media was actually reflecting consumers’ opinions and concerns.
And what we actually discovered is that the tech trial won’t happen. Consumers, by and large, seem disinclined to hold Big Tech to account. On the contrary, 92% of Prosumers surveyed globally believe that tech can solve a good part of the world’s most urgent problems. And 7 in 10 Prosumers said their opinion of big tech companies improved because of the actions they have taken during the pandemic.
What were some of the report’s most interesting findings?
Even if tech is considered as a force for good in multiple categories, that doesn’t mean that Big Tech doesn’t get a free pass: There is a growing perception that the tech giants have acquired too much power, as confirmed by 78% of Prosumers. Consequently, consumers expect these companies to operate responsibly and in the interest of the public good.
To maintain public support, tech must build a road to good by being:
- More accessible: 56% of Prosumers want to see more women in the male-dominated technology industry “because a better gender balance can help prevent digital biases.” But it’s not just women who are excluded. As the world becomes increasingly digitalized, majorities of Prosumers are concerned about who is being left behind—namely, the elderly (72% of Prosumers expressed concern), the poor (68%), and people with physical or mental differences (54%).
- More transparent: Concerns over hacking and digital safety continue to gain momentum. Almost 8 in 10 Prosumers worry about hackers “stealing and misusing” their data, while 53% fear constant monitoring by Apple, Google, Amazon, and the other tech companies they have invited into their homes and lives. Consequently, 88% of Prosumers want “tech companies to offer tutorials on how to protect our data privacy.”
- Inspirational: Being useful everyday will not be enough for tech tomorrow. Beyond that, there is a widespread sense that tech needs to help people envision a brighter future: 49% expect technological innovation to help them “dream / envision a better tomorrow.”
In terms of its e-commerce and social media findings, how can this report guide our clients?
What’s very interesting in the report is that we discovered the various tech companies do not raise the same concerns from consumers. That’s where our clients will be able to better understand how to address problems whether from an e-commerce point of view, or from a social media point of view.
In their journeys to retain or regain public support, the various tech titans have different sins for which to account.
- E-commerce platforms revolutionised access. Now, they need to do more to control collateral damage, including by improving conditions for their workers (a top expectation of 62% of Prosumers), supporting small businesses (48%), and investing in more sustainable means of package delivery (44%).
- Social media platforms connected the world. Now, they need to rethink their role within our democracies. Nearly half of Prosumers agree that these platforms have become “filled with hate speech and hostility.” Arguably more dangerous, just under half of Prosumers and mainstream respondents in the US now feel that “social media companies pose a threat to global democracies.”
How has the Prosumer report process evolved since its development? How important is this tool for our clients and our network?
The Prosumer reports, alongside our Meaningful Brands research and the X INDEX for customer experience, are instrumental for our network because they help us always be connected to what’s happening in culture around us to better advise our clients. Especially for the Prosumers, as they are the most innovative and forward-thinking consumers. They are predictive of future consumer trends that will become mainstream in the next 6 to 18 months. This is very crucial to our everyday job because it helps catching beginnings, and projects our clients’ brands and business into the future.
* Fielded in spring 2021, this global survey captures the experiences and opinions of nearly 16,000 people in 32 markets.