08 Oct 2015
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SME Adobe

Growing consumer power a huge disruptive force

By Catherine Knowles

Today, people are using numerous devices on an every day basis and are inundated with more content than ever before.

Today, brands and creators can’t get by with Comic Sans, cheap knock-offs, thinly veiled product promotion and slap-and-dash jobs.

This is the era where well-designed, easily accessible, authentic content that cares about the consumer wins out.

This shift is highlighted in Adobe’s recent report, ‘The State of Content: Expectations on the Rise’, which surveyed more than 2,000 consumers based in the US from September 12-16.

The survey looks at consumers’ changing attitudes about content, including the growing scepticism around online content, and the new imperative for brands and creatives to up their game.

“The message from consumers is clear: the bar is higher for content creators than it has ever been,” says Bryan Lamkin, Adobe Digital Media senior vice president and general manager.

“People are overwhelmed by an ever-increasing volume of media and apps. Creatives and brands need to focus even more on great design to maximise the impact of their experiences,” he says.

In the new edition of the book, The Third Screen, author Chuck Martin says, “The world gone mobile is not a simple story of technological change, it is a story of fundamental shifts in consumer behaviour.”

The growing power of the consumer

Adobe’s survey shows consumers are accessing an average of 12 sources of content on an average of six different devices.

Of these devices, the laptop or desktop is the most commonly used device, but the youngest generation, the Millennials, turn to smartphones first.

Significantly, 88% of consumers use an average of up to three devices simultaneously.

According to Martin, the first screen, television, revolutionised the way businesses reached consumers by enabling one-way communication.

The second screen, the personal computer, fostered interactivity, allowing businesses to communicate with and engage with consumers directly.

The third screen, mobile devices and primarily the smartphone, opens up the conversation more than ever before with real-time, anywhere sharing. It also heats up the competition, with no one business having a monopoly over all content and a number of parties all vying for attention.

The third screen is also significant because it’s personal – it’s not shared like a computer or watched in a group like a television, it’s used in a very individual way to engage with friends, family, content and services that person wants, says Martin.

These post-PC consumers are on the move and are both willing and able to use their mobile technology to act and interact with each other and with providers of products and services they seek out.

Consumers are in control, and content creators are being challenged to better serve their needs and to interact with them in meaningful ways, Martin says.

“The challenge and opportunity for businesses is to become part of their conversations and to add value to them.

“In a world gone mobile, the customer is in the driver’s seat,” he says.

Consumer attitudes toward content changing

When it comes to content, the majority of consumers are becoming more sceptical and discerning, and will not take something at face value.

According to Adobe’s survey, more than 60% of consumers question whether a news article is biased, a photo has been altered, or the author has been paid or incented to post a positive review.

Of the generations, Millennials are most likely to question the authenticity of online content, even when it’s shared by a peer.

In general, however, consumers are more likely to turn to people they know, their peers, or people they can relate to when it comes to trusting content.

The survey shows more than 72% of consumers trust content from a family member or friend more than celebrities or YouTubers.

Also, 68% trust a report from an eyewitness more than one from a news anchor (32%), and 84% will trust a product endorsed by an ordinary user over a celebrity (16%).

Furthermore, while content should be accurate, it also needs to be entertaining – with 35% of Millennials saying they care is something is entertaining over accurate.

Consumers are also becoming more selective about the types of content they engage with, as they have less time and more to sift through.

According to Adobe, nearly seven in 10 consumers would choose to view something that is ‘beautifully designed’ versus something that is plain.

Furthermore, consumers say they’re likely to stop viewing content or will change devices if the content layout and imagery is unattractive (73%), the content takes too long to load (83%), or the content is too long (68%).

As people are more distracted in today’s digital world and time becomes a precious commodity, video is increasingly a powerful medium, Adobe’s survey shows.

In fact, when limited to a 15 minute window to consume content, 66% would rather watch a video on breaking news rather than read an article.

Martin says, “Mobile is the next video platform. Users are beginning to watch video on mobile phones in more significant numbers.

“Online video platforms facilitate the distribution of mobile content on an instant and global basis.

“Marketers can use these platforms not only to reach their customers where they are at any given moment, but also to connect with potential new customers, as mobile video distribution grows even wider.”

Brands and creators feel the pressure

The pressure on creators is building as it becomes more important to produce engaging, authentic, relevant content that will captivate consumers in the ever changing digital world.

In fact, Adobe research finds creatives feel pressure to create content faster than ever before, and to keep up 40% are using mobile devices to create content wherever they are.

Both creatives and businesses are also using mobile platforms to open up conversations with consumers and working to create more personal relationships.

“Mobile is about tapping into technology-based platforms while on the go; it’s about downloading and using specific, customised features that enhance the mobile consumer’s productivity, performance, and even entertainment breaks while leveraging locations and time as never before.

“A movie is like a full-course meal, surfing the web is lunch, and mobile is snacking – constantly, constantly snacking,” says Martin.

So who’s rising to the top in this changing landscape? Those brands that create cohesive, authentic ‘personalities’ that capitalise on the mobile experience and create content that’s tailored not only to the audience, but the form, function and device it’s being consumed on, to create relevant, high quality content experiences.

The findings from the The State of Content: Expectations on the Rise’ report were released at Adobe’s MAX 2015 event, held in Los Angeles from October 5-7.

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