Our Love/Hate Relationship with Technology (and what it Means for Marketing Technology)

Buying the latest gadget, using cloud storage, or switching to mobile banking is thrilling for some, but terrifying for others. Why are there such differences in reactions to the latest technology? Last month, Rockbridge asked that question of consumers using our social media research application, OpinionPond™. High Tech FamilyWe wanted to hear first-hand the factors that drive, as well as inhibit, technology adoption to provide insight to marketers trying to increase technology’s penetration.

The social media dialogue confirmed what past research has shown us: whether we are speaking as consumers, workers or citizens, technology adoption is influenced by both positive beliefs (contributors) and negative beliefs (inhibitors), and people harbor both types of conflicting beliefs simultaneously.

The following are some of the motivators our panelists shared with us…

  • Technology makes me more efficient, which improves the quality of my life. Efficiency is the byproduct of improved ways to manage time and information, and eliminate paper. As one tech-savvy consumer puts it: “Saving time is usually what motivates me to upgrade or try new technology. I can synchronize my work and home calendars, email and have my music and even photos in one place. That’s a huge efficiency thing for me.” Many believe innovative technology also makes us better citizens and improves society.
  • Technology connects me to people. Social media and videoconferencing, technologies that did not exist at the dawn of the internet age, offer new flexibility to overcome time and distance. “Today, I can talk to my daughter by text, Facebook, instant messaging & Skype!”
  • Technology connects me to the world. Access to news, facts and educational resources helps people become better informed as citizens and workers. “It definitely makes me feel empowered that I can learn the new things that are coming out almost daily. It helps to keep my brain functioning.”
  • Technology empowers me. Information of any kind can be found whenever needed on a device. “I like to try new technology… It makes it easier to find information and finding where I can get the best deals.” Easy access to information makes people feel more self-reliant and in control.
  • Technology is a status symbol. With social pressures, people want to appear ‘cool’ and to be seen by friends as a technology leader – the iPhone is replacing the Rolex. “I do like to be one of the first in my peer group to have something new and exciting.”
  • Technology is fun. Some consumers find the challenges of learning innovative technology to be enjoyable rather than a burden. “I enjoy figuring out how to use it and will sit and play with whatever it is for quite a while.”

Our panelists also shared many inhibitors to adopting technology, including…

  • I am afraid I won’t be able to use a new technology. Many, particularly older consumers, are concerned they will not be able to make a new gadget or service work for them, and that they may even break it. “I tutor older people (in their 80’s) and their biggest concern is ‘breaking’ the computer.”
  • Technology is too expensive. Believing the cost of the latest technology is not worth the benefits, many will continue to rely on older or more traditional methods of doing things (i.e. physical books rather than eBooks).
  • New technology may not work. There is hesitancy in purchasing new technology at first because of the ‘bugs’ associated with it, and some prefer to hold off purchasing until technology is proven.
  • Technology threatens my safety, privacy and security. For example, using a credit card on a computer or mobile phone may be seen as an insecure transaction, or as one person states: “So many people out there know how to hack into things; what makes you so sure that it isn’t going to happen with new technology that hasn’t been proven?”
  • Technology creates dependencies. Those more likely to resist technology fear that users develop an unhealthy addiction that leads to social disconnection.

The OpinionPond™ discussion is the first step in validating our past learning of technology and updating the Technology Readiness Index (Techqual™) to reflect the changing technology landscape since the index was first created in 1999. The qualitative input largely validates the paradox uncovered in our research years ago, which showed that technology adoption is influenced by both contributors (innovativeness and optimism) and inhibitors (discomfort and insecurity).

Technology Readiness Chart

What does this mean for marketers? As we have stated in numerous articles and a book, technology requires a unique approach to marketing. This means reaching out to innovators to learn about next generation functionality, while testing reliability and ease of use among second wave adopters. In communications, the many benefits of technology discussed here need to be reiterated and proven to a group of “skeptical” consumers, while reassuring communications and guarantees are required for insecure consumers.

A final observation: People vary in their “Technology Readiness,” but most have a “love/hate” relationship. One panelist explained this aptly by paraphrasing a line from the song Hotel California:

“We are all prisoners of our own devices.

Written by: Kristen Garrett, Director and Charles Colby, Chief Methodologist