Yesterday, Peloton announced that it is temporarily halting production of its connected fitness products in the face of waning consumer demand. The surge of explosive growth in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic — to the point that product delivery barely kept pace with the influx of purchase orders — established the company as both a leader in the fitness industry and a model for companies across verticals striving to innovate for consumers in the throes of the crisis. But even the best brands are not immune to the whims of the empowered consumer. Peloton’s optimism around ongoing consumer preferences for at-home fitness inflated forecasts and obfuscated the fact that:
- Historical consumer behavior does not predict future consumer behavior. Empowered consumers are always in a state of flux, and as we’ve written before, relying purely on historical consumer behavior to predict future consumer needs and wants is insufficient at best. For instance, despite the abrupt shift to virtual healthcare at the onset of the pandemic, the number of US consumers who logged into their healthcare provider’s website declined from 37% in 2020 to 32% in 2021. Now, 40% of consumers say their healthcare provider’s mobile app is the first place they go for support. Anticipating inevitable changes in consumer expectation requires a constant, multimodal data-driven analysis that encompasses consumer behaviors, attitudes, and emotions.
- Categorizing pandemic trends into those that “stick” and those that “revert back to pre-pandemic norms” is wrong. This binary is not true — in reality, the variation in consumer behaviors and the high levels of consumer experimentation that we’ve observed during the pandemic will only accelerate. Adapting to the pandemic required testing out new brands, devices, and experiences; while creative consumers discovered new sources of value, no single set of tools or collection of experiences keeps consumers wholly satisfied for the long term.
- Moving forward, consumer experiences will be fluid. Pandemic-triggered investments in personal technology mean that the traditional “early adopter” and “digital holdout” consumer segments no longer exist. In fact, boundaries between digital and physical experiences have dissolved as consumers now expect digital to be embedded into standard offline experiences to enhance speed, convenience, or safety. At the end of 2021, 50% of US consumers said that they preferred to spend their spare time at home, and 65% indicated a desire to explore new places rather than stay at home. How does this tension between the need for comfort and safety and the desire for variety and novelty net out? In the coming months, digital and physical integration will enable more consumers to do more things in more places — from anywhere work to anywhere commerce, consumer behaviors will be increasingly diffuse.
Learn more about what to expect from consumers in 2022 by tuning into Forrester’s Predictions 2022 Live webinar on January 26, 2 p.m. ET.