OK, So They Can’t Program A VCR; Doesn’t Mean They’re Technophobes

However retrograde they may be in other respects, Americans are not a bunch of Luddites. A new poll by Harris Interactive documents consumers’ growing comfort with technology, which (insert cheers by marketers here) is often accompanied by an eagerness to own more of it.

When asked whether their attitude toward technology has changed during the past year, a majority (68 percent) said it hasn’t. That seeming stasis is itself a sign of increasing consumer comfort with technology when you account for the fact that technology has grown more exotic during that timespan. Among people whose attitude toward technology has changed during the past year, those who have become “much more accepting” of it (28 percent) far outnumber the handful who’ve become “more skeptical” of it (4 percent). In another part of the survey, 31 percent of respondents said, “I need to know a lot more detail before considering new technology products or services.” But a majority have a more relaxed attitude, with 54 percent subscribing to the statement, “As long as it works and the price is right, I’ll consider it.” Then there are the techno-enthusiasts, with 14 percent of respondents saying, “I believe new technology is usually better. I’m interested already.”

In its analysis of the data, Harris speculates that the proportion of “early adopters” in the population is on the rise as more consumers feel confident a new product will be reliable early in its life cycle. This general confidence could be a mixed blessing for big-name companies if it means consumers are less wary of dealing with brands they haven’t used in the past. The survey gives a hint of this: When asked about the factors that influence their purchase decisions vis-à-vis new electronic products, just 23 percent said the company offering it is very important to them. More than twice as many cited “ease of use” (61 percent). Other leading factors included customer service (58 percent) and “no-hassle installation” (57 percent). Fifty percent want it to be “easy to switch back if I don’t like the new product/service,” matching the proportion who cited the warranty as an important factor in their purchase decision.

Thirty-nine percent of adults intend to buy technology products for the home within the next six months; 44 percent plan on buying such goods for out-of-home use. Thirteen percent think they’ll buy a home computer, and the same number said they’ll purchase a printer. Seventeen percent expect to buy a cell phone, 14 percent a camera. Fewer (8 percent) intend to buy a “personal music device” in the next six months.