Following a digital home boom established during COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, consumers are retreating on connectivity and content needs as they prioritise financial and mental well-being. This is according to the latest EY Decoding the digital home study, which surveyed more than 2,500 households in the UK to analyse how the cost-of-living crisis has impacted consumer attitudes toward technology, media and telecoms used in the home.
The study confirms that the cost of living crisis is putting pressure on the digital home. More than half of UK households are concerned that their broadband provider (61%) and TV provider (49%) will increase subscription rates, and 43% believe they pay too much for content they don’t consume. As we emerge from the pandemic, the study also indicates that digital usage is normalising, with many looking to downsize their online exposure. Thirty-five percent plan to spend less time online, 27% want to cut the number of streaming platforms they use and 24% are open to reducing the number of connected devices in their homes.
Praveen Shankar, EY UK & Ireland Managing Partner for Technology, Media and Telecoms (TMT), says: “With UK economic growth under threat as inflation rises, concerns around price rises for digital services – from broadband to streaming platforms – are pushing consumers to cut back on the digital services they use. One potential implication is that while for the past few years investing in the UK’s digital infrastructure has been a priority for the UK government and service providers alike, slowing demand will naturally impact investment. This could have the potential knock-on effect of putting efforts to break the digital divide into a stalemate, further impacting people’s ability to play a role in our increasingly digital-led society. It’s essential now that service providers reframe their strategies to build long-term value for UK consumers and offer compelling propositions that are flexible and reflective of the financial pressures people are facing.”
Households increasingly prioritise online security and well-being
The trend toward withdrawal from the online world is compounded by an increased focus on security and well-being. The findings reveal that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing fears around data disclosure, with 43% of households stating that they are more worried about the privacy of personal data than they were before the pandemic.
Mental health concerns associated with online exposure are also top of mind, particularly among younger consumers. Forty-eight percent of respondents under the age of 25 often think about the negative impact of internet use on well-being, and those that are 25 to 44 years old are also very concerned about what they may encounter online. Overall, 66% of UK households believe that government and regulators should do more to combat harmful online content, well above the average score across surveyed markets (59%)
Pressure to provide consumers with greater clarity
The study further highlights that consumers feel service offerings are too complex. Thirty-five percent find it difficult to understand digital home packages on offer, and 40% see very little difference between competing providers. Similarly, while more than half (49%) of consumer respondents say introductory offers play a role in their supplier choices, 54% indicate that they make it difficult to determine who offers the best value. At the same time, 62% of UK households believe that broadband reliability is more important than speed, the highest score across all countries surveyed. This underlines the importance of new types of performance guarantee for customers.
Adrian Baschnonga, EY Global Technology, Media and Telecoms Lead Analyst, says: “Connectivity and content providers must make their packages easier to interpret and understand. Clearly underlining the value they offer is essential during a period of unprecedented pressure on household spending. Better levels of service and support will also help companies build more trusted and enduring relationships with their customers, reducing the risk of churn.”
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