UK Consumers Still Demanding Free Digital Content

UK consumers remain far less willing than their global counterparts to pay for digital content, but we are more willing to accept targeted advertising both on our PCs and mobiles and share our personal profile data according to KPMG’s Global ‘Consumers & Convergence IV’ an annual survey of consumers day-to-day use of mobile and PC technology.

In the UK 81 percent of us would go elsewhere for content if a previously free site we use frequently began charging – only 19 percent of us would be prepared to pay. This figure is much higher globally with 43 percent of consumers are now willing to pay to access frequently used online content. This increases to 59 percent among the Asia-Pacific countries.

Other key survey findings include:

Almost three quarters of UK consumers are willing to receive online ads in exchange lower content costs

48 percent of UK consumers are willing to allow their personal profile data to be tracked, although concerns over online privacy and security remain

Mobile banking usage has doubled in the past 18 months

94 percent of UK consumers have no plans to discontinue landline telephony connections and use mobile only

Tudor Aw, Head of Technology, KPMG Europe LLP commented: “UK consumers still haven’t come around to the idea of paying for digital content and are clear that they will move to other sites if pay walls are put up.”

While these results are bad news for newspaper pay walls, there is better news for videos, music and games creators, as these are the most popular types of content for which people are willing to pay – games 50 percent will pay, music 44 percent and video 35 percent.

There is also good news for advertisers, as the survey shows a strong trend for consumers to receive adverts in exchange for lower prices or free content: 74 percent of UK consumers are willing to receive ads on their PC in exchange lower costs and 56 percent have the same view in respect of mobiles.

Where UK consumers are willing to accept ads, their preference is for them to be tailored to their own interests and activities. This preference corresponds with an increase in people’s willingness to allow their online usage and personal profile information to be tracked if it would result in lower costs: 48 percent of UK consumers would be willing to accept profile tracking, up from 35 percent in the 2008 survey.

Tudor Aw, continued: “Although consumers are resistant to paying for content, they are becoming more accepting of viewing advertising and for their profile information to be tracked. This continues a trend we have seen in previous years and again acts as a pointer as to whether a pay or ad-funded model will eventually succeed.”

Despite concerns over privacy and data security, people around the world are adopting the mobile internet at an astonishing pace as an easy and convenient method of carrying out everyday transactions including banking and shopping.

Compared with only 18 months ago, the global percentage of consumers who have used their mobile device for banking has more than doubled from 19 percent to 46 percent, while the percentage who have used it to buy goods and services has gone from 10 percent to 28 percent.

In the UK however, we remain more sceptical about mobile banking – only 19 percent of us have used a mobile device for banking, although this is an improvement on 18 months ago when only 5 percent had. Similarly, only 15 percent of us have used a mobile device to buy goods and services, although this is an increase from only 4 percent in 2008.

Despite this growing familiarity with mobile commerce and profile tracking, consumers still remain worried about risking their privacy. Almost 90 percent of consumers globally said they were concerned over privacy and security online in many cases more now than 18 months ago.

Consumers in the UK are also concerned about these issues with 88 percent worrying about their online security and 86 percent about their privacy, this has reduced very little since 18 months ago when these figures were 95 percent and 89 percent respectively.

Tudor Aw concluded: “At first sight, these concerns over privacy might seem to conflict with our findings that consumers are more willing to have their profile information tracked, but there seems to be a clear distinction in consumers’ minds between uncontrolled use of personal information, and properly regulated use. They do see the value in allowing service providers to have access to the information necessary for more tailored services, but they are only prepared to do this if the risks are controlled and, crucially, if there is some value in it for them.

“But the twin issues of inadequate privacy and poor security are definitely uppermost in consumers’ minds, and may be holding back the further development of the internet as a commercial tool. Consumers around the world see solving these issues as a joint responsibility of service providers, who should improve systems and be more transparent in their reporting on security matters, and regulators, who should introduce tougher privacy and security regulations.”

Further headline findings from the survey:

News of the death of the landline is greatly exaggerated as 94 percent of UK consumers have no plans to discontinue their landline telephony connections and use mobiles only. Good news for fixed line operators.

When it comes to telecommunications, retaining and attracting customers is still about the three basics – price, network quality and customer service. This is consistent with the previous versions of the survey. Other ‘value added service’ factors such as devices, bundling packages and content fall a distant second to the top three.

Chris Woodland, Director within KPMG’s telecommunications practice comments: “The core attributes of mobility remain paramount in the minds of consumers when considering switching suppliers – great network quality, delivered at a competitive price with good levels of customer service. To retain customers, and to capture other operators’ customers in a lower subscriber growth environment, operators need to be focus on developing new business models to gain cost-effective access to best in class networks – networks that can deliver mobile broadband services, with few coverage blackspots.

This is where one innovative business model, Radio Access Network (RAN)-sharing, comes into its own – by sharing aspects of service delivery that are more relatively commoditised, network-sharing enables operators to roll-out broadband services to consumers more quickly to a wider geographic area, at lower costs and, when accompanied by a upgraded RAN, with better service levels. All this adds up to delivering what consumers value.”

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