There’s a growing ‘crisis of confidence’ in digital: Dentsu Aegis Network study

A new global study from Dentsu Aegis Network suggests that consumers are increasingly looking to take back control of their digital experience amid a growing “crisis of confidence” in the digital economy.

The study, Digital Society Index 2019: Human Needs in a Digital World, is based on a survey of more than 43,000 people in 24 countries across dimensions including dynamism, inclusion and trust. It suggests that consumer attitudes towards the digital experience possess “significant implications” for business.

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Globally, one-third of respondents say that digital technology is having a negative impact on their health and quality of life. Nearly one-quarter (24%) of Canadians say they are actively limiting their time online.

Jeff Greenspoon, chief product officer for Dentsu Aegis Network Canada, says consumers increasingly have “mixed feelings” regarding the omnipresence of technology.

It is increasingly incumbent on advertisers and agencies to “up the game” and deliver content that consumers can enjoy on their own terms, he says. The goal is “creating an experience that continues to serve brands well and enables a way forward for continued engagement.”

The study suggests there is a gap between the promise of digital technologies and their actual human impact. Globally, 58% of people (52% in Canada) think not enough is being done to ensure that digital technology benefits everyone in society, rather than a select few. It also notes “rising concern” about the impact of digital on our health and quality of life, with 33% saying they feel they have been negatively impacted.

More than half (57%) of respondents, meanwhile, indicated that they are anxious about the pace of change, a number that rises to more than 80% in markets such as Brazil, China and India.

Consumers are taking back control

The report flags a ” fast-approaching tipping point” in which people are increasingly mindful—and critical—of data management by both public institutions and private companies.

Less than half of Canadians (41%) trust the organizations that hold their personal data to protect their privacy, with 80% of global respondents saying they would stop doing business with an organization that misused their data.

While much of the conversation around data privacy has been around the tech industry, all businesses deploying digital products and services face a similar level of scrutiny, the report says.

Misgivings around their personal well-being are also prompting people to seek out a healthier balance of media consumption, with 44% of consumers indicating they have taken steps to reduce how much data they share online, 21% limiting the amount of time they spend online or on a smartphone, and 14% of respondents have deactivated a social media account. More than one-quarter (27%) have installed ad blockers, a number that rises to 30% in Canada.

The brand implications

The report concludes that “significant progress” is required to better meet consumers’ digital needs.

It says that  businesses increasingly need to compete on openness and transparency around data usage, using it as a source of differentiation. Focusing on engagement over reach will enable brands to maximize the value of interactions, the report says, since consumers increasingly initiate those contacts.

Brands also need to determine how they can help consumers participate in their own “digital detox,” creating a loyalty premium by allowing consumers to interact on their own terms.

The report also notes significant variations by country, with emerging markets tending to feel their basic needs (digital access and trust in data use) are being met, but their psychological needs (health and well-being) are not.

People in developed markets, meanwhile, are positive about their basic needs, but less positive about their belief in digital as a force for good. In Canada nearly two-thirds of respondents (62%) believe technology will have a positive impact on society.

Photo by Caleb Dow on Unsplash
Chris Powell