Every year B&A’s TechScape report tracks the use of and attitudes towards technology in Ireland. The pace of adoption has been staggering as each year goes by. This year has seen increased adoption of smart TVs, wearable devices and smart hubs. The use of personal digital devices has grown from just seven per cent of adults in 2018 to 32 per cent this year.
Anita Mullan reports
What makes this year’s research most intriguing is the role that Covid-19 has played in driving tech use. Since March 2020 over a third of the Irish workforce have worked from makeshift offices, or in some cases converted spare rooms. However, as workers start their return to offices, the general consensus is that a hybrid remote working set up is the way forward.
Zoom, and to an extent Teams, are the main winners. The role and value of broadband has also become increasingly important in the past year, particularly for Gen Z, Millennials and Gen X (anyone under the age of 54). Indeed, these cohorts, over index in terms of their daily internet usage. 2021 also sees continued growth in the use of TV streaming platforms.
A significant number of people have more than one platform, as we bundle Netflix with either Amazon Prime or Disney+. To top it off over a third no longer see the value in the paying for live TV plans as they can access all content through streaming devices, rising to over half of Millennials and Gen Zers. A considerable proportion claim to be watching more content on YouTube than on live TV, particularly those aged 40 and younger.
However, it should also be noted, they are still watching live TV.
Over the course of the pandemic we have also seen increased use of online platforms and social media. In early 2020, B&A reported that consumers were weaning themselves off tech, by deleting particular apps, leaving their phone at home on certain days of the week, or simply removing phones from the dinner table to foster family bonding.
This year’s research however points to Covid-19 having re-established our love of all things social media related. In fact almost half of us claim to have increased our social media use since the pandemic and two in five of us cannot imagine our lives without social media. The trend is most likely driven by the social isolation measures imposed upon us.
Another element boosting the importance and value of home broadband is online shopping. This year we see an acceleration in pre-Covid trends, as two in three people now purchase products and services online. As you might expect, 2021 sees declines in the categories of flights and hotels but growth across the majority of other categories, with those selling electrical goods, grocery retailers, pharmacies and book/magazine retailers registering the biggest increase in e-commerce sales.
The interaction of online and the high street will likely become more fluid however, as we return to bricks and mortar stores – 43 per cent of us research products on our mobile phone when in a store – all of which presents added challenges and opportunities for retailers.
B&A’s TechScape report also indicates, as identified in previous years, that there continues to be a clear societal divide as ABC1s and Dubliners continue to have greater affinity with broadband importance and higher ownership of devices in general. This year we also see a continued growth in the use of financial digital products, with almost 900,000 Irish consumers now using digital financial products, such as Revolut, N26 and Monzo, with a clear Dublin and middle-class profile emerging for users of these services.
As we see these trends emerge it is important that brands and organisations note that over a quarter of those aged 50 and over still do not access the internet, which equates to over 400,000 potential customers. As important services, such as banking, grocery shopping and even medical appointments, are increasingly being conducted online there is a real danger of the older generation getting left behind. These socio-economic and age differences in online usage have important ramifications in terms for targeting of digital communications, customers service and equality across society as a whole.
The most profound theme emerging from our research over the last two years however relates to the extent to which technology has permeated through to all aspects of our everyday lives. To illustrate this point, we only have to look at the power of the Covid tracking app over the last year, to illustrate that the medical field is one of the new tech frontiers.
As Covid-19 health restrictions start to relax and as we are released back into society, it will be interesting to track how our attitudes towards technology and social media evolve; will our love of social continue, or will we revert back to early 2020 trends of wanting to wean ourselves away from the demands of being “always on”? Most likely we expect to see some trends continue, such as hybrid working, use of streaming services, digital financial products and online shopping growth.
However, as the future evolves it is likely to be a blend of the physical and virtual world, and as the last 18 months have shown, achieving this balance is the main challenge.
Anita Mullan is a director at B&A; firstname.lastname@example.org