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Customer Experience

5 Consumer Trends That Are Shaping Digital Content Consumption

This article is part of our February 2019 series about mobile. Click here for more.

Who would have thought that the cell phone would one day evolve into a handheld computer and become the gateway to content and engaging customer experiences?

Well, that day is officially here. Walk into any establishment today, and it’s almost certain you’ll see plenty of people looking at their smartphones. This increase in smartphone usage is directly influencing consumer content consumption habits, according to a new study by Adobe. (Adobe owns CMO.com.)

The second annual Adobe Consumer Content Survey—a December 2018 survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers who own at least one digital device—found that digital content consumption is on the rise and consumers have already established expectations and preferences.

The report uncovered five consumer trends that are set to shape digital content consumption going forward.

1. Consumers Spend More Than A Quarter Of The Day Engaging With Digital Content
The proliferation of various content formats (i.e., video, social, memes, etc.) is behind the growth in digital content consumption. According to the study, consumers spend 8.8 hours a day, on average, engaging with digital content. This increases by two or more hours with the younger generations: 11.4 hours for Gen Z and 10.9 hours for Millennials, on average. What’s more, these generations are spending most of their time consuming content on mobile devices, and often more than one, with more than 25% of Millennials using three or more devices at once to engage with digital content—a 130% increase year over year (YoY).

“Consumers feel a major sense of FOMO,” said Kevin Lindsay, director of product marketing at Adobe. “If they’re not keeping up with all of the news and the latest shenanigans from all of their friends, they feel as if they are missing out. Add to that the fact that we can do just about anything from our phones nowadays, and it’s plain to see how easy it has become to stay connected. We’re seeing a different level of engagement with digital content that's part fun, part utility, part time-wasting.”

2. Consumers Have Little Patience For Poor Experiences
It’s no secret that companies such as Netflix, Amazon, and Airbnb are changing consumers’ expectations around customer experiences. “The bar is increasingly getting higher,” Lindsay said. “The tools available today for brand marketers to be able to monitor digital touch points, such as website performance or an app, are commonplace, so there’s really no excuse for a shoddy experience—and the customer knows it.”

The study found that more than one-third (35%) of consumers are most frustrated by slow page loads. This jumps up to 41% for Millennials. Also important to note: More than half of consumers (51%) said they would stop viewing content altogether if it takes too long to load.

Consumers said they also feel annoyed when branded content is poorly written (39%) or poorly designed (28%). Content that is too personalized (25%) is another turn-off, as is content that isn’t optimized for their devices (21%). Finally, three out of five consumers said experiencing any one of these situations would stop them from making a purchase with a brand.

Video, the study found, can make or break an experience, too. While more than half of consumers (54% overall, 76% for Gen Z, and 65% for Millennials) reported they would be more willing to stay on a brand’s channel if video content is included, half of consumers said they would stop viewing the content entirely if the video resolution is poor or the video is slow.

3. Use Of Emerging Tech To Consume Digital Content Is On The Rise
Of the various emerging technologies, voice seems to be the one gaining the most momentum among consumers. According to Lindsay, much of that adoption comes courtesy of the many more Alexa skills built in the past year, enabling consumers to do more with the device—and voice, in general.

Of course, it’s still the early days. Consumers reported they still mainly make purchases via physical stores (49%), online marketplaces like Amazon (48%), and by going directly to a brand’s website (44%) to buy goods and services. Notably, though, use of smart speakers and voice assistants to make purchases is on the rise (up 165% YoY, from 4% in last year’s study to 10% now).

Gen Z, specifically, has a unique relationship with their devices compared with other generations. They engage with content on gaming consoles almost as much as on laptops (46% vs. 49%), and they are more likely to engage with content on smart speakers and wearable devices. In fact, 17% of Gen Z said they use smart speakers/home assistants to make purchases, compared with zero in the same study last year.

“In the next year, we also expect to see more practical use of AR and VR,” Lindsay forecasted. “We are already starting to see a lot of experimentation and can expect more immersive content formats to become more and more mainstream over the next year or so.”

4. Brands Must Deliver Personalized Content Without Being Creepy
With consumers now using multiple devices throughout the day, people expect the experience and level of personalization will be continuous and seamless as they move from one device to the next. “And that's really where content plays a big role,” Lindsay said. “Content, informed by data, can help brands really achieve that personalization at scale.”

The study found that more than one-third (38%) of consumers say they constantly or frequently receive content from brands that isn’t personalized. It’s a missed opportunity, for sure, since more than half of consumers said they’re more likely to make a purchase (51%) or become loyal to a brand (49%) if the content is personalized.

But brands need to be careful, Lindsay warned: An overwhelming 82% of consumers agreed they would stop purchasing from a brand if it crossed the line with a creepy, personalized experience.

“While we didn’t dive into what people think is creepy in this study, my advice is that brands need to figure that out for their particular line of business,” Lindsay said. “Think about what's achievable, what's practical, and most importantly, desirable on the part of their customers.”

The study also found that consumers trust brands, but they are taking precautions. A full two-thirds of consumers said they trust the brands they engage with will respect their privacy and have the best intentions with the data they gather. That’s good news, said Lindsay, who added that brands need to continue to respect their customers by “delivering experiences that are authentic and live up to the brand promise. And it's not just the responsibility of marketing. It's the entire customer lifecycle.”

Consumers are taking more control of their experiences, too, the study found. Gen Z and Millennials are actively adjusting their privacy settings with the brands they engage with to protect their information, more so than other generations (80% and 76%, respectively).

5. Most Consumers Still Trust Social Media
Despite some rough times in social media over the past 12 to 18 months, a whopping 66% of consumers said they trust social media channels (while 34% don’t). Unsurprisingly, there’s a generational divide when it comes to trust in the social platforms with only 2% of Gen Z saying they don’t trust social networks compared to 15% of Millennials, 30% of Gen X, 48% of Baby Boomers and 52% of traditionalists.

Consumers reported they trust Facebook the most (26%), followed by YouTube (16%) and LinkedIn (9%).

“Regardless of the headlines, social media is not going away,” Lindsay said. “It’s a way for consumers to connect with their friends and discover content that is being shared in their circles.”

Click here to read the report on SlideShare, or view it below:

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