According to an EY study, while 54% of consumers say the Internet is integral to their social lives, 45% actively seek time away from their smartphones and other Internet-enabled devices - rising to 53% among consumers aged 25-34. The study covered France, the Netherlands, the UK and the United States.
The survey indicates that take-up rates of smart home products and services look favorable - with smart utilities seeing the best five-year adoption outlook - but a surge in connectivity now threatens to undermine consumer trust. Most respondents (72% across all markets) said they are cautious about disclosing personal data, while 41% in both the United States and UK said they don't believe their data can ever be fully secure.
Adrian Baschnonga, EY Global Telecommunications lead analyst, said: "Today's households are hyper-sensitive about data disclosure, which if left unchecked could frustrate the consumer Internet of Things growth story. Indeed, 43% of survey respondents are unconvinced that recent regulatory change can adequately protect their data profile. Businesses need to go beyond boilerplate statements of compliance, placing data protection at the very heart of customer interactions and the service-innovation agenda."
The survey indicates a growing sense of confusion among consumers over an increasingly complex landscape of broadband bundles. Forty-two percent of respondents in France said they find it hard to choose services or packages that suit their needs. Respondents in the UK (32%), United States (30%) and the Netherlands (27%) echoed the sentiment. Across all markets, 48% of consumers said introductory offers make it difficult to understand which Internet packages represent the best value.
Baschnonga said: "Complex bundles represent overkill for many households, while pricing plans are often opaque. Businesses need to help customers regain confidence by offering more transparent pricing plans, simpler packages and the information they need to understand the trade-offs between cost and value."
Meanwhile, almost a quarter of consumers in the United States and UK (24% in both markets) struggle to find their favorite content, in what they perceive to be a crowded service ecosystem. The percentage rises to 34% in the United States and 39% in the UK among 18-24-year-olds, indicating that younger consumers may not necessarily find the digital world easier to navigate.
Martyn Whistler, EY Global Media & Entertainment lead analyst, said: "An ever-growing array of platforms and devices are providing new experiences for many, but engaging with must-have content can be a frustrating experience - with younger consumers the most likely to struggle. Ensuring that new propositions deliver high levels of convenience should be top of mind for content providers."
Streaming continues to redefine how households consume content, according to the survey. Nearly a third (32%) of respondents are progressing to multiple-device streaming behaviors, while 57% said their household watches short video clips online. This behavioral shift is more advanced in the United States, where 38% favor traditional TV channels, compared with 51% in the UK and 67% in the Netherlands.
Whistler said: "Households in all markets are progressing at different speeds toward their digital future, and consumers' needs are becoming increasingly nuanced and divergent. Service providers must look to reflect these widely varying attitudes in more targeted offerings. And as partnerships become more important to service creation and distribution, wider engagement with stakeholders should also be top of mind."