Decoding the digital home: physical retail remains essential for many consumers, despite accelerating digitization

Aurel Constantin 30/08/2021 | 13:56

Even as the world moves at breakneck speed toward digital adoption – compounded by national lockdowns – the fourth chapter of EY study, Decoding the digital home, reveals that brick-and-mortar retail remains a crucial element of the customer journey for digital home users. Thirty-nine percent of survey respondents would prefer to visit a retail store when purchasing a mobile device or package, rising to 41% when purchasing a smart home device.


“Despite the sustained effort to communicate the benefits of new technologies and digital channels in the relationship between customers and suppliers, households prefer purchasing from physical stores and audio contact with the human operator, emphasizing the need for a unified approach to the concept of “customer experience”. At the same time, it highlights the importance of a balanced approach to technology, with access to human, empathetic, and educated operators regarding the services and products offered”, said Cristian Cârstoiu, Consulting Partner, EY Romania.

The survey – of more than 18,000 household residents across Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the UK and the US – also finds that the traditional call center dominates customer support channel preferences, despite the heavily marketed advantages of frictionless digital tools such as chatbots. Speaking to an agent is still the preferred contact method for broadband (54%) and mobile customer queries (52%). Forty-two percent of consumers favor call centers because they don’t believe they can articulate pain points effectively without speaking to an agent and 45% believe instant messaging cannot handle complex queries.

Limited understanding of digital home connectivity

Consumer awareness of the latest products and services is surprisingly low, according to the survey. Less than half (42%) of household residents understand the features of smart home products, and only 37% grasp the benefits of 5G mobile.

Nearly a third (32%) also find communications services very difficult to understand while 36% struggle to differentiate between the services offered by various broadband providers. Notably, users aged 45-54 are least exposed to problems with understanding services (29%), compared with 36% of those aged 18-24.

Frustrations undermine positive customer experience

Services and platforms leaves consumers with confusion around content choices, again, particularly among younger groups. Thirty-nine percent of those aged 18-24 find it difficult to track their favorite content such as films and TV programs.

Regarding the user experience, 36% of all respondents stating that they are not confident setting up a smart appliance and 27% agree that setting up and managing TV apps is complex. Navigating service provider websites is also a pain point for many: 20% find their mobile provider’s website or app difficult to navigate while 23% find their broadband provider’s website or app difficult to use. For 18-24-year-olds, this rises to 31% and 30% respectively.

Consumers lack confidence setting up and managing connectivity and content services, while interacting with service provider apps and websites is a painful experience for many – with younger users particularly exposed. Connectivity providers must help customers become more self-reliant by offering clearer guidance on how to install services and manage preferences. Failure to do so will undermine customer satisfaction and loyalty.

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Aurel Constantin | 27/11/2023 | 17:41
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