- Consumer anxiety around personal data is on the rise, with 77% of survey respondents agreeing that they are concerned about how their information is used by companies online, according to GroupM's second annual assessment of attitudes toward technology. That figure marks a five percentage-point increase from last year's analysis.
- Wariness toward ads could also be increasing. Seventy-three percent of people said they would accept watching commercials if it lowered their monthly streaming service bills, down from 76% who reported the same last year.
- Meanwhile, consumer adoption of emergent tech is patchy. Just 32% own an augmented or virtual reality device (AR/VR). Sixty percent claimed to have a 5G device versus 49% last year, but GroupM signaled that expectations around the wireless technology may not match the reality for many, a theme that was also true of AR/VR.
GroupM's second annual survey of consumer feelings toward tech doesn't carry many bright spots for marketers, with skepticism and confusion around the sector on the rise. The findings suggest more people are willing to pay a premium to avoid advertising, a trend that may require marketers to directly manage their TV budgets in a manner akin to platforms centered on user-generated content like YouTube. Additionally, consumer disappointment with AR/VR and 5G could present roadblocks to building the metaverse, an undertaking platforms and advertisers are heavily investing in to usher in the Web3 era.
The company examined six subject areas: general tech sentiments; information sharing and privacy; VR-based devices and services; smart appliances; mobile devices and digital services, such as visual search; and streaming audio and video. Only a little more than half (51%) of those surveyed agreed their household needed the newest digital bells and whistles, a decline from 54% who said the same last year.
Less-than-sunny takeaways come at a point where digital channels like streaming are seeing increased adoption due to the pandemic, but wider reach doesn't translate to a cleaner or more legible ecosystem. It's also clear that traditional advertising will play less of a role in these spaces as people shell out more for ad-free or ad-light subscription plans. Digital ads have played a significant role in driving a strong ad market rebound after budgets were slashed at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, so it's possible some of that momentum could cool.
The analysis, conducted by GroupM's Audience Origin arm (formerly known as LivePanel), suggests brands and platforms alike may need to do a better job of communicating the value exchange of their services and promoting privacy safeguards. Marketers must make their pitch around data stronger as they face down the death of third-party cookies next year, a change that has made first-party assets and vehicles for acquiring such information more valuable.
Some shine is also clearly wearing off features like AR/VR and 5G that entered the market with the promise of reinventing consumer experiences and heralding the next generation of tech. Nearly one-third (32%) of respondents to GroupM agreed that new technology is confusing to them, up from 28% last year. Major carriers' plans for 5G expansion have recently encountered setbacks due to safety concerns around the wireless upgrade's impact on air travel.
As marketers rush to capitalize on nascent concepts like nonfungible tokens (NFTs) and the broader metaverse, they should keep a learning curve in mind. A recent Forrester Research report revealed that 45% of surveyed U.S. adults in the U.S. had never heard of NTFs, while 28% didn't understand what they are, highlighting how brand appetites may outpace that of their target customers.
Another tech consideration for marketers boils down to economics. Almost three-quarters (73%) of respondents to GroupM said they would wait for tech to become cheaper before making a purchase, up from 69% who said the same last year. The shift comes as inflation and material shortages drive up prices for many goods. Cost barriers have been a persistent problem for categories like AR/VR and wearables.