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How well are digital brands meeting consumers’ hierarchy of digital needs?

April 17, 2019 | By Rande Price, Research Director—DCN @Randeloo

Innovation fails when it does not meet the needs of people. In its new report, Digital Society Index 2019: Human Needs in a Digital World, Dentsu Aegis Network examines just how well digital technology is working for all people in society. The research, conducted with Oxford Economics, surveyed over 43,000 people in 24 countries across three key dimensions of the digital economy: dynamism (its strength), inclusion (its range of access) and trust (in data usage).

Overall, the research shows the digital economy as a glass half full. A number of countries show a positive balance between dynamism, inclusion, and trust. Importantly, for these countries, the future of the digital economy is viewed in a positive light. However, the misuse of data (64%) is a hot button driving declining trust in technology.

In fact, the decline in consumer trust helped drive the UK’s overall Digital Society Index ranking drop from first to fifth. Other factors include that consumers in the UK think that technology companies do not pay enough taxes (36%) and are establishing an unbalanced society by creating excessive wealth (28%).

In order for digital technology companies to build a positive digital economy, Dentsu developed a new framework, based on Abraham Maslow’s work on the hierarchy of needs. It examines products and services across people’s needs. The framework includes four perspectives: basic needs, psychological needs, self-fulfillment needs, and societal needs.

The Digital Needs Model

Basic needs are the necessary preconditions for people to engage with digital products and services. Dentus identifies basic needs as access to a quality digital infrastructure (internet and mobile connections) as well as the trust that personal data will be used responsibly by businesses and the government. Less than half (49%) of consumers worldwide (and 43% in the US) believe their basic needs of people are being met.

Psychological needs include the impact of digital technologies on consumers’ health and well-being. It’s about the healthy balance of personal technology on the overall quality of life. Digital tech is helping people manage their lives from shopping to doctor health monitoring online. However, technology can be a double-edged sword, allowing for errands and efficiencies as well as the increase in obsessive online behavior.

Self-fulfillment needs center on having the skills, education and opportunities to find rewarding work. Consumers show concern about their fulfilment in terms of learning new digital skills for educational or career purposes. Less than half of all consumers (45%) feel they are prepared in their usage of digital technology. These research findings suggest that employers are not doing the best job in training their employees. One in three people cannot recall the last digital training (if any) they received. Importantly, companies need to build people’s digital skills and employability to establish positive personal fulfillment.

Societal needs offer opportunities for technology to help close the digital divide. Consumers are optimistic that digital technology can aid in positive changes in the world. In fact, just less than half of those surveyed believe that digital technology will enhance society to help solve key global problems.

Consumer Behavior

Dentsu’s research also presents behavior of new digital consumers. These digital natives are more likely to take control of their online footprint by installing ad blockers, controlling the amount of data shared and limiting time spent online. Still they are active online consumers. They are also the most likely to shop online, use an app to take a taxi or stream music.

It’s important for companies and brands to understand the digital audience in terms of their attitudes towards the digital economy. Dentsu’s digital needs model offers a framework to inform product and service strategies from marketing to communications. The digital marketplace must strive to guide technology’s development to ensure consumers are not left behind by digital growth.

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