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New Ketchum study finds tech industry facing permission tipping point

by | Oct 8, 2018 | Public Relations

According to new research from Ketchum, consumers are conflicted about technology’s growing role in their lives—signaling that the technology industry may be facing a permission tipping point.

A tech-savvy group of consumers is emerging—dubbed “Techruptors,” this cohort is most likely to disrupt the technology industry by demanding changes in the way tech companies operate and interact with consumers in the future.

A permission tipping point approaches

Historically, technology companies have been seen as innovators, disrupting the status quo and making our lives easier. This is largely still the case, with about 8 in 10 people (78 percent) believing technology has made their life better in the last five years. Despite this positive outlook, consumers shared some concerns about the growing role technology is playing in their lives.

“The data suggests that tech brands are most at risk when they take technophile brand fans for granted,” Lisa Sullivan, partner and director of technology at Ketchum, told Bulldog Reporter. “The most savvy technology users are also the most demanding when it comes to respecting privacy, security and intrusion best practices, so a brand’s most loyal fans and advocates could quickly turn into their largest detractors.”

The Social Permission and Technology Study unveils several dichotomous trends when it comes to consumers’ views on technology:

  • Likely to shop online, but unlikely to trust retailers with their data: 84 percent said technology makes shopping more convenient, and 48 percent said they buy almost everything online. Yet only 8 percent trust retailers with their personal data, and 2 in 5 people (37 percent) don’t trust organizations in any industry with their data.
  • A lack of trust with companies having their data, but no idea what to do about it: While 78 percent are uncomfortable with companies selling their data, more than half of respondents (54 percent) say they agree to privacy terms without reading them all or most of the time.
  • The cause for job losses, but also a cure: 82 percent of respondents believe technology will make certain industries obsolete in the future, yet 74 percent believe it also will lead to the creation of new jobs.
  • Technology makes time with kids better, but it also poses a threat: 55 percent of respondents said technology has made time with their children better. Yet despite what social media feeds might be showing, 73 percent of the population are concerned about sharing family details through mobile apps. Moreover, 85 percent of parents also are concerned about their child’s safety and 76 percent are concerned about new developments in technology affecting their child’s privacy and identity.
  • Friends and family are so close, but yet so far: 81 percent said technology has provided more meaningful long-distance interactions with family and friends, with 59 percent saying technology allows them to make more time for friends. And yet, 58 percent said it is harder to get the attention of friends and family when spending time together because they are distracted by their tech devices.
  • Want more legislation, but don’t trust the government: More than 8 in 10 people (85 percent) believe there needs to be more legislation around data privacy, but only 1 in 5 individuals trust the state (18 percent) or federal (20 percent) government to protect their digital privacy.
  • Can’t live without it, but wish there was less of it: 62 percent of respondents said technology is invaluable in their daily lives, yet almost half (49 percent) said they wish they were born in a time of less technology.

“Consumers are trying to navigate a fine line between the positive impact technology has on their daily lives and a rising unease that it has become too pervasive or that they’re losing control,” added Sullivan in a news release. “Innovation and a commitment to trying to do the right thing are no longer enough to win consumer favor. Brands need to see the signs that they may be approaching a permission tipping point with their consumers and think strategically about what steps they can take to create and maintain social permission in the marketplace.”

The rise of ‘Techruptors’

The Social Permission and Technology survey also revealed the emergence of a group of consumers who are most likely to bring disruption to the technology industry. They will demand changes in the way technology companies operate and interact with consumers in the future. These “Techruptors” tend to be young, digital natives who both understand technology and use more tech products and services than the general population—including ride sharing, entertainment streaming, wearable technology and virtual assistants. At the same time, they wish they were born in a time of less technology. These potential disruptors represent more than a third of the population (38 percent).

Techruptors are concerned about how fast technology is developing (67 percent). They also are at least somewhat worried (92 percent) about new developments in technology affecting their privacy. Similar to the general population, Techruptors are most concerned with protecting their personal identification (56 percent), their financial data (44 percent), and their health data (30 percent) from technology.

Techruptors are more likely than the general population to think further legislation around data privacy is needed (91 percent), and 92 percent at least somewhat agree that a General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) system should be implemented in the United States.

“Having incorporated technology into all aspects of their lives, Techruptors are dependent on technology and use it more than others,” said Melissa Kinch, partner and managing director of Technology at Ketchum, in the release. “That said, they are worried that advancements in technology are coming too fast and becoming too pervasive. But they still can’t stop using it.”

She continued, “History tells us that when people feel they have to incorporate something into their lives—for convenience, to keep up or because there is no choice—they eventually grow resentful and will move to take control of the situation. What that disruption will look like remains to be seen. It could be in the form of demanding more extensive legislation at the federal or state levels, or requiring industry-wide changes in the way technology companies currently do business and deal with consumer data. This is a potentially huge vulnerability facing the technology industry, especially when considering social permissions and data protection. These are the people who understand technology best—so they have the knowledge to affect change and cause disruption. It is critical that companies start re-evaluating how they are communicating and creating social permission—the old rules of building a brand have changed.”

This omnibus survey was conducted through an online survey of more than 1,000 adults age 18+ in the United States. Ketchum Analytics conducted the survey between June 12, 2018 and June 15, 2018. When necessary, the data was weighted to be nationally representative of the U.S. population as it relates to age, gender, region, race/ethnicity, education and income. The margin of error for the total sample is +/-3.1 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. Smaller subgroups will have larger error margins.

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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