Gen Z may not be as quick to adopt new technology

From the Tech newsletter: A report also shows consumers give companies false info due to discomfort with data collection.
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The standard way of thinking is that younger consumers are more comfortable with and eager for new forms of technology. But a survey from market research firm Dynata shows Gen Z has not embraced the “early adopter” status with the same enthusiasm as previous generations.

Dynata surveyed 9,235 people across nine different countries, including 1,035 in Canada, to compile its 2020 Global Trends Report, which looks at consumer attitudes across a number of subjects, including the use of technology and privacy.

According to the survey, 3% of Baby Boomers consider themselves among the first to adopt technology, a number that increases to 8% of Gen X and to 13% of millennials, but drops slightly to 12% of Gen Z. When looking at those whose consider themselves quick – but not the first – to adapt to new technology, 49% of Gen Z’ers fall into this category, followed by 47% of millennials, 36% of Gen X and 25% of Baby Boomers.

The report suggests a couple explanations for the “flattening” of early adoption and adaption rates between generations. Gen Z still does not have the purchasing power of millennials, and therefore does not have the same level of access to new technology. Also, there has been few major advancements that Gen Z has witnessed relative to millennials, and the fact that they have grown up with the internet, mobile devices and other connected technology may be “normalizing” the advances they are seeing.

Ownership of voice assistants in smartphones has gone up at a rate in the low single-digits across generations, which the report says is roughly in line with consumers upgrading their phones to newer models. However, the percentage of people who say they use these assistants on a regular basis is going up. While it has gone up by a single percentage point for Baby Boomers (to 15%) and Gen Z (to 19%), the usage has gone up by five points for Gen X (to 22%) and seven points for millennials (to 29%).

Ownership of standalone voice assistants, such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, is up across all countries in the survey, with the growth in Canada (up 10 percentage points) behind only China (which grew by 20 points). Demographically, ownership has risen across generations, except for Gen Z, where ownership was flat (likely due to the fact that many of the younger generation are not yet in a position to be purchasing connected home products).

While smartphones are nearly ubiquitous, the report says 88% of Canadians own a smartphone, joining Japan as the only country in the report with ownership below 90%. For Japan, the country has a history of “alternative” phones that have maintained popularity, but the report expects the gap between the country and the rest of the world to narrow due to an increase of iPhone sales there. But in Canada, the lower ownership is attributed by “a marked reluctance” among Baby Boomers to use a smartphone compared to their counterparts in other countries, which Dynata does expect “to dramatically change in the future.”

Privacy around data collection remains a major concern from consumers globally: eight out of 10 agreed that “consumers have lost control over how personal information is collected and used by companies,” while seven out of 10 agree that companies have been dishonest about how personal data is being used. Both numbers are up from last year’s survey.

In terms of what companies can do to improve trust, 46% of respondents asked for an easier way to choose what to share, with 51% asked for an opt-out-of-sharing feature and roughly the same number said they’d want full transparency around exactly how their data is used. Taking actions to build trust were more popular than offering a “value exchange,” with 34% saying they would be more comfortable if they were offered “valuable benefits” for their data. These numbers did not vary significantly across demographics.

One way that consumers get around their discomfort with data sharing is by providing false information: 67% of respondents said they provide false information to companies when asked at least some of the time, compared to 60% who said they did the same in last year’s survey. That number jumps to 76% among millennials and 78% among Gen Z.

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