Turfing, ROBO shopping and text over talk – the new trends among UK consumers

19 Jul 2012

According to Ofcom’s ‘Communications Market Report 2012’, a number of new trends driven by technology are emerging among UK consumers, such as a preference to text rather than talk, surfing the web while watching TV, and offline shopping informed by online research.

“Our research reveals that in just a few short years, new technology has fundamentally changed the way that we communicate,” said James Thickett, Ofcom’s director of research.

“Talking face to face or on the phone are no longer the most common ways for us to interact with each other,” he added. “In their place, newer forms of communications are emerging which don’t require us to talk to each other – especially among younger age groups. This trend is set to continue as technology advances and we move further into the digital age.”

More texting, less talking

Ofcom’s comprehensive study reveals that text-based communication has surpassed traditional phone calls and even meeting face-to-face as the most frequent way that UK adults keep in touch.

In 2011, more than 150bn text messages were sent in the UK, and, on average, UK consumers send 50 texts a week, which is more than double the figure from four years ago.

The shift in phone use is being led by teenagers and young adults. In the 16–24 age group, 96pc communicate via text-based applications on a daily basis, with 90pc using SMS and 73pc using social networks.

Even as far as calls are concerned, Ofcom has seen a shift among consumers as, for the first time ever, there were less calls made on landlines than on mobile phones.

Growing popularity of the mobile web

These users aren’t just using their mobiles for calls and texts, though. On average, UK consumers spend 90 minutes per week accessing the internet on a mobile phone.

Smartphone ownership is increasing, with 39pc of adults now owning one – a 12pc increase on the 2010 figure – and 42pc of these say it is their main device for internet use. Smartphone owners also noted a decline in their use of computers to do things like watch videos and send messages.

Overall, people are spending almost 25pc more time using the internet on mobile devices than they were in 2010, and the volume of mobile data consumed in the UK doubled between July 2010 and January 2012.

The rise of ROBO shoppers, e-readers and ‘turfers’

ROBO – meaning ‘research online, buy offline’ – shopping is a growing trend among tech-savvy consumers, with many using technology to help them to shop smarter.

While out shopping, 31pc take photos of products, 25pc make online comparisons, 21pc scan barcodes for more information, and 19pc read product reviews and research features online.

Technology is also changing how UK consumers read, with 1 in 10 UK adults owning an e-reader. While 41pc of these saying they read more since buying the device, 62pc say they are reading less paper-based material.

And finally, there’s ‘turfing’: surfing the web while watching TV. This emerging trend comes from the rise of mobile devices and smart TVs, with UK households owning, on average, three internet-enabled devices, and 15pc owning six or more.

Tablet ownership is up 2pc in the last year to 11pc, and one in five UK households say they intend to buy one in the coming year. Despite the portability of these devices, nine out of 10 users mainly use them at home.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.