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How tablet computers are changing the UK digital diet

By The Drum Team, Editorial

UM London



October 12, 2011 | 9 min read

A study by media communications agency UM London has revealed the impact tablet computers have had on the behaviour of UK consumers and casts light on the opportunities and challenges for brands. Here, we take a look at a detailed breakdown of the study’s results.

The study looked into how purchasers of tablet computers and e-readers are using their devices, and also examined the attitudes of those who do not own a tablet.The research was conducted in August 2011 using UM’s Curiosity Panel. This involved an online questionnaire answered by 5,000 nationally representative adults.The research “Will Tablet Computers Change Our Lives?” which covered five thousand UK consumers found many UK consumers remain to be convinced of their benefits:
  • 18% of consumers in the UK now own a tablet or e-reader (*see below for brands covered)
  • ownership of e-readers 12% (5.9m GB Adults) is ahead of tablet computers 8% (3.9m GB Adults) (3% own both), but overall 82% of the population have still to buy either a tablet or an e-reader
  • 64% of those who don’t, have no intention to purchase either
  • 23% of those who don’t intend to get a tablet device are deterred by the price, but more- 38%- don’t understand the benefit of owning one
  • 23% said they did intend to buy a tablet computer (9.4m GB Adults); 19% an e-reader (7.9m GB Adults)
  • But only 3% plan to do so in the next 2 months
  • Apple and Amazon dominate the tablet and e-reader markets
But those who owned the devices are almost evangelical about their benefits:
  • More than a third of owners say their tablet computer has changed their lives
  • 43% of tablet owners find them “addictive”
  • More than 60% of tablet owners use their device daily and some are virtually inseparable from their tablet with 27% even using the device in the lavatory
  • 86% of e-reader owners and 70% of tablet owners are “extremely satisfied” with them
  • 65% say tablets are more useful than laptops

Those that have tablets or e-readers love them and the majority accept they will be a part of everyone's future

UM London’s study clearly shows that tablet computers are used primarily for play not work, but owners are using their devices regularly for a diverse range of activities:
  • 41% of tablet owners think of their device as a “toy” but just 17% of e-reader users do so
  • Tablets are being used for practical purposes: 32% said they’d shop more online with their tablet and 55% say they spend more time online as a result of owning one
  • Games, downloaded by 50% of owners, are the most popular tablet apps
  • 43% suggest tablets have improved their quality of life saying they are less bored now High levels of usage across a range of activities show tablets to be true multi-purpose devices
  • For around 85% of tablet and e-reader users, the home is the primary place where they use them
Loraine Cordery at UM London commented: “For those who already own them, tablet computers and e-readers are clearly having a major impact on their lifestyles, but technology brands face a major challenge persuading those who don’t own one of the benefits of the devices.”Ownership and intentionsUM has found ownership of e-readers 12% is ahead of tablet computers 8% (3% own both), but overall 82% of the population have still to buy either a tablet or an e-reader. The study found considerable resistance to purchasing one from the majority of UK consumers. Over 70% said they didn’t intend to buy a tablet (76% for e-readers) and just three per cent said they intended to purchase one in the month after the study was conducted. In total 23% said they intended to buy a tablet (19% for e-readers.)While price is a significant factor putting UK consumers off purchasing an e-reader or a tablet (23%), it is not the biggest deterrent. The study found that 38% of consumers simply don’t understand the benefits of owning one; a further 8% say they didn’t feel they knew enough about them. 13% say they feel their PC or Laptop does everything an e-reader or tablet can do, while 9% dismissed them as toys or a fad.The research points to the highly personal nature of the devices; 54% of tablet owners said they had bought the device for themselves while 14% had specifically asked for one to be bought for them, 15% said it had been a surprise gift and 11% said it was a purchase for the household.
UM concludes that tablet and e-reader penetration has still to pass the early adopter stage, but manufacturers could substantially extend sales potential if the products were explained to a wider audience. This point is reinforced by high customer satisfaction levels found below. Impact on lifestyle and attitudes
Tablets have become a constant companion for a significant number of people and most owners are using them daily for short burst of activity. UM’s study reveals 11% of tablet owners say they use their devices constantly while another 7% say they’re using them at least once an hour; 34% say they use them more than once a day, while a further 11% say they use their tablets at least once a day – in total 63% of tablet owners are using the devices every day.Although e-readers were found to be used less frequently overall than tablets, half (50%) of owners are using them daily.More than a third of tablet owners (34%) and 37% of e-reader owners say their device has changed their lives; 43% of tablet owners say they find it addictive (33% for e-readers) and some users clearly find it difficult to be parted from their devices. The study found 27% of tablet owners (18% for e-readers) use their devices while on the toilet and 14% of tablet and e-reader owners even risk using them in the bath.A better quality of life?UM’s study suggest users feel the devices have improved their quality of life; 43% say they are less likely to be bored now and pick up their tablet in “dead time” periods. It also found 39% look at content on their tablet when they “should be doing other things.”A significant proportion of tablet owners suggest that their tablets have changed their daily media consumption and use of the internet. More than half (55%) say owning a tablet means they spend more time online and 32% say they plan to use their device to do more online shopping.The majority of owners of both kinds of device (70%) say they think most people will own one in the future.Although both types of device score highly in terms of consumer satisfaction, e-readers perform more strongly than tablets with 86% of e-reader owners saying they were “extremely satisfied” compared to 70% for tablet owners. Amongst tablets owners 77% say they found them extremely easy to use (88% for e-reader owners) and 65% say they are more useful than laptops. Just 13% say they are disappointed with their tablet (4% for e-readers).The study indicates that for a significant proportion of people who have acquired a tablet computer so far, personal pride the desire to own the latest must have technology played a part in their ownership. Two thirds of tablet owners (61%) say they are proud to own one: 45% admit they like showing it off to friends and family and 55% feel they’re at the forefront of technology because they own one.Work vs. Play - Content usage and purchasingTablet computes are being used as true multi-media and multi-functional devices. UM’s findings clearly show that tablets are for play not work; 41% of UK tablet owners admit their tablet is just a bit of a toy. Just 4% say their tablet had been provided by their employers for work and only 23% used them for work purposes such as creating presentations. However e-reader users take their devices more seriously; just 17% saw it as a toy.Many tablet owners are using their device as an e-reader to access books (39%). This compares to 69% who said they used the device for browsing the internet; 54% for reading news online; 35% for reading news through branded apps; 33% for watching catch-up TV; 53% for email; 46% for social media such as Facebook; 22% for microblogging such as Twitter; 32% for watching full length films; 19% for VOIP services such as Skype; 48% for listening to music; 51% for playing games; 48% for viewing photos and 17% for writing blogs.UM found most users are spending small amounts on applications on a monthly basis. 54% of those who have downloaded an app in the past spend at least £2.50 per month on them.Gaming apps such as Angry birds (50%), social media (43%) weather (41%) and music apps such as iTunes and Spotify (38%) are the most popular downloads amongst tablet owners.
Mobility and securityThe study suggests that while consumers recognise that size and design of tablets and e-readers can enable them to have access to a computer or electronic content while on the move or in different locations, the vast majority are used primarily in the home; 86% of e-reader users and 85% of tablet owners said they used them at home.In contrast UM found only 23% of tablet owners and 21% of e-reader owners use them on their commute; 26% (39% of e-reader owners) use them while travelling for other purposes and 20% (13% of e-reader users) use them at work. However, 33% of tablet owners and 60% of e-reader owners use the devices while on holiday.More than a third of tablet owners (35%) and e-reader owners (32%) say their tablet rarely leaves the house. Security could be a factor in this finding as 29% say they won’t use it if don’t think it’s safe to do so. However, tablet owners also seem to see clearly defined roles for their tablet device and their smartphones, with 41% saying they serve different purposes and just 17% saying they use their smartphone less now they own a tablet.
The tablet research is being undertaken by UM London

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