Britain's Digital Families: Six archetypes of internet and tech users

16 May 2017 5 min. read
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New research on the digital DNA of Brits finds that there are broadly speaking 6 archetypes of internet and technology users. Rebecca Emerson, who heads Oliver Wyman in the UK, the consultancy that conducted the study, reflects on the features of Britain’s Digital Families, as well as how businesses can leverage their online behaviour to come to better, and more inclusive, digital strategies.

Do you need a stat to prove that the internet is great? Here’s one: 84% of Brits like or love spending time online. UK businesses have of course been looking to make the most of this and use the internet as another way to connect with us as customers and build our allegiance to their brand and services.

Services apps, social media, and websites with innovations are coming thick and fast. As consumers, we can comment and complain to companies via Twitter or chatbots and receive promotional offers from nearby shops based on our phone’s geolocation data. However, new research (titled ‘Britains’s Digital Families’) suggests that these services may only help 30% to 45% of digital consumers who are the most tech-literate. This is great for me and many of you reading this online, but for everyone else – over half the population – they’re probably ambivalent at best and feeling actively excluded at worst.

So while there’s an arms race emerging in consumer-facings apps and tools by businesses wanting to be the most tech-enabled and serve their customers quickly and easily (and cheaply), they also need to work on making sure all of us are brought along on their digital journeys.

 Britain's Digital Families

In fact, there are not just two tribes of ‘online trendsetters’ and ‘laid back offliners’. Surveying 1,500 UK consumers revealed there were six distinct Digital Families in Britain today. It’s by understanding these archetypes that businesses can adapt their digital strategies to better serve us, for example by being more reliable, secure, or easy to use.

Britain’s Digital Families

Roughly a quarter of us are Laidback Luis. If you’re in this group, the internet doesn’t dominate your life. You may not be the first to get the latest phone or gadget, but will happily go with the flow if the product seems useful. The challenge for businesses is to help you see how your life can be made better and more convenient by their digital services – bringing you along on their digital transformation journey.

About 20 percent of us are Anxious Andersons. These are the type of people who want to tell big companies to mind their own business and keep their hands off personal data. If you’re an Anxious Anderson, you’ll only be willing to interact with companies who share your privacy values and have a strong track record in cyber security. Look for businesses who limit the information they collect and transparently explain what’s being recorded and why it’s needed.

15 percent of us are Contributing Coles. Bloggers, vloggers, coders, and sharers fall into this family. You’ll want to feel like you’re shaping the story and will likely be targeted to be companies’ digital brand champions and beta testers. An ideal website for you would allow you to customise your own experience, for instance by having bespoke product filters or curated lists.

15 percent of us are Carefree Careys. Data privacy matters less than convenience, good service, and totting up rewards points. Most large companies will already be looking to move you onto their online platforms. However, you may find some digital start-ups will be able to use your data in innovative ways that make your life even easier or more rewarding.

Britain’s Digital Families footprint

15 percent of us are Online Owens. Technology is a huge part of life and you view it overwhelmingly positively. To create an online experience tailored to you, expect to see businesses reaching out to you through social media and recommendations from trusted sources. They’ll want you to share what you’ve been doing – such as your latest online purchase – and will add buttons to help you do this and get reactions from your digital friends.

The other 10 percent of us are Analogue Alis. Ever feel like technology is really complicated and changing too fast to keep up with? Then this might be your Digital Family. If you want to get more digital, look for companies that help you get online and make it super easy for you once you are through simple websites with limited tabs, drop-downs, search options, and pop-ups.

Better, and more inclusive, digital strategies

How businesses adapt to serve you and your Digital Family will vary by sector. For example, banks will be looking to cut operating costs by moving their customers to self-serve online or via apps, so it is in their best interest to reassure you about cyber security if you’re an Anxious Anderson and they will make it easy for the Analogue Alis. In contrast, supermarkets don’t really need to convert the Anxious Andersons into digital shoppers, because their business models don’t make any more profit serving customers online than they do in their existing store. They may only have a simple online store that prevents attrition to competitors, but instead will invest more in giving us all the best experience in-store.

Consumer-facing companies can use the findings to better understand customer groups – their likes and dislikes, what excites them or turns them off. And with this knowledge, companies gain a competitive edge that helps them thrive in the digital age. For CIO’s it is, for their digital strategy to succeed, key that they understand how all of Britain views and uses the internet.

Interested in finding out to which Digital Family you belong? Oliver Wyman has developed a special quiz to help you find out (9 questions).

Related: UK Head of Oliver Wyman Rebecca Emerson talks Brexit and growth plans.