Study finds Chinese most satisfied with digital experience, privacy concerns impact U.S.

  • Digital Satisfaction Index measures consumer attitudes, perceptions of online marketing
  • Major factors driving consumer digital satisfaction: trust, utility, social and privacy
  • Among key findings: Women are more satisfied with consumer experience than men

EVANSTON, Ill. — A pioneering research partnership between Medill Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) and Performics Worldwide has released its latest study, assessing and comparing how online shoppers in the U.S., Germany and China rate their online interactions with major brands.

The Digital Satisfaction Index (DSI), released quarterly by their collaboration, the Intent Lab, offers a research-driven global tool to better understand consumers’ online behavior.

Key insights of the fall quarter DSI report—the second issued by the Intent Lab since its inception—include findings that Chinese consumers are the most satisfied, due in large part to online social engagement; Germany excels in privacy and trust; privacy is a deal breaker in the U.S.; women are more satisfied than men and baby boomers are least satisfied (see more below).

“The quarterly Digital Satisfaction Index gives us a consistent benchmark on how consumers perceive their interactions with brands, websites and apps,” said Frank Mulhern, professor and associate of Medill’s (IMC) program. “The Index also gives us unique insight into what matters most to consumers. For instance, social interactivity holds special importance to consumers in China, while trust is critical in Germany.”

The research illustrates how important consumer feedback is to brand success, said Michael Kahn, CEO of Performics Worldwide and Global Performance Practice Lead, Publicis Media.

“The DSI report makes it clear that brands seeking a satisfaction boost should allocate resources to utility first—fine-tuning landing pages, streamlining experiences, aligning user experience with consumer intent and eradicating user hurdles,” Kahn said.  “But beyond utility, U.S. brands, in particular, continue to lag in creating user comfort around data collection practices.”

“All brands should look to create more social interactivity, which powered Chinese satisfaction in this latest study,” Kahn added. “Community feedback is integral in the consumer purchase journey, and sites that excel in social integration can separate themselves from the pack.”

To construct the DSI, Northwestern and Performics conducted in-person consumer interviews, surveys with probabilistic and non-probabilistic samples of more than 3,000 participants throughout spring of 2016, and identified the four key needs that impact consumer satisfaction: Trust (need for consistency), Utility (need for efficiency), Social (need for connection) and Privacy (need for safety).

Across both Q3 and Q4 of the DSI, the researchers consistently observed that in every intent-moment—a moment where consumers have a want or need that brands can satisfy—consumer satisfaction is dependant on these four factors. However, based on the vertical and market, the priority of these needs can change.

The overall DSI score, based on a 100-point scale, indicates how satisfied users are with these four primary factors, weighted by their importance to respondents.

The full report provides insights into why the online experience of consumers in the U.S., China and Germany differ so significantly. One major driver is the varying degree of digital literacy among survey respondents.

“It’s important to keep in mind that a major driver to digital satisfaction for consumers is digital literacy, which can vary with age and education,” said Ashlee Humphreys, principal researcher for the Intent Lab. “Marketers need to keep in mind that not all consumers are equally savvy and can easily become frustrated and overwhelmed. This impacts their perceptions of utility dramatically, which are most important in determining satisfaction.”

Among the findings:

  • Privacy Is a Deal-Breaker in the U.S.: The U.S. scored an overall Q4 DSI of 3. While U.S. users were relatively satisfied with brand Utility and Social interactions, they were dissatisfied with Privacy. (30.3 U.S. Privacy DSI vs. 41.9 in China and 44.7 in Germany). In particular, U.S. Gen Xers had high privacy concerns. The U.S. score is higher this quarter than last quarter by a statistically significant margin. This is because Utility and Social, which people rate very positively, were viewed as being more important than in the previous quarter.
  • Chinese Consumers are the Most Satisfied: China scored a 69.7 DSI, outranking Germany and the U.S.  Chinese digital satisfaction was driven mainly by high scores in Utility and Social.  In fact, Chinese sites excelled in Social satisfaction at 73.7 (vs. 61.9 in the U.S. and 60.3 in Germany), and Chinese consumers also placed more importance on social interactivity.
  • Germany Excels in Privacy and Trust:  German DSI (64.9) fell in the middle.  While the DSI revealed potential for improvement, especially in Utility, German consumers were satisfied with Trust.  And of the three nations, Germany scored the highest Privacy DSI.  This is likely due to stronger EU privacy safeguards, like cookie opt-in consent, vs. other markets.
  • Women More Satisfied than Men:  In all three countries, women were more satisfied with their online experiences than men.  This satisfaction was mainly driven by the Social factor.
  • Baby Boomers Least Satisfied: While Millennials (aged 18-35) and Gen-Xers (36-51) aligned in terms of digital satisfaction, baby boomers (52-70) were the least satisfied generation, especially in China.

About Performics

As the original performance marketing agency, Performics converts consumer intent into revenue for the world’s most admired brands. Across an expansive global network operating in 57 countries, Performics creates connected and personalized digital experiences across paid, owned and earned media. RECMA recognized Performics as one of its Top Digital Agency Networks. Headquartered in Chicago, Performics is a Publicis Media company. To learn more, visit www.performics.com.

About Northwestern University Medill School

Medill, a leader in education since 1921, offers programs in journalism and integrated marketing communications that combine enduring skills and values with new techniques and knowledge that are essential to thrive in today’s digital world.  Medill has a long-standing reputation for academic excellence. As the media industry experiences unprecedented change, Medill leads the way. The school’s graduate and undergraduate programs are educating a new generation of multimedia journalists and integrated marketing communications professionals who are not only thriving in this evolving media landscape but also helping to shape it.

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