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Consumers look ahead with caution as connected device usage increases

Survey shows connected device usage on the rise in the US, with 5G a catalyst for driving smartphone upgrades during the past year. Yet inflation and the global cost-of-living crisis are making consumers take a cautious approach to spending

Research from global business services company Assurant has confirmed the continued rise in connected living, with growth in connected device usage and an increased appetite for 5G devices, but those buying technology are becoming more circumspect in their purchasing plans.

Assurant’s Connected decade study is an annual survey examining consumer attitudes around connected devices, homes and vehicles, and how those insights affect service providers, retailers and manufacturers. It took responses from 1,000 owners of Wi-Fi and mobile devices in the US with response data captured using web surveys in December 2022.

According to the research, there was an overall 39% increase in device usage last year, where the majority of consumers surveyed (60%) connected at least one new or replacement device to their Wi-Fi for the first time. But while device usage is on the rise and 5G has been a catalyst for driving smartphone upgrades during the past year, it noted that US consumers facing inflation and the global cost-of-living crisis were cautious in their approach to spending on connected devices this year.

Pointedly, the study found that only 39% of consumers are likely to upgrade their smartphones in the coming year, compared with 54% in the previous year. In addition, only 30% of consumers said they were very likely to buy a newer model of their connected devices when the latest version is released. This represented a 23% decrease from 2021.

5G represented a highlight in the report, with 60% of consumers have already upgraded to a 5G-capable smartphone or are willing to upgrade their device to get 5G capability. This compares to 36% the year before.

The research also shows that consumer consciousness and the desire to be more sustainable are creating growing demand for refurbished devices. While 35% of consumers were highly interested in buying a refurbished device, almost half (48%) expressed a willingness to pay an optional monthly fee that would support environmental sustainability initiatives. 

“It’s great to see the increased device usage and addition of new devices in the home in the wake of the heavy investments consumers made in connected devices during the pandemic. It clearly shows just how reliant we have become on our devices and the benefits that connected living provides,” said Jeff Unterreiner, president of US connected living at Assurant.

“As consumers hold on to their connected products for longer in the face of economic uncertainty, service providers and retailers have an opportunity to deepen relationships by offering support and protection solutions that give customers reassurance and peace of mind.

“We all share a responsibility to ensure that sustainable practices are integrated into the entire device lifecycle. As with smartphones, trade-in and asset value recovery programmes can make a big impact across the connected living ecosystem. What’s great about these programmes is that the outcome benefits everyone – consumers, providers, manufacturers and the environment.”

As connected living grows, so too does a desire among consumers for helpful technical support and protection of their connected devices. As many as 58% of consumers experienced frustrations with Wi-Fi connected consumer electronics or appliances, and the same percentage of consumers who are likely to buy a connected product in the future said they would be more likely to purchase if offered a value-added service (like an extended warranty or device protection) to complement the purchase.

“It’s no surprise that consumers want helpful support in setting up these devices, integrating them into their home networks and troubleshooting any issues that arise. And as we’ve seen in our past research, the more people use connected devices, the more value they place on device protection,” Unterreiner added.

“Having warranties in place helps to ensure people can stay connected if something breaks down. Not only does this present an opportunity to OEMs and retailers who can offer value-added services as part of the sales process, but doing so will improve upon the customer experience.”

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