The area of material and financial matters includes topics such as e-commerce, finance, assets, accommodation, and cars. 48 percent of the Germans surveyed consider digitization and networking an indispensable or very important part of this aspect of their life. Digitization is more important only in South Korea and Great Britain, where 53 and 52 percent of the respective populations are already highly networked in material and financial matters. However, digital solutions in the material and financial area are most popular among the digital avant-garde, at around 81 percent. Despite what is already a high level of acceptance, 79 percent of the experts surveyed and 62 percent of German Internet users expect digitization to grow further in importance in this area of life.
The Internet: an important shopping tool and indispensable source of information
The study shows that the Internet has grown in importance considerably over the last few years within the material and financial sphere. It has become an everyday – and extremely helpful – part of the shopping patterns of respondents in most countries. The results of the study are particularly clear: 70 percent of the German Internet users surveyed say they now buy far more online than they did three years ago. In terms of acceptance of the Internet as a shopping tool, this places Germany in third place, behind only Great Britain and South Korea. Three quarters of British respondents (75 percent) stated that they now buy much more online than three years ago, while 83 percent of South Korean respondents said the same. The shopping behavior of the digital avant-garde has been transformed to a similar extent, with the figure standing at 82 percent (see Figure 40).
Within the material and financial sphere, however, the Internet is not just important as a sales/purchasing tool, but also acts as an information medium. In almost all of the countries in the study, over three quarters of respondents state that they use the Internet to gather information before buying a new product, either checking other customers’ reviews, or comparing prices. In Hungary and South Korea, over 80 percent of those surveyed use the Internet before making a purchase, while 90 percent of the digital avant-garde do likewise (see Figure 41).
Of particular interest here is the fact that 44 percent of the Germans surveyed (and more among the respondents in the other countries), believe information posted by users is more credible than that which is circulated by the manufacturer. 29 percent of respondents in Germany personally share their experiences of products and services with other users via the Internet. This figure is far higher among the digital avant-garde, with almost twice as many (59 percent) posting product reviews online. As such, the digital avant-garde is shaping the opinions of other Internet users (see Figure 42).
The Internet is an important source of information not only when purchasing material goods, but also when managing financial matters. 55 percent of those surveyed in both Great Britain and South Korea state that the Internet is indispensable when it comes to investment matters. In Germany, one in two of all respondents would not want to do without the Internet when gathering information about financial products, looking for investment tips, or carrying out banking transactions. Within the digital avant-garde group, this figure stands as high as 76 percent (see Figure 43).
Material and financial matters: which services interest consumers
77 percent of German Internet users state that before they make a purchase, they go online to gather information (see Figure 41), while just as many are “very interested” or “interested” in online price comparison services.
Looking toward the future, 61 percent of those surveyed said they would be (very) interested in so-called “intelligent car systems,” which independently link cars together. In the future, these systems may enable vehicles to, for instance, automatically maintain a set distance from other vehicles and recommend diversions based on the current traffic flow. 41 percent of respondents were interested in the subject of smart homes, which includes intelligent household appliances and networked homes. Over a third of all participants in Germany (39 percent) said they were “very interested” or “interested” in “digital aura” solutions. As soon as certain items come in contact with the digital aura surrounding a person or object, they can link up independently – cars could thus find vacant parking spaces themselves, and washing machines could separate shirts according to the temperature they should be washed at. Services related to electronic payments, such as making small payments via cell phone, would interest 38 percent of German Internet users, while new shopping opportunities would also be of interest (see Figure 44).
Looking at the other countries in the study shows that respondents in France and South Korea have the greatest interest in the solutions cited: French Internet users are particularly interested in online price comparisons, smart homes, and intelligent car systems, while South Koreans favor user reviews, digital auras, electronic payments, and new ways of shopping interactively.
The respondents in these two countries also considered it most important that material and financial services should be accessible at any time and in any place: 51 percent of those surveyed in France and as many as 69 percent of those in South Korea believe mobile access to be very important or even crucial for the use of such solutions. Ready availability of the services is also important to Hungarians, with nearly one in two respondents stating that it is very important that the services mentioned be accessible from, for example, web-enabled cell phones. The figure for Germany is a little lower, with 42 percent of respondents valuing mobile accessibility, though once again, a look at the digital avant-garde shows the direction the country is moving in: within this reference group, the figure stands at 73 percent (see Figure 45).