6 minute read 16 Jun 2020
Digital consumption in COVID-19 era

Five levers that are redefining digital consumption in the COVID-19 era

By Prashant Singhal

EY Emerging Markets Technology, Media & Entertainment and Telecommunications (TMT) Sector Leader

Spearheads growth strategy in rapidly converging Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) ecosystem.

6 minute read 16 Jun 2020
Related topics TMT Digital COVID-19

EY Digital Consumer Survey reveals that 90% of consumers are connecting more to the virtual world.

At 11GB per user per month and a 30% spike in usage amid the COVID-19 crisis, Indians continue to raise the bar on data consumption. Such unprecedented increase, which was earlier expected over the next two or three years is reaffirming that virtual is the new real. 

This radical shift in consumption are here to stay. The new normal rides on increased optimism towards a more digital way of life. EY’s Digital Consumer Survey: Shaping the new normal analyses views of 2,600+ consumers to highlight the changing behaviour and perception toward digital services.

High-speed broadband to be the pulse of virtual world

The survey reveals that nearly 33% respondents upgraded broadband plans for higher data packages. Interestingly, unlimited plans accounted for 40% of total upgrades, underlining the growing confidence to ‘do more’ digitally.

Many ‘basic users’– who were consuming data only for thin web-browsing, chatting and calling are migrating to ‘high users’ bucket. Nearly 11% of basic data users upgraded existing packs to either unlimited or 50%-100% higher data to do more of content streaming, gaming, and video calling.

With remote working, it has increasingly becoming commonplace to adopt video conferencing and productivity tools. As many as 76% respondents are either first timers or have increased their time spent on video calling, per the survey.

The demand for high-speed broadband by increasing remote working population will only spiral to support use of data-intensive tools. As work from home or remote working becomes a reality, the need for stable, high speed internet has become even more critical.

Evolving content consumption habits likely to be everlasting

The survey highlights that 90% respondents are spending more time on digital activities such as content streaming, e-learning, infotainment and social media. The digital makeover in content consumption is underway - evolving in new dimensions as expectations of digital consumer are being driven by intuitive and convenient experiences.

Nearly 61% consumers are streaming more content compared to pre-lockdown. Market realties corroborate with survey findings. Time spent on video streaming has surged 1.2x to average 4.2 hours per user per week.

On-demand is in demand. 60% respondents prefer subscription-based video on demand, while 20% prefer TV entertainment. Nearly 50% of respondents who prefer TV, are spending more time watching movies, shows and news telecast.

While technology is empowering digital consumer with more choices, relevance of content is paramount.  Internet streaming is turning into a competitive medium for content delivery and advertisements exhibits growing potential. Digital ad-spends are likely to exceed over $8.0b by 2025, at a CAGR of 27% between 2019-2025, emerging as a medium with massive headroom for growth. 

Online education gaining steam to empower a quarter of India’s population

The integration of digital with education is giving a new dimension to the standard of education. The crisis led to emergence of a new breed of digital learners who are adopting technology faster than ever. The flexibility to learn, access to content, virtual classrooms and use of digital tools are reshaping traditional ways of delivering education.

According to the survey findings, e-learning has emerged as the third most-performed digital activity in the past weeks. Nearly 59% respondents are learning online. The preference for learning on digital platforms is here to stay. Nearly 50% respondents prefer learning on edtech platforms over accessing learning material scattered on web portals.

The move toward digital learning is set to have a positive impact on the lives of 320 million students. The integration of technology into the classroom experience has the potential to bring unprecedented benefits. With that, scaling network connectivity and access to technologies in far flung rural hinterlands is an opportunity to drive radical socio-economic gains. In times to come, personalized, automated learning services to deliver tailored individual learning take precedence. Digital education holds paramount importance to scale, engage and build next-gen skills in a virtual world. The online education market is racing head, expanding at a CAGR of 43.8% from 2019 to reach US$4.8b by 2024.

The new normal is about embedding hyper-personalised and connected experiences for a digital consumer. Move to lean contact centers, conversational IVRs, cognitive chat-bots, social media command centers and improved self-care functionalities can go a long way in driving cost and value benefits.
Prashant Singhal
EY Emerging Markets Technology, Media & Entertainment and Telecommunications (TMT) Sector Leader

Pacing ahead to a less cash economy

The outbreak has accelerated transition to less cash ecosystem. In recent weeks, overall surge in consumer traffic on digital payment channels is offsetting the decline in transaction volume resulting from reduced consumption.

Digital platforms are gaining strength as preferred medium for most purposes, and the survey findings highlight the tailwinds driving adoption. Nearly 38% respondents started using digital payments for the first time. Digital wallets stand strong, with 53% respondents making payments through e-wallets. In fact, telco strategy to monetize digital payments is structurally positive, with 12% respondents leveraging self-care applications for payments.

New payment channels bundled with cashback and promotional offers are effective customer retention strategies to drive stickiness. The new normal is an opportunity to transition to a less cash economy as adoption of digital payments scale for consumers across all walks of life. Innovation in business models will pave the way for  greater collaboration  between industries, banks and fintech for new service propositions. The market is poised for growth with the digital payment transaction value forecasted to double from 2019 to touch $135.2b in 2023.

Customer Experience – Delivered anytime, anywhere

Omnichannel is the new channel when it comes to managing customer journeys. The digital consumer expects speed, agility and self-service, virtually. The interactions on digital mediums are serving more than just a bridge to traditional call centers. Per the survey, nearly 50% of the service requests raised were through chatbots, self-care applications and social media platforms. The change is here to stay. Nearly 70% respondents have indicated preference toward online chats through mobile apps or outreach through instant messaging platforms for service requests. 30% users indicated preference for digital FAQs or self-help tutorials and videos for troubleshooting. With that, digital trust will matter. Nearly, 50% respondents cited privacy concerns as a top barrier to adoption of digital services.

Now is the time to build the digital bridge and accelerate shift to customer experience transformation hub.


Balancing the factor shaping the narrative, and forces restraining the change will be important. A holistic approach across eight forces that will redefine experiences and shape the way people shop, live, work, use technology, play, work, move, consume and stay healthy.

About this article

By Prashant Singhal

EY Emerging Markets Technology, Media & Entertainment and Telecommunications (TMT) Sector Leader

Spearheads growth strategy in rapidly converging Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) ecosystem.

Related topics TMT Digital COVID-19