Usefulness of Web, Apps Drives Digital Satisfaction for US Consumers

December 19, 2016

The usefulness of websites and applications is a far bigger driver of US consumers’ digital satisfaction than privacy and trust in the credibility of information, according to a new Intent Lab Quarterly Digital Satisfaction Index (DSI) from Northwestern University Medill School and Performics.

Enjoyment in engaging with others online (termed “Social”) is the second-biggest driver of digital satisfaction for US consumers, though it has only about half the impact of Utility (22% and 43%, respectively). Closely following is Privacy (20%), with Trust (credibility of information) maintaining lower impact (15%), perhaps as consumers feel confident in their ability to judge the credibility of information.

Interestingly, trust has a far bigger impact on digital satisfaction for consumers in Germany (26%), but has no bearing (0%) on satisfaction for consumers in China.

The index measures overall online satisfaction through the Automotive, Consumer Electronics, Telecom and Quick Service Restaurants (QSR) & Food Delivery industries, on a 100-point scale score measuring key factors ”“ Trust, Utility, Social and Privacy. Results are determined via surveys of more than 3,000 participants from US, China and Germany.

Digital satisfaction was found to be lowest in the US (61.3) and highest in China (69.7). The US’ result was dragged down by a very low Privacy index score, of just 30.3. (Perhaps to get worse after this latest news of another Yahoo data breach?) Notably, 9 in 10 Gen Xers said they find it creepy when websites know information about them, whereas just 56% of Gen Xers felt the same way. On a generational basis, Millennials had the highest digital satisfaction score in the US (62.8), while Baby Boomers (60.7) had the lowest index score.

While Privacy satisfaction lagged for US consumers, they gave a high overall score to Utility, of 78.5. Eight in 10 consumers in the US said that being online helps them to get things done.

The following is a brief breakdown of some of the highlights gleaned from each vertical.


  • Within the US, Utility (46%) is the key driver of digital satisfaction, with Trust (23%) following.
  • US consumers’ digital satisfaction score for the automotive sector (60.5) was their second-highest of the 4 verticals examined.
  • In the US, in-person visits to local car dealerships and showrooms are considered the most influential source when making a decision about a car purchase, while in China friend recommendations have the most impact.
  • In each of the 3 countries analyzed, ratings and reviews websites have their greatest influence 1-3 months before a car purchase.
  • Within the US, respondents estimated spending about half (48%) of their time interacting with automotive-related companies on computer websites, and 26% with in-person representatives.
  • In each market, trust in auto brands increased with age.
  • Cost is a more influential factor to buyers in the US than safety.

Consumer Electronics

  • Utility (45%) and Trust (26%) are again the main drivers of digital satisfaction for US consumers, when it comes to consumer electronics (CE).
  • US consumers’ digital satisfaction score for the automotive sector (63.3) was their highest of the 4 verticals examined.
  • Special promotions or deals edge friend recommendations as the most influential source for US consumers when making a consumer electronics purchase decision.
  • In the US, search engine interactions surrounding CE purchases peak 1 week to 1 month prior to purchase.
  • More than 60% of US consumers’ time spent with consumer electronics companies is estimated to be on a website on a computer, with 14% spent with a representative and 10% with a mobile site.
  • CE mobile shoppers in the US check search engines first, followed by resellers such as Amazon and eBay.


  • While Utility (48%) is again the top driver of US digital satisfaction, in the Telecom sector Social engagement (22%) is the next-largest factor.
  • Special promotions and friend recommendations are grouped at the top of influences for US consumers, whereas recommendations are easily the most influential for Chinese consumers.
  • In terms of key telecom services available on mobile devices, US consumers are most comfortable with checking usage, paying bills, and adding or removing services. They’re least comfortable buying products and accessing customer service.
  • Website on a computer (52%) and phone representatives (18%) are the leading ways by which US consumers interact with phone or internet carrier companies in terms of time spent.
  • US consumers report higher levels of satisfaction with the mobile website experience (69%) than the mobile app experience (40%).

Quick Service Restaurants

  • Utility (44%) and Trust (24%) are again the top drivers of digital satisfaction.
  • Menu and prices are the most important characteristics for US consumers when selecting a food service option, followed by location and hours of operation.
  • Only 22% of US consumers report using delivery services such as GrubHub or Doordash.
  • More than 8 in 10 US respondents report being influenced by fast food and casual restaurant reviews.
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