UK Leads Europe in Internet Access, Second in CE Index, Study Finds

Benchmarking the UK’s Digital Engagement

PYMNTS recently ran a five-part series about digital transformation in the European Union. In order to cover all the regional data available, PYMNTS is bringing you one final roundup on the United Kingdom’s digital engagement. Consider it a bonus.

Drawing insights from the “Benchmarking the World’s Digital Transformation” report, the series analyzed data on EU nations surveyed based on their ConnectedEconomy™ (CE) Index, a metric that combines the sum of consumer engagement levels in each of 40 digital activities.

Get the report: Benchmarking the World’s Digital Transformation

Of the EU-5, Spain had the highest CE score of 32.4, while Italy and France were at the bottom of the list scoring 24.6 and 23.9, respectively.

But what about the U.K., former EU member and one of the 11 countries featured in the report?

See Part 1: Benchmarking the EU’s Digital Engagement: Spain

See Part 2: Benchmarking the EU’s Digital Engagement: the Netherlands

See Part 3: Benchmarking the EU’s Digital Engagement: Germany

See Part 4: Benchmarking the EU’s Digital Engagement: Italy

See Part 5: Benchmarking the EU’s Digital Engagement: France

At 94.8% connectivity, the U.K. had the highest internet access rate of any country studied. This translated into a 31.1 CE Index score, the second-highest in Europe and third-highest globally.

And with 83% of the population reporting owning a smartphone, the U.K. also performed well in this respect, a few percentage points behind the leader, Spain (87%), and just ahead of Singapore’s 82%.

One of the key findings of the report, published in collaboration with Stripe, is that having a more even engagement distribution was key to performing well in the CE Index. For example, Brazil scored highly despite low internet access because engagement was more evenly distributed between age groups.

The report noted two different engagement distributions that affected a country’s overall score: generational distribution and intensity distribution.

Generational distribution refers to how evenly digital engagement is spread out between different age groups. In this area, the U.K. followed the pattern observed among other European neighbors, which was a high level of digital engagement among Generation Z and millennials, while older generations were significantly less engaged.

As elsewhere in Europe, U.K. Gen Zers were the most engaged generation and scored a CE Index of 46 as a group, unlike the United States, for example, where millennials were more engaged than the younger generation.

Although the U.K. didn’t have a particularly even generational distribution of engagement, looking at the different intensity levels, engagement was far more evenly distributed among the population.

In countries with a low CE Index score, besides the share of the population not connected to the internet, digital activity was concentrated in the low engagement group.

In the U.K. however, as well as having a low percentage of people with no internet access, the difference between the low, medium and high engagement groups was minimal. Each one made up 38.1%, 36.7%, and 20% of the surveyed population, respectively.

For comparison, in Japan, the country with the lowest CE Index score, only 4% of survey respondents reported a high level of digital engagement, while three-quarters of the group reported a low level.

Regarding payments, the U.K. showed a high preference for mobile payments and digital wallets, both online and in stores.

For online shopping, U.K. consumers preferred PayPal, which accounted for 17.4% of all online transactions — more than any other digital wallet, and on a par with bank transfers in terms of popularity. As in all countries except the Netherlands and Germany, card-based methods weare the most popular choice for online payments.

Read more: US and Britain Are Two Separate Nations Now Joined by Common Digital Shopping Habits

Looking at Brits’ in-store shopping habits, PayPal came second to Big Tech wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay. Overall, in-store mobile payments in the U.K were roughly as popular as cash, but cards were still the preferred option for most people, accounting for 59.8% of all transactions.


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