Which country leads the world in digital? Many might be tempted to answer that the US does, but the answer actually depends on what aspect of “digital” you’re looking at. When it comes to Internet penetration, the US has much higher rates than in the EU, 88 percent compared with 71 percent. But dig a little deeper and the picture changes.
Europe is leading
When it comes to customer preferences for digital channels, Europe is way ahead. Recent McKinsey research examined the digital customer experience in the mobile telecom sector and found that European customers are more open to digital services than their US counterparts. Almost half of them would be happy to manage their relationships with providers entirely through digital channels, for instance, compared with fewer than a third of customers in the US. In both sales and customer care, levels of awareness and usage of self-serve digital channels (such as mobile apps) and live digital channels (such as web chat) are already markedly higher in Europe than in the US.
European customers are more satisfied with "digital only"
Similarly, European banking customers are more likely than Americans to prefer digital to physical channels. Another recent McKinsey survey found that 58 percent of Western Europeans (and a hefty 85 percent of Northern Europeans) prefer digital to branch-based transactions, as against only 52 percent of US customers. That’s despite the fact that digital banking has higher penetration in the US (at 73 percent) than in Western Europe (60 percent).
The European digital edge seems to extend to other categories too: 24 percent of car-insurance sales take place online in Europe, for instance, compared with 17 percent in the US; similarly, for personal loans, the shares are 27 percent and 16 percent respectively.
Customers in Europe are much more likely to use digital channels than stores or call centers, whether they are adopting a new service, reporting technical problems, querying bills, or making admin changes, whereas US customers still prefer to use stores, and to a lesser extent call centers, for some of these needs. What’s more, European customers are more satisfied with “digital only” experiences than with wholly traditional ones, which is not true of their US counterparts.