Tech turn-off as millions go back to the future

29/05/2019
  • Nearly 45 million bought books, vinyl, cassettes, DVDs, CDs, printed photos and camera films last year and the under-30s are among the biggest buyers
  • Two out of three say it’s exciting to receive handwritten cards and letters in the post
  • Charter Savings Bank offers both postal and online versions of their Fixed Rate Bonds

Digital downloads, video streaming, smartphones, texts and emails might seem all-conquering, however new research from Charter Savings Bank1 reveals that millions of us still have a soft spot for hard copies.

In fact, the overwhelming majority (86%) of adults – 45 million people – have purchased at least one non-digital item in the last year, and many are increasing their spending on tech alternatives.

The tech turn-off is being largely driven by digital natives – the under 30s who have grown up with their whole world online. Charter Savings Bank’s study found 74% of 20-somethings bought printed books in the last year, with this number gradually decreasing as people get older, with only 63% of 60-69 year olds buying the print versions.

Despite growing up consuming music digitally, vinyl records are most popular with millennials, with around a third of 30-somethings (32%) and 20-somethings (30%) buying records over the last year, compared to just 5% of over 60s.

The tech switch is boosting handwritten cards and letters – two out of three adults (67%) say it is exciting to receive cards and letters in the post, while less than one in five (18%) agree that sending handwritten cards no longer makes sense in the digital age.

People are spending significant amounts of money buying physical items and buying a lot of them - on average adults are buying more than six books a year and more than four DVDs and CDs.

Analogue items purchased over the last year

Item Percentage buying in the past year How many they bought
Printed books 66% 6.5
DVD / Blu-ray 45% 4.6
CDs 42% 4.1
Games for consoles 32% 4
Printed photos 32% 12.2
Vinyl records 16% 4.1
Camera films 11% 3.4
Cassette tapes 10% 3

Reasons for owning these items vary. When it comes to books, people would rather read physical pages than a screen (60%), while vinyl records are seen as collectibles (44%) and music fans believe the quality is better (29%). Photography enthusiasts prefer film because they believe the quality is better (31%) and prefer having photos printed so they can have something to keep (49%).

The enjoyment of analogue isn’t limited to purchasing items, as eight in 10 (83%) have recently sent or received handwritten letters, cards and packages in the post. While a greater proportion of older people send and receive items in the post – 90% of the over-60s compared to 79% of 20-29-year olds – it is the younger age group who are increasing the number of cards and letters they send. Over a quarter (26%) of 20-somethings have sent more in the last year, compared to just one in 20 (4%) of the over-60s.

Despite some online stores allowing people to personalise cards, it seems the handwritten and posted option is still hugely popular. The majority (82%) of people think it is more personal to send or receive a handwritten letter or card, and just 28% prefer the convenience of sending cards online. For others, sending and receiving things in the post is more enjoyable than receiving an email, with two thirds (67%) finding it exciting to receive handwritten letters and cards.

Paul Whitlock continued: “This research shows that people still like to communicate in many different formats. Although emailing, text messaging and chatting over digitals apps is now the norm, many people still like sending and receiving letters and possessing tangible items, whether it’s because they like to file important information away themselves, or because they appreciate the personalisation.

“It’s important for organisations like ours to remember that some people still like managing their finances by traditional methods. We listened when our customers told us they’d like the flexibility to manage their savings in ways other than purely online, which is why we provide a choice of applying and managing their Fixed Rate Bonds either online or through the post.”

1 Opinium conducted research among 2,006 adults living in the UK on behalf of Charter Savings Bank between 29th March – 2nd April 2019

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