App users demand security over convenience – except when they don’t

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The days of consumers sacrificing data privacy and security for convenience are drawing to a close, according to the findings of a new APAC survey conducted by YouGov and F5 Networks – but not at once, and not everywhere. In fact, it may be the opposite depending where you live.

Confused? F5 recommends thinking of it in terms of a “curve of convenience”, where the emphasis you put on security depends on how far along the curve you are.

The survey – which covers over 3,700 respondents across Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Philippines and Singapore – found that 53% of respondents overall prioritize security features over the functionality and convenience of an app. What’s more, close to three in five respondents said they would stop using an app altogether if their data security was compromised. Nearly half said that a more secure experience would be the biggest factor in enhancing their digital experience in the next five years.

That may sound encouraging, given the recent headlines over the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal shining a spotlight on how user data is harvested and sold. Ironically, however, the YouGov/F5 survey found that social network apps are not only the most used app type in Asia (which is no surprise), but that they’re the second most trusted app type in the region. From the press release:

The functionality and convenience afforded by social networks—enabling users to effortlessly keep up with updates from friends and family, while providing users with a Single Sign-On (SSO) option for numerous other applications, from mobile games to eCommerce sites, are likely causes of this. This implies that users are prepared to give up their personal information in exchange for convenience and functionality, often without thinking twice about the security implications of their actions.

If that seems to contradict the findings in the second paragraph, that may be to do with the other finding that while regionally the majority of consumers rank security over convenience, the balance skews more towards convenience in some markets more than others – namely, developing “mobile first” markets where adoption of digital content services is still a relatively new phenomenon and experience matters:

… [U]sers in Indonesia, India and Philippines are 14% more likely to prioritize convenience over security, as compared to the countries with a more established digital presence such as Australia and Singapore, where 63% and 67%, respectively, emphasize security over convenience.

The other factor is age – the survey found that millennials (aged 18–34) tend to put a lower priority on security. Only 44% of millennials surveyed prioritized security features, compared to 53% for Gen X (aged 35–54), and 69% for baby boomers (aged 55 and above).

That may seem strange given that millennials are native-born to mobiles and apps – the twist is that they take security for granted. And yet they seem to have a higher tolerance for data breaches – almost a third of millennials said they would keep using an app even if data security is compromised.

F5 is positioning the results as evidence that security is an increasingly important feature for apps, but that there is also a so-called “curve of convenience” that is best thought of as “the user’s journey to app enlightenment, as they better understand the tug and pull between app security and convenience”.

Which is why rather than advocating better security for apps across the board – which you would think would be the obvious move – Adam Judd, senior vice president of Asia Pacific, China and Japan at F5, recommends that businesses offering consumer apps need to better understand where consumers sit on this curve and cater to them accordingly: “As apps continue to dominate Asia Pacific, it is critical that businesses understand where their customers stand on the Curve of Convenience to deliver the right user experiences, or risk losing them.”

Dr. Debin Gao, associate professor of Information Systems at Singapore Management University, clarifies that any given app has to balance security and convenience without sacrificing either, and that the convenience curve gives apps developers a better idea of how to strike the right balance with the right consumers in the right market.

“Security and convenience are often at constant tension, and balancing both elements to find the right sweet spot is extremely hard,” Dr Gao said. “However, it is important to note that even as app usage increases, users still have a limit to the number of apps that they will own. Businesses will have to recognize user priorities, and design their apps with those intentions in mind.”

You can download the study here.

You can also admire these three (3) epic infographics covering market differences across Asia.

app security over convenience

app security over convenience

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