The value consumers derive from the internet goes largely ignored owing to the fact that it is free to consume and difficult to measure.
The internet has created new opportunities for consumers, largely associated with rapid growth in smartphone and tablet usage. A Boston Consulting Group survey finds that across 13 countries, the consumer surplus of the mobile internet is approximately $3.5 trillion a year - that is, seven times what consumers pay for devices and access (Boston Consulting Group 2013). In Sweden, 40% of consumers’ time spent online is on mobile devices and consumers with multiple devices derive 50% more value from the Internet than those using two or less devices (Boston Consulting Group 2013).
Consumers have benefited from the internet in a vast number of ways. An example of this is given by access to online purchasing. In Sweden, more than 70% of consumers claim to shop online, utilising new secure online payment methods. Additionally, Swedish consumers derive six times more value from consumption of digital media as compared to traditional forms of media. Gain to Swedish consumers from conducting research online prior to offline purchase is estimated at SEK 85 billion and gain from the digital consumer-to-consumer resale market is estimated at over SEK 200 billion (Boston Consulting Group 2013).
Additionally, consumers derive value from spending leisure time online – an activity which incurs no monetary cost. Almost 75% of the total time spend online by internet users in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Spain is consumed by leisure activities such as social networking, watching videos and playing online games. The total consumer surplus derived from online leisure time amounted to between EUR 18 billion and EUR 44 billion in each of these countries (Institute for Prospective Technological Studies 2014).
Finally, the internet has played a vital role in the generation of tourism. Travellers report that online resources are amongst the primary sources of travel information, surpassing the importance of newspapers, television, guidebooks and tourism offices. Online content supports, on average, 49% of all tourist arrivals in the EU (Oxford Economics 2013).