LONDON: The widespread penetration of digital devices such as smartphones and tablets and the associated propensity to download content is leading to an increase in 'virtual ownership', new research has claimed.

Mindshare, the media network, has noted a decline in the number of consumers who prefer to own music in physical form, while the number of people who download music or video content at least once a week has grown 30% over the past two years.

Now almost 50% of consumers regularly perform such actions and Mindshare argues that this betokens a new era of virtual ownership as consumers become accustomed to on-demand and downloaded content. All of which has implications for business marketing strategies.

One particular area that has developed as a result is gifting. "Many people now give vouchers as last-minute presents because apps and digital content are instant – there is no supply chain, which suits today's consumer who doesn't want to wait for anything – making it the perfect last-minute gift," said Norm Johnston, Global Digital Leader Mindshare Worldwide.

He argued that rising digital consumption "is merely a change in how consumers are finding, buying and having their gifts delivered" and does not mean the end of the high street.

It does, however, mean that "an increasing focus on the consumer journey – from initial awareness, through to research and the decision to purchase – is required".

"Companies have to pay more attention to more different channels and in particular the role digital plays, but they should see it as an opportunity rather than a setback," he added.

Data sourced from Mindshare; additional content by Warc staff