Hey brands, here are three consumer trends that are redefining digital experience approaches

Gregg Ostrowski, CTO Advisor, Cisco Observability

By Gregg Ostrowski, CTO Advisor, Cisco Observability

Throughout the pandemic, organisations in all industries saw a massive increase in the number of people using their applications and digital services.

With restrictions on face-to-face interactions and travel, people all over the world had no option but to rely on digital services to stay connected to friends and family, to carry on with their jobs, and to access groceries, entertainment and healthcare services. Consumers largely felt grateful to brands whose applications helped them through those difficult months and years.

But now, with the pandemic now thankfully behind us, things are different. People are still using applications and digital services in almost every aspect of their lives – valuing the accessibility and convenience these services bring. However, consumers are once again feeling in control of their lives and this is reflected in the way they think about applications and the brands behind them. That sense of appreciation towards brands has been replaced by one of high expectation and sometimes frustration.

The latest research from Cisco, The App Attention Index 2023: Beware the Application Generation, explores how consumers’ attitudes and behaviors towards digital services are evolving and what this means for brands and the IT teams responsible for managing application performance and security.

In particular, the study of 15,000 consumers worldwide reveals three key trends in consumer behavior and thinking that every application owner needs to understand and act on:

1. Consumers are removing ‘application clutter’ and being more mindful about their use of digital services

People of all ages, and particularly younger consumers, are becoming more mindful about their use of digital services. They’re weighing the value of each application and thinking longer and harder before they download and install new applications on their devices. Most people have very different needs and lifestyles now compared with two years ago and therefore many of the digital services they used during the pandemic are simply no longer relevant to their lives. In fact, on average, consumers feel that they could live without 40% of the applications that they have downloaded on their devices.

And in response, people are taking action, ruthlessly deleting applications that no longer meet their needs. 68% state that they are getting rid of ‘application clutter’, and 62% are now looking to limit the number of apps they use or have on their device.

2. Consumers are actively looking for the very best digital experiences available

People have become more sophisticated and discerning in their use of applications. They have seen first-hand the types of digital experiences that the most innovative brands are offering and they now want this every time they use an application. Similarly, two-thirds of consumers (66%) state that they now only want to use the very best applications and digital services.

Growing numbers of consumers are starting to pride themselves on only using the most innovative and intuitive digital services, and 62% report that their expectations for digital experiences are far higher now than they were two years ago. People today want every moment they’re using an application to enhance their lives, and they don’t want to feel like they’re wasting time using a digital service.

3. Consumers are getting fed up with poorly performing applications and feel empowered to find alternatives

64% of consumers admit they are less forgiving of poor digital services than they were 12 months ago. People are reacting more strongly when they encounter a bad digital experience – they’re becoming frustrated and angry, and they’re sharing their negative experiences with anybody who will listen.

Crucially, unlike during the pandemic when consumers felt they had no option but to put up with poorly performing applications, they now feel empowered to take action against brands whose applications let them down. They’re deleting applications without a second thought and finding alternatives. And where they are tied to brands (such as banks and mobile phone companies), people are ditching applications and reverting back to traditional channels, such as call centers, branches and stores.

On average, consumers have deleted five different applications over the past year as a result of a bad digital experience and this figure rises to an astonishing seven applications for younger consumers.

Application observability to get ahead of consumer demands

These three trends in consumer behavior should make every application owner sit up and take notice. The bar for digital experience has been raised significantly and any brand who falls below the required level will be severely punished. Even the smallest slip up in application availability, performance or security will result in a loss of customers, revenue and reputation.

However, as many technologists can verify, delivering seamless and secure digital experiences is becoming a huge challenge. Thanks to the widespread adoption of cloud native technologies, IT teams find themselves managing extraordinarily complex and dispersed application landscapes. And unfortunately, many teams are unable to get full visibility into Kubernetes environments or get a clear line of sight into applications running across on-premises and cloud native technologies. As a result, identifying and resolving issues before they affect the user experience is impossible.

This is why application observability is so crucial. It provides technologists with unified visibility across hybrid environments so they can detect issues and rapidly understand root causes and dependencies. Additionally, by correlating application performance and security data with key business metrics, application observability enables IT teams to assess issues based on potential customer and business impact, so they can prioritise those issues which could do most damage to end user experience.

Across the world, the application user is back in control. Consumers are demanding the very best, seamless and secure digital experiences and they’re determined to punish brands who don’t give them what they want. Application owners have been warned: deliver the very best digital experiences or pay the price.


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