Digital Gratitude Proves the Business Value of Faultless Digital Experience

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By Joe Byrne

Applications have become a lifeline to normality for people of all ages and every demographic – a way to keep connected to friends and family, to access essential services, to work and learn, and to stay entertained, fit and healthy.

To make this possible, brands have had to pivot their go-to-market strategies to continue to operate and meet rapidly evolving customer needs during this tumultuous period. And, as technologists in every sector know all too well, this has heaped enormous pressure onto IT departments to innovate and deliver faultless digital experiences to customers.

The emergence of digital gratitude

It’s hopefully satisfying for technologists to understand the extent of their hard work and skills over the pandemic have helped people through this difficult time. In a recent study, The App Attention Index 2021: Who takes the rap for the app? 82% of Canadians reported that digital services have had a positive impact on their lives during the pandemic, enabling them to get through this challenging time.

Consumers are acutely aware of the efforts that some brands have made to improve their digital services to support customers during the last 18 months. According to the research, 73% of Canadians reported feeling grateful to brands that have invested in digital during the pandemic so they could access the services that they love and rely on, and 62% of Canadians stated that they now feel more loyal to brands that have gone above and beyond with the quality of their digital service.

While digital experience has long been an important factor in driving loyalty and revenue for online brands, the pandemic has elevated this to a new level. The stakes have been raised in an environment where consumers have had no choice but to rely on digital services; and the value people place on compelling and faultless digital experiences has gone through the roof. This sense of digital gratitude is re-shaping the way people interact and transact with their favourite brands.

Organizations across every sector should recognize a new opportunity to forge deeper, trusted relationships with their customers. If they continue to innovate to keep customers feeling excited about using their applications and if they can consistently deliver these engaging digital experiences, they can drive real competitive advantage.

Digital gratitude must be earned

While the upsides of delivering world-class digital experiences may have soared over the last 18 months, so have the consequences when things go wrong.

Consumer expectations of applications have grown. People are enjoying the benefits of the very best digital services, whether that’s on retail sites, content streaming platforms or messaging apps, and they see no reason why they shouldn’t be getting this same level of experience every time they use an application, without fail. In fact, 60% of Canadians report that their expectation of digital services has changed forever during the pandemic, and they won’t tolerate poor performance anymore.

The reality is that most consumers are still encountering problems with applications on a regular basis. Some issues – such as pages loading slowly, poor response times, downtime, or security failures – are intrinsic to the application itself and controlled by the application owner. But other problems can be caused by factors that are external to the application – such as bad internet connectivity, 4G/5G mobile network issues, slow payment gateways or technical issues with third party plug-ins.

Significantly for application owners, people don’t stop to consider the cause when they encounter an issue. In most cases, they just automatically blame the application and the brand behind it. It doesn’t matter if the poor experience is due to mobile network issues or a problem with a device, customers immediately associate the issue with the application or digital service. In fact, 77% of Canadians believe it’s always the responsibility of the brand to ensure that the digital service or application works perfectly. 

Additionally, when problems occur people are taking it personally. Nearly three quarters of Canadians (71%) regard brands that offer a poor digital experience as ‘disrespectful.’ People are now totally unforgiving towards brands that don’t match up to their heightened expectations for digital services. They’re no longer willing to wait for an issue to be resolved or to suffer in silence; they’ll just delete the application and switch to an alternative provider. If they feel really annoyed, then they’ll make a point of sharing their negative experiences with others.

As the innovation race picks up speed, there’s no room for complacency

When consumers like using an application, they feel real gratitude towards the brand behind it and they’re hungry for more. But the moment they encounter an issue, things change. Half of Canadians (51%) state that brands have only one shot to impress them and that if their digital service does not perform, they won’t use them again. There are no second chances.

Even those brands that are currently basking in the warm glow of digital gratitude, having worked tirelessly for the last 18 months to support their customers are only one performance issue away from seeing huge numbers of customers walking away, possibly forever.

Joe Byrne is an Executive CTO at AppDynamics, part of Cisco. His primary focus is on working with customers and prospects on APM strategy and helping with digital transformations. He also works closely with Sales, Marketing, Product and Engineering on product strategy. Prior to AppDynamics, Joe held technology leadership roles at Albertsons, EllieMae and Johnson and Johnson.

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