More than half (55%) of UK adults will interact with brands more through digital and virtual channels than face-to-face post-pandemic – however only retailers that create a good online experience will win their business.
According to new research from Nuance, which polled 10,000 adults across the US, UK, Australia, Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Italy, Spain and Mexico, 51% of UK respondents say they would rather use apps or a company’s website than go into a physical branch or store to complete tasks such as shopping and banking.
When it comes to communicating with brands, over one in four (26%) UK adults said they still preferred in-person visits or phone (13%), 42% choose digital channels including email, live-chat and chat-bots. Convenience (51%) and speed (36%) were the most common drivers for choosing a preferred method of communication, with speaking to a ‘real’ human (26%) trailing.
These findings clearly illustrate that consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable using technology to make purchases and access services, while still expecting brands to deliver a human touch when required.
However, separate research by YouGov for strategy agency Curious finds that a third of the UK public have not completed an online purchase in the past year due to a bad experience with a website or app. That figure jumps to 50% when looking at transactions made across a lifetime, proving functionality should be an absolute priority for brands when planning their online presence.
The YouGov/Curious study goes on to find that 80% of people said it was important that a brand had a good website or app when making any kind of online purchase. However, only 40% of digital natives - that is people aged 18-24 - reported a negative online experience in the last 12 months, suggesting either they are more confident online, or brands are making more effort with the UX of sites aimed at younger generations in recognition of their enhanced expectations.
“With convenience, speed, and ultimately getting the job done prevailing as clear priorities for buyers, organisations such as retailers, banks, and utilities companies must develop strategies for delivering consistently efficient and effective digital experiences,” says Seb Reeve, Intelligent Engagement Market Development at Nuance. “From slick and secure authentication processes to intuitive AI powered intelligent assistants, technology must be able to manage the personalised needs of customers while seamlessly bridging to human intervention when required at the right moment.”
In addition to being more comfortable using tech like chatbots, virtual assistants, and mobile applications to interact with brands, adults in the UK have also increased their trust in tech that helps them access their personal information and accounts online.
According to the Nuanace study, almost half (45%) are now more comfortable using biometrics to authenticate themselves when accessing their accounts than they were before the pandemic, with 38% feeling more comfortable using their smartphone to access their accounts as well. These figures are reflected in the global findings with a similar number (49%) more comfortable using biometrics and 47% more comfortable using their smartphone to access accounts.
A third (34%) of UK respondents now place the most trust in a form of biometrics (either voice, facial, fingerprint, behavioural, or combinations of each) as a means of authentication. This is an important step in the right direction, as fraudsters have been increasingly targeting individuals during the pandemic, exploiting archaic authentication methods like PINs and passwords that can be made accessible via the dark web to gain access to consumer accounts and funds. While this is progress, the UK still lags behind the US in terms of trust in biometrics, with nearly half (45%) of adults backing the technology.
This growing trust in technology across age groups is likely a reflection of the positive experiences customers have received online. When asked about how they would rate the customer services they’ve accessed online over the past 12 months - services that might have previously been accessed in-person, like banking or shopping - 58% of UK shoppers said good or excellent. This is less than the global responses, in which two thirds (66%) rated their customer services at the same level.
“Customers expect immediate and effective conversations with the brands they engage with - whether those conversations are happening on the phone or via a chatbot on a company’s website. Empowering these engagements requires an integrated approach where an organisation not only can understand the customer’s intent but also authenticate that customer and start personalising their experience across every single channel - from in-person, to phone, to web, to mobile,” says Reeve. “With the pandemic creating an increasing comfort, trust, and preference among consumers to use technology when engaging with brands, it will be critical that organisations prioritise delivering superior digital experiences if they want to retain customer loyalty and continue to scale.”
Nikki Cunningham, Managing Director of Curious, adds: “In the past year, we have all developed new habits which, for the most part, will stick around. Consumers have an even higher expectation of brands’ online offering now than pre-pandemic, and they will have little patience with a bad or difficult experience going forward.”
“As well as visualising brand personality, digital touchpoints need to be functional and facilitate the audience’s needs, so it should be a matter of huge consternation for any brand to see such a stark disconnect between their offering and customer expectation. I hope our report can help businesses to direct their focus in the right place to address these challenges and ensure they are fit for the future.”