Optimizing Online Experiences for Consumers in the Digital Age

Oct 15, 2018

Article ImageDigital technology has proliferated across nearly every aspect of consumers’ lives. From a business standpoint, these new technologies create invaluable opportunities for businesses to connect with consumers and grow their relationships with customers.

While the marketplace proclaims new, internet-connected devices such as digital assistants as the next frontier, businesses shouldn’t just assume that the hype will automatically translate to engagement with the technology. Jumping on the bandwagon too soon can actually hurt relationships with customers who suddenly feel ostracized or that their needs no longer align with a brand.

Instead, integrating new technologies into a customer engagement/marketing plan needs to be carefully measured to maintain consumer trust and ensure they feel comfortable adopting a new platform. This plan should include strategies for transitioning consumers from one channel to another, alleviating fears about the risks of new technology and, most importantly, helping to define the unique value of devices like a digital assistant for their day-to-day needs. Here are a few considerations businesses should start with when looking to adopting new technologies to enhance the digital experience.

Make Data Security and Privacy a Priority

New devices create new opportunities for consumer data to be hacked, breached and shared without their knowledge. The potential risk deters consumers from jumping headfirst into the latest technology, instead waiting until the device-makers and those companies using the new tools are able to prove its trustworthiness and security.

This has already been the case for digital assistants. According to our recent State of Digital Lifestyles survey, nearly half (45%) of global consumers are concerned about the privacy of data collected by digital assistants, and 42% worry about security and potential hacking into these devices. This impacted their sentiment toward applications for the new devices with less than one-third (29%) of consumers noting they fully trust digital assistants for online shopping, and just 22% trusting them for home automation.

To successfully establish digital assistants or other innovative devices as a new channel for customers, businesses need to first address security concerns. A Web Application Firewall (WAF) is essential to protect web infrastructure from being hacked and customer information being exposed. With a cloud-based WAF that is integrated between the Content Delivery Network (CDN) that is delivering the content and the web application infrastructure, only requests for content that have not been previously cached need to be inspected, therefore increasing overall content security without negatively impacting the user experience.

Ensure You Are Improving How You Connect with Customers

Too often, businesses fall victim to “shiny object syndrome,” jumping on a new device or channel simply because it’s newly-available. However, this strategy won’t convince your customers to use the new technology.

Consumers need an incentive to purchase new devices or switch the way they choose to communicate with a brand. In the case of digital assistants, our recent survey found that less than one fifth (19%) of global consumers own a digital assistant today, while 43% have no plans to purchase one of these devices. This can likely be due to the fact that many consumers may not see digital assistants as much more than a novelty item, as they haven’t shown a significant benefit for their day-to-day life.

If looking to invest in digital assistants or other smart devices as a better way to connect with consumers, ensure the overall experience is valuable and high-quality. This can mean providing faster response times to customer inquiries than they would find on the website or through traditional call centers. It could also mean shortcuts for order updates or new product options - enhancing how and when consumers choose to shop.

Don’t Give Up on Mobile

When asked how long people could part with their favorite digital devices, almost half (48%) of global consumers noted they would not be able to stop using their mobile phones for even one day! Long story short, consumers continue to rely on their mobile devices for tasks in their everyday lives. In some cases, it seems like they would be lost without the device.

When moving to digital assistants or other smart devices, it’s important businesses don’t ignore consumers continued dependency on mobile. In the same way businesses have been advised in the past to not put all of their eggs into native mobile apps, businesses must ensure they’re continuing to invest in improving the mobile experience--while investing in other next-generation devices. Each channel can offer a different kind of engagement with the brand, but a poor quality engagement will likely discourage users from switching channels. Instead, they may grow frustrated and potentially leave the brand altogether!

It’s also important to find ways to connect the mobile experience to other smart devices to enable a multi-channel ecommerce experience. This way, if a consumer started shopping on their phone, they could easily complete their order via a digital assistant without having to worry if all the items they selected were included.

New platforms like digital assistants are a great opportunity for brands to rethink how they choose to engage with customers and the type of experience they offer. However, as businesses begin investing in new smart devices, it's important to understand how to draw the consumer into that experience. This will help boost retention, increase trust, and maintain loyalty as the digital world continues to expand and evolve.

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