Don’t take the rap for your app

As users today rely increasingly on applications, brands need a new app strategy. This is because any problem users have with an app gets blamed on the brand.

Johannesburg, 17 Aug 2021
Read time 3min 20sec
Conrad Steyn, CTO, Cisco.
Conrad Steyn, CTO, Cisco.

Since the start of the pandemic, digital services have proven to be a lifeline of sorts and a link to normality for people around the globe. Once the lockdowns began, consumers turned to applications and digital services during this most challenging period. These apps allowed them to stay connected with loved ones, to work and learn, to access critical healthcare and public services, and to keep entertained and informed. 

In fact, the latest App Attention Index (AAI) reveals how this reliance on applications and digital services has intrinsically altered the way we engage with brands, how we consume services and how we make purchasing decisions. It considers the implications of these changes for businesses and global technologists, both today and in the future.

According to Conrad Steyn, CTO at Cisco, over the past 18 months applications have enabled people to try new things, engage with new brands and juggle their work and life commitments more easily.

“It is clear that people are using more applications, more often, across more areas of their lives. And with this reliance has come soaring expectation for flawless and engaging digital experiences. There is no doubt that consumers expect their applications to be more reliable, secure and personalised to their own individual needs and preferences than they did prior to the pandemic,” he says.

“However, consumers are still experiencing problems when using digital services and their default stance is to blame the application – and the brand behind it – when things go wrong. It doesn’t matter whether the issue is within the application itself – such as pages loading slowly, poor response times or security failures – or whether it’s due to external factors like bad internet connectivity, slow payment gateways or technical issues with third party plug-ins.”

Steyn suggests this has caused massive complexity for brands because many of these issues have not traditionally been the responsibility of the application 'owner’ – those technologists responsible for monitoring the application, and identifying and fixing performance issues before they impact the customer.

“What this means is that the onus is now on the brand to fix performance issues and meet the consumers’ expectations. This is critical, since the AAI indicates that the majority of consumers state that brands have just one shot to impress them, and if their digital service does not perform, they won’t use them again.”

According to the AAI, 83% of people report having encountered problems with applications and digital services in the past 12 months and most are now far more likely to take action when they do. That includes switching to an alternative service, sharing their negative experiences with other people or deleting the digital service permanently.

“When one takes into account the fact that 60% of people blame the application or brand when they encounter a problem, and that 72% of people believe it’s the responsibility of the brand to ensure that the application works perfectly, businesses today are caught in a dilemma.”

We have, in fact, reached a point where more than half of all consumers aren’t willing to give second chances to brands that don’t deliver a top quality digital experience, notes Steyn.

“Brands today have only a single opportunity to impress. Fail – or even miss the mark by the smallest of margins – and previously loyal customers will walk away, forever. Businesses therefore need to wake up to the fact that an application is no longer an extension of the brand or an additional channel to engage customers. Today, the application is the business and needs to be cared for in the same way,” he concludes.

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