Features, Insight, Opinion, Retail, Technology

Brands Beware: The Application Generation Demands Seamless Digital Experiences

Gregg Ostrowski, CTO Advisor, Cisco Observability, writes an exclusive opinion piece for Tahawultech on how brands have been steadily adapting to users’ growing appetite for digital services, but few find themselves prepared to deliver on the demands of the Application Generation.

A new breed of application user is emerging around the world. More sophisticated, more discerning and more demanding than those who came before, these consumers see applications as their preferred touchpoint. And for businesses in all sectors, the arrival of this ‘Application Generation’ should be a major cause for concern.

While brands have steadily adapted to users’ growing appetite for digital services, few would find themselves prepared to deliver on the demands of the Application Generation. As highlighted in the latest Cisco AppDynamics research, The App Attention Index 2023: Beware the Application Generation, these consumers, aged 18 and 34, have a completely different mindset when it comes to applications and digital services. They’re tech-savvy and won’t accept anything less than the very best digital experiences. They pride themselves on using only the most innovative and intuitive applications, and if these applications don’t meet expectations, then the Application Generation will punish them.

Setting new standards for digital experience

In recent years, digital services have gone from ‘nice to have’ to ‘basic necessity’. The study of 15,000 global consumers, including 1,000 in the UAE, shows appetite for applications and digital services has remained strong since the end of the pandemic, even though people are no longer constrained in where they go and who they meet like in lockdown. Having experienced the potential first hand, people now value the ease, speed, and convenience that digital services offer.

And with greater dependency has come greater expectations. Having become accustomed to the types of digital experiences the world’s most innovative brands are delivering, 62% of consumers claim their expectations for digital experiences are far higher now than they were two years ago.

As a consequence of being spoiled for choice, people have become more sophisticated and selective about the applications they use. Along with this sophistication has come a shortening of patience for applications that don’t perform. 64% of consumers report they are becoming less forgiving of poor digital services.

Whereas before, users who were ‘locked-in’ to certain services might have found few outlets to channel their frustration, and therefore grudgingly remained customers, this is no longer the case. Today’s consumers feel far more empowered to take action when applications they use don’t perform as they should. Many are deleting applications that let them down or switching to alternative digital services. In some cases, people are abandoning digital services altogether and reverting to offline channels.

Understanding the Application Generation

Unsurprisingly, all these emergent behavioral changes are most pronounced within the Application Generation. Where people over 35 use an average of 30 applications each month, this younger group uses an average of 41. But while they may lean on digital services more than other groups, the Application Generation is far more mindful about their use of applications.

Because they spend so much of their time using digital services, they are concerned with optimizing their digital experiences. These younger consumers are more conscious about the time they spend engaging with digital services and are constantly evaluating the relevance and value of the applications they use. In fact, 67% say they are looking to control or limit the number of apps they are using or that they have on their device. They’re taking back control and protecting themselves against ‘application clutter’. Put simply, the Application Generation demands the very best digital experiences every time they use an application, and they’ll hold any brand that falls short of expectations accountable.

Unfortunately, despite many brands having stepped up their digital game, some still fall short of the mark. As many as 94% of Application Generation users report they’ve experienced downtime or disruption when using digital services over the last 12 months. So, while their expectations for digital experience are rising, the level of experience they’re getting is actually declining.

In response to these disappointments, the Application Generation is deleting applications without a second thought and switching to alternatives. On average, they’ve deleted more than seven applications due to bad digital experiences, compared to four for older consumers. And 70% state they’re now much more likely to warn people off applications that don’t perform, than they were 12 months ago — they’re sharing their negative stories of brands with friends, family and their (in many cases) extensive social networks.

Rising to the challenge

With so much of digital experiences hinging on the technologies that underpin them, it stands to reason that the answer to addressing the needs of the Application Generation lies in technology itself. If brands are to deliver the secure, seamless and high-performing experiences the Application Generation demands, then they must equip their technologists with the insights and tools they need to do their jobs properly.

Today, too many IT teams are struggling to manage increasingly complex and dispersed applications, and they struggle to manage these largely because they still don’t have full visibility into cloud native environments. This is making it incredibly difficult to cut through overwhelming data noise to detect and fix issues before they impact end user experience.

Application observability has emerged as the much-needed solution to these challenges. Acting as a single source of truth for all application availability, performance and security data, it provides technologists with full and unified visibility across both cloud native and on-premises environments. This allows IT teams to quickly identify issues and understand dependencies where application components are running across hybrid environments. Ultimately, it means technologists can achieve faster resolution times.

In accelerating consumers’ shift towards engaging with brands via digital services, the pandemic has opened a Pandora’s box. But alongside the growing expectations of the Application Generation is the opportunity for brands to connect with their customers with unparalleled frequency and depth. This is provided they deliver exceptional digital experiences by default. Application owners who fail to meet the required standard, risk seeing a whole generation of application users walking away, and a catastrophic loss of reputation and revenue.

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