Features, Insight, Opinion

“Bad digital experiences are causing anxiety” – James Harvey, CTO, Cisco Observability

James Harvey, CTO Advisor EMEA, at Cisco Observability, has reiterated the importance of brands of delivering seamless digital experiences this holiday season in an exclusive op-ed for December’s edition of CNME.

The end of the year presents a unique and rare opportunity for people to unwind.

With work slowing in pace, and schools on break, consumers can instead turn their attention to spending quality time with friends and family, or even traveling to exotic destinations.

Indeed, the ways in which people across continents and cultures enjoy the end of the year holiday season is varied and wonderful.

But one thing that is now consistent is the central role that applications and digital services play over the holidays. Whether it’s streaming their favorite movie, listening to their favorite festive tunes, ordering a last minute gift, or connecting with distant relatives, people are relying on applications.

To get insight into just how people use applications over the holiday season, and how their expectations around these have evolved, at Cisco we recently surveyed over 12,000 global consumers, including 1,000 in the UAE.

And we found that the vast majority (78%) of people in the UAE now believe that applications and digital services are important to having an enjoyable holiday.

Of course, such dependency inevitably raises valid concerns. With people now so heavily reliant on applications for almost every aspect of their celebrations, the research uncovered many anxieties consumers have about these applications not performing as they should.

71% of UAE consumers admit that they are worried about the implication that an application or digital service not working would have on their family holiday.

Bad digital experiences are causing anxiety.

With more time on their hands, the digital services that people in the UAE are most likely to use over the holiday period are for food delivery services (89%), tools for connecting with friends and family (85%), entertainment (82%), retail (81%), and utilities (81%).

Other popular applications include banking to keep track of funds that tend to flow especially fast through the holidays, collaboration, and productivity tools — to finish off work or study ahead of the holiday — and health and wellbeing applications, perhaps for some much-needed meditation to escape the stresses of those large family gatherings!

This dependency on applications is trending upwards, with 77% of consumers across the Emirates reporting that they expect to be using more applications and digital services this holiday season than in previous years.

However, while people will be leaning on applications like never before, many have grave concerns about these digital services letting them down when they need them most. Indeed, consumers point to a number of application failure scenarios which now rival travel delays, overbooked hotels, and family feuds as a top contender in potentially ruining the holidays.

Unsurprisingly, with regional consumers likely to be more free with their finances over the holidays, many (45%) are worried about the impact of a banking application failing so that they can’t make an important payment or transfer.

A messaging platform going down so they can’t speak to friends and family that they won’t be with during the holidays also worries a significant share (43%).

Other fears include an online retailer’s application not working properly, so they can’t buy a last-minute gift or order last-minute ingredients for their holiday cooking. Whatever it is, 65% of people in the UAE state that if an application or digital service doesn’t perform, it could ruin their holiday.

Responsibility is on applications owners

It’s natural for most people to feel a bit anxious and stressed ahead of holiday celebrations. After all, who doesn’t want everything to go smoothly, so everyone has a great time?

But these tensions have reached a new level, with 45% of consumers acknowledging that they will find it harder to enjoy themselves as much as they otherwise would if they encounter a bad digital experience.

With holiday happiness at stake, it is no surprise that when people encounter a problem while using digital services, their reactions will be swift and strong.

They’ll get stressed and angry, and a significant number (41%) say they’ll vent about the issue to friends and family.

And while it may be the holiday season, people will be completely unforgiving towards digital services that let them down (and to the brands behind these services).

Whether it’s slow loading pages, payment issues or downtime, seasonal goodwill will disappear. Almost a third in the UAE (32%) claim that they will immediately delete a poorly performing application and never use it again.

With consumers ready to switch to an alternative without a second thought, can brands really afford to squander their hard-earned customer loyalty?

Of course not! And that’s why it’s on the application owners to take stock and ensure that their applications are ready to cope with unprecedented levels of traffic over the holiday season.

They have a golden opportunity to attract new customers and ramp up sales over the holidays, but a single slip up in application performance could see consumers walking away en-masse, leading to a substantial loss of revenue and reputation.

This is why it’s now so important for organizations in all industries to implement an application observability solution, to ensure that their IT teams are able to rapidly identify and remediate issues before they impact end users.

Crucially, with application observability, technologists can correlate application availability, performance, and security data with key business metrics so that they can prioritize those issues which could do most damage to digital experience.

This could even mean that IT professionals could find themselves in a better position to enjoy the holidays without fear of things falling apart or escalating into major issues.

As we rapidly approach the end of 2023, consumers in the UAE are gearing up for a fun-filled festive period and applications will rightly be at the heart of their plans.

Brands need to move quickly to ensure that their applications and digital services provide customers with exceptional, seamless and secure digital experiences and give customers the holiday they’re dreaming of.

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