Post-pandemic? Post-COVID-19? Where we are now is debatable, so let’s just call it September.
In a post-lockdown world, the way consumers behave is changing, both on the high-street and online. The World Economic Forum suggests that ‘the pandemic has changed consumer behaviour forever - and online shopping looks set to stay.’
A June 2021 Global Consumer Insights Pulse Survey reports that not only are customers using digital devices more than they had six months earlier but that they doubt they’ll go back to old ways of shopping once the pandemic is over!
The state of the internet 2021.
60% of the world is now online. The Digital 2021 July Report from Hootsuite tells us that digital adoption increased last year, with 4.66 billion people using the internet. (That’s an increase of 120 million compared to 2020 stats from the Global Digital Overview.)
We spend a lot of time on the internet too (almost as much as we do sleeping,) with the average user spending nearly seven hours a day on the internet!
Year on year, digital adoption is rising, but brand loyalty is declining. In the US, a study from Omnicom Media Group reports that brand loyalty dropped from 65% in March to 49% in November 2020. So, with more of us online, why are brands losing trust?
Consumer trust isn’t lost; it’s just moving.
Senior Analyst from Forester, Anjali Lai, points out that ‘consumers are sceptical about everything and everything around them’ (The State of Consumer Trust, 2021). It’s not surprising. We see fake news and hear of misinformation in the media all the time. There’s plenty of reason to believe that trust is weakening, but consumers are just changing their behaviour, favouring start-ups or new business models over traditional legacy organisations. (We’ve talked a bit about what Financial Services organisations can do about that in a recent post).
What is it about new brands and start-ups that consumers like? Anjali Lai suggests that the “brave and bold” companies listen to customer behavioural shifts, offering a level of consumer experience on behalf of the consumers themselves, empathising and prioritising users. (Check out the full podcast if you’re interested in consumer behaviour).
There are loads of external social, environmental and political factors that can affect customers' purchasing decisions. The good news is that we can control how authentically we appear through website features and implementations.
Here are our top 3 ideas, put together by strategy, design and build experts so that you can maintain trust through your digital services in 2021:
1. Invest in search.
No search is better than a bad search. When you think of search, what comes to mind? If it’s a rectangular box in the top right-hand corner of your website, then you're probably not alone.
Today, search is a dynamic filtering system hidden behind great frontend design. Invest in your search with AI-based technologies so that your customers can not only search how they want to in real-time, no matter if it’s with voice, a single letter entry or an image search.
Azure cognitive search is a great option to filter results through content-heavy websites instantly. Why not make sophisticated search filtering a resident all over your website? When you combine Azure Cognitive Search with custom API development, product pages, company intranets, and Document Management Systems can merge with existing legacy systems to form a solution that doesn’t have an expiry date.
So when brand loyalty is at stake, what can we do at a search level to keep our customers? Implementing an intelligent, fast, AI-based search could be the change in Information Architecture that turns new users into returning ones.
2. Make personalisation a priority.
91% of consumers say they are more likely to shop with brands that provide offers and recommendations that are relevant to them. Though users are now looking for more in return in exchange for their data. So how do you make personalisation relevant without making users feel like they have no privacy?
As Christi Olson suggests, personalisation must have purpose and value for your users. So, for personalisation to be impactful, it requires an understanding of your brand. Talk to a creative strategist about your vision to implement practical, value-driven custom APIs or integrations that will help serve better user experiences.
APIs bring rich, personalised experiences for every user (including content editors). We created a custom middleware application using Microsoft Azure Cognitive Search to help content editors have better control of documents so they can produce better content. Using a custom API, we connected a flexible CMS (Umbraco) with an existing legacy system, turning all elements into one future-proof solution that boasts personalised user experiences. You can read the full story here.
You can achieve different levels of personalisation depending on the type of CMS you use. If your organisation is built around omnichannel content delivery, you may want to opt for an “API-first”, “headless”, or flexible open source CMS that can connect to open APIS. Opting for this type of CMS gives you more freedom to personalise and deliver content on various channels at the touch of the button.
3. Welcome everyone.
It’s always been a requirement to provide accessible websites. However, there is reason to believe that there are lessons to be learned by organisations about the importance of inclusive design post-pandemic. In fact, ‘47% of disabled respondents had experienced technological challenges during the pandemic’ (Ability Net, 2021).
The importance of web accessibility.
Paying attention to accessibility is nothing new, and it’s important to consider accessibility at every step of the development, design and strategy process to secure brand trust and win this huge proportion of the population’s loyalty.
This year it was reported that 20% of the UK population live with a disability. In the US, it’s 25% (Reciteme.com, 2021). If you’re not designing for accessibility with innovation in mind, you are ignoring a huge segment of the UK and US population who should have access to the same level of sophisticated technology as those without disabilities have increasing access to.
So, apart from adhering to the vital Web Accessibility Laws and Guidelines, how can we use forward-thinking features and integrations to appeal to this segment of the population?
AI for better accessibility.
The AI momentum is growing. Just take a look at the types of organisations leading the way with accessible AI implementations:
Apple’s AI-based feature, sound recognition, works without an internet connection. It notifies users who might otherwise miss important noises and alerts around them such as a ‘microwave finishing its cooking time, a car horn, a doorbell, door knocks, and running water’ (AppleInsider.com).
Google’s AI assistant, Google Assistant, has recently partnered with Tobii Dynavox (‘best known for creating speech synthesis and eye-tracking devices’ (The Verge, 2020)) to make google accessible. Not everyone can speak easily, so the new integration allows those with language impediments to communicate by interacting with a set of preconfigured tiles that they can activate by tapping or gazing at with their eye.
Microsoft is always in the pursuit of inclusive AI; they claim to build their design practices and processes and design thinking around areas of exclusion, such as cognitive issues. Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility programme is an initiative where the team not only build physical devices but invest in AI for communities, education and employment.
Giving developers the tools for AI accessibility.
Microsoft’s Azure Cognitive Services (a cloud-based AI service) allows developers around the world to employ their own AI capabilities into organisation digital solutions. Azure Immersive Reader uses the power of Azure Cognitive services to create fast, accessible and intelligent digital solutions.
In a world where our consumers are increasingly drawn to trying out a new brand, organisations should start to choose innovation over playing it safe and provide a rich, AI-powered accessible user experience as more people continue to shift online.