‘Who takes the rap for the app?’ Soaring consumer expectations have left application owners responsible for poor digital experiences

Over the last 18 months, consumers have turned to digital services like never before

Throughout the pandemic, applications have become a lifeline to normality, enabling people to stay connected with loved ones, to work and learn remotely and gain access to critical services. Even during the most gruelling periods of lockdown, applications and digital services allowed people to continue with their lifestyle pursuits, such as fitness classes and music lessons, to find entertainment through music and video streaming, and to look after their wellbeing through meditation.

In the latest AppDynamics report, The App Attention Index 2021: Who takes the rap for the app?, we revealed that the number of applications that people are using has jumped up by a staggering 30% compared to two years ago.

Consumers now expect the ‘total application experience’ every time

As consumers have increased their use of applications across a whole range of new areas, they have been exposed to incredible digital experiences. They’ve seen how some brands have rapidly enhanced their digital offerings during the pandemic to serve customers in new and innovative ways and, as a result, their expectations have risen dramatically.

People all over the world, of all ages, are now looking for the ‘total application experience’ – a high-performing, reliable, digital service which is simple, secure, helpful and fun to use. And they expect these applications to be personalized to their preferences and needs and to add real value to their lives. This is the new benchmark for digital services in 2021.

The AppDynamics research shows that expectations towards digital services have increased across performance and functionality over the past 18 months. These include application reliability and security, and the personalization of digital services.

At the same time, the stakes have never been higher for the technologists and brands that provide digital services. During the most challenging period of our lifetime, consumers have come to view applications as a critical part of how they go about their lives. So when things go wrong and people don’t get the type of digital experience they have come to expect, they now have little tolerance.

In fact, 61% of people state their expectation of digital services has changed forever and they won’t tolerate poor performance any more. Consumers are no longer willing to wait for a problem with an application to be fixed and to suffer in silence. The minute they encounter an issue, they will switch to an alternative service, sharing their negative experiences with other people, or deleting the digital service permanently.

Whatever the issue, consumers blame the application owner or brand

One of the most striking findings of the App Attention Index 2021 report was that most consumers immediately blame the application – and the brand behind it – when they don’t get the level of experience they now expect.

Of course, in some cases, application owners are directly responsible for performance issues – whether that’s pages loading slowly, poor response times, downtime, or security failures.

But even when the digital experience is impacted by external factors outside the application – such as bad internet connectivity, 4G/5G mobile network issues, slow payment gateways or technical issues with third party plug-ins – consumers still point the fingers of blame at the application owner.

Irrespective of the issue, 72% of people believe it’s the responsibility of the brand to ensure that the digital service or application works perfectly. And alarmingly for application owners, consumers are no longer willing to give second chances. The majority of people now give brands one shot to impress them and if their digital service or application does not perform, consumers won’t use them again. They’ll go elsewhere, never to return.

Brands need full-stack observability with business context to deliver the experiences customers demand

Application owners – and the brands behind them – need to recognize that they are now operating in an entirely new, high-stakes environment, where even the most minor performance issue can result in more than half of their customers walking away, potentially forever.

Of course, this adds even more pressure on application owners to deliver frictionless, faultless digital experiences at all times.

In order to do so, and to manage the spiralling levels of complexity that IT departments are now facing, it’s vital that technologists have full visibility into IT performance up and down the IT stack, from customer-facing applications right through to core infrastructure. Full-stack observability is vital for technologists to be able to identify and fix issues before they impact users.

But even with full-stack observability in place, technologists can find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer volume of performance data that is continually coming at them from across the entire IT estate.

This is why they need a business lens on IT performance, to cut through the noise and pinpoint the data that really matters most. By connecting full-stack observability with real-time business metrics, technologists can understand which issues could have the biggest impact on customers so they can prioritize their actions in the right places. It means that they can optimize application performance at all times and ensure they’re able to meet heightened consumer expectations.

The landscape has changed for application owners over the last 18 months and they simply cannot afford to take any chances when it comes to delivering faultless digital experiences.

The application is no longer an extension of the brand or an additional channel to engage customers. Today, the application is the business.

About the Author

James Harvey is Executive CTO, EMEAR at Cisco AppDynamics, working with clients to convert performance insights into business outcomes. He is also responsible for setting AppDynamics’ regional product strategy. Before joining Cisco AppDynamics he held various positions in IT leadership at New Look, BP, Royal Bank of Scotland and ABN AMRO Bank.

Featured image: ©Bongkarn