The Digital Consumer: A 2021 Research Report

Keeping a finger on the pulse of changing consumer expectations and digital readiness in 2021.

It’s no secret that COVID-19 drastically changed the way consumers interact with brands – and with new experiences, come new expectations. Although most brands have been embracing online interactions for some time, the pandemic accelerated consumers’ desire for digital much faster than what some brands were prepared for.

So, what exactly do these new expectations entail? And, how ready is your brand to keep up? Appnovation’s research measured Canadian and American consumers’ digital readiness and expectations of the brands they interact with. Below are the four overarching expectations we uncovered.

Consumers expect and want more online brand interactions in the future. 

Across industries, online interactions have increased during COVID-19, and consumers state they’d like this trend to continue. A staggering 84% hope brands will adopt new digital solutions in the upcoming year. Along with following proper social distancing guidelines, over 50% of all consumers perceive these technology-based services as important to have, if not a deal-breaker. 

Even industries like automotive and grocery – where interactions have traditionally been in-person – need to adapt. Nearly 1 in 3 consumers think these industries need technological improvements. 

There’s an expectation that in-person consumer experiences get more digital, too.

As people start to safely spend time in public spaces again, they’re looking for hybrid human-digital experiences. An increased comfort with touchless technologies propels this, with 53% of consumers saying they’re completely comfortable with sensor/gesture recognition (like automatic doors and faucets) and touchless payment. Another 22% say they will become comfortable once they see and use them more often. However, this comfort varies by industry, with consumers citing hospitals, airports, and hotels as the spaces they’re most comfortable in.

There’s an appetite for touchless technologies, though brands need to address security concerns to make consumers feel comfortable.

Consumers like the convenience, security and accessibility that voice recognition offers, but have mixed feelings surrounding facial recognition. Apart from heightened perceptions of being modern and futuristic, 3 in 4 consumers feel companies using touchless technologies are empathetic towards consumers.

With an increased focus on delivering personalized experiences, brands must walk a fine line between leveraging the right technology, and ensuring it’s not intrusive.

Millennials’ expectations for a seamless digital experience surpass those of other generations.

Millennials are the cohort of consumers that have the highest expectations for smooth and efficient digital experiences, no matter the industry. Though the majority of consumers understood that brands struggled to adapt their online experience during COVID-19 (88% of Millennials and 90% of Baby Boomers), most consumers also believe brands should have been better prepared (69% of Millennials and 50% of Baby Boomers).

In fact, 49% of Millennials switched to new brands based on the innovation they used to respond to the pandemic. Across both generations, more than 4 in 5 consumers expect brands to offer a seamless experience between online and in-store shopping within the next year.

So, where does this leave your brand?

Spurred on by the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers’ digital readiness has grown quickly and permanently. Across industries, consumers expect brands to provide ways to seamlessly interact online, both now, and increasingly in the future. Brands have the opportunity to meet these new consumer needs through long-term, consumer-first strategies rooted in the right combination of technology, design, and experience.

Read the full report to get more insights and statistics about today’s digital consumer.


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