Enter the Application Generation: redefining digital experiences in 2024

During the pandemic, with the various restrictions in place, consumers had no option but to rely on digital services. Most people couldn’t go to work, meet friends, or go to the shops. And as a result, we saw a huge surge in the use of applications and digital services.

But now, with the pandemic thankfully behind us, people once again have options. They have the choice between digital services and traditional, offline channels. And significantly, across almost every aspect of their lives, consumers are favouring the ease and convenience of applications and digital services. Whether it’s fitness classes, collaboration and productivity tools, messaging platforms or access to public services, people across the world are still relying on applications to live, work and play.

What has changed over the last two years, however, is people’s expectations of how these applications and digital services should perform. The sense of gratitude that consumers felt towards brands for helping them navigate through the pandemic has disappeared. They’re demanding the very best, most seamless and secure digital experiences and they have zero tolerance for brands whose applications fall below this mark.

In particular, the emergence of a new generation of younger consumers is re-defining what digital experience needs to be in 2023 and beyond. The Application Generation has arrived, and they are out to take down any brand whose application fails to meet their expectations.

The Application Generation – Discerning, demanding and empowered

The latest research from Cisco, The App Attention Index 2023: Beware the Application Generation, reveals how attitudes and behaviours towards digital services have evolved differently amongst people aged 18-34. This younger cohort of consumers relied on applications to get them through the pandemic – for their education, to start out in their careers, and to stay close to friends – and now they’re using them with great skill to live in a hybrid world. They’re heavier users of digital services, using an average of 41 different applications each month, compared to 30 amongst people aged 35 and above.

One of the things that makes this ‘Application Generation’ so different is how discerning they are about the quality of applications, and the way in which they consider the relevance and value – or otherwise – of every digital service. They’re much more mindful about the digital services they use and think hard before downloading new applications, wanting to avoid a sense of ‘application clutter’.

The Application Generation have experienced first-hand the types of digital experiences that the most innovative brands in the world are now offering, and they point to big improvements in app design and responsiveness over recent years. They’ve felt how world class digital experiences can enrich their lives.

The issue for application owners, however, is that these young consumers now demand this level of digital experience every time they use an application or digital service. And they’re getting increasingly frustrated and angry when applications don’t match these expectations. They feel that brands are showing them a complete lack of respect.

Indeed, 65% of the Application Generation admit that they are less forgiving of poor digital services than they were two years ago and, crucially, they are actively looking to make brands pay. They feel empowered to switch to alternative digital services and, where they are locked into relationships with service providers (such as banks and utility companies), they are ditching poorly performing applications and reverting back to offline channels. In the last 12 months, on average, younger consumers have deleted seven applications as a result of bad digital experiences, and 70% report that they’re now more likely to warn other people against using digital services that don’t perform.

Application owners must focus on digital experience to keep The Application Generation on side

Organisations in all industries are now operating in a market where a single slip up in application availability, performance or security can antagonise an entire generation of consumers. But alarmingly, 94% of the Application Generation state that they have encountered at least one poorly performing application in the past year.

Application owners can’t afford to be delivering anything other than the very best, seamless, and secure digital experiences. But as anybody who works in IT will know, this is becoming an ever more difficult task. Widespread deployment of cloud native technologies has left IT teams managing a highly complex and dispersed application landscape, and many don’t have full and unified visibility for applications running across hybrid environments. This means it is almost impossible for them to identify and resolve issues before they impact end user experience.

Application observability is the answer to this challenge, providing IT teams with full and unified visibility across both cloud native and on-premises environments. It allows technologists to rapidly detect issues and understand root causes. And by correlating application performance and security data with key business metrics, IT teams can identify and prioritise those issues which could do the most damage to digital experience.

Organisations need to understand that the Application Generation is like nothing we’ve seen before. Billions of consumers around the world are simply no longer willing to tolerate bad digital experiences and they’re making it their mission to punish brands whose digital services continue to let them down. The standard for digital experience has been raised and application owners have been warned about the consequences of falling short.

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James Harvey is CTO Advisor EMEA, Cisco Observability. He is responsible for setting the AppDynamics regional product strategy. His overarching role is to advise and help organizations better understand their business needs and realize the value and benefits of full-stack observability with business context. He joined AppDynamics in 2018. James has more than 20 years of experience in the tech field, having held senior IT leadership positions at various companies in different sectors like banking (Royal Bank of Scotland and ABN AMRO Bank), retail (New Look) and oil (BP).

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