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What consumers want. What they really, really want


via Flickr © dno1967b (CC BY 2.0)

  • A focus on improving existing technologies and much less hyping of new ones
  • Smoke and mirrors no substitute for stuff that works
  • What's better, 5G sometime or good 4G now?
  • VR and AR: Adrift somewhere between the peak of inflated expectations and the trough of disillusion​

A new study from Code Computerlove, the Manchester, UK-based digital product agency that does a lot of work with global brands and helps them to evolve their digital products, services and capabilities has released research which finds that many consumers would prefer digital companies to cut back on the relentless hype they pump out about new technologies and products that are the current flavour-of-the-month for corporate marketers and industry professionals and instead spend a lot more time on, and pay a lot more attention to, improving existing products and services.

The new research echoes other recent reports showing that subscribers, despite the industry hoo-hah, are not particularly convinced of the heavily promoted but as yet commercially unproven benefits of 5G and would much rather have 4G services that actually work properly, on demand, anywhere and as at any time, as  advertised in earlier iterations of claims based on hot air, smoke and mirrors.

If ever an industry was characterised by the perpetual over-promising of "jam tomorrow" to be eaten on fresh crusty bread at a picnic on the broad sunlit uplands of a digital utopia it's telecoms and IT. All too often what used to be a manageable corporate cycle of anticipatory development of technologies, products and services that would meet known consumer demand is, these days, an increasingly hysterical struggle to stay ahead of the competition by jumping on any bandwagon that happens to be passing and hoping for the best. What was a virtual circle is becoming a vicious one with frenzied corporations, Orobouros-like, chewing at their own tails. And consumers are getting wise to it and tired of it.

The new work, "CX Technology Trends 2018: How do consumers really feel?" (CX stands for "customer experience", by the way) provides yet more evidence that consumers are rarely, if ever, as enthused and excited as industry professionals claim (or pretend) to be about new heavily-hyped new products and services.

Code Computerlove worked with OnePoll, the market research company that specialises in online quantitative research and polling and the research was centred on five key technology areas of technology that either already having or are being promoted as going to have marked influence on digital customer experience over the next couple of years. They are; mobile payments, voice assistants, chatbots, virtual reality and augmented reality.

To quantify the hype the five subjects are generating, Code Computerlove and OnePoll turned to Google News and totted-up the number of stories that were devoted to each topi over the course of 2017. Furthermore, in an effort to gauge global interest from both industry and consumer perspectives, the research also collected and collated average monthly worldwide Google search volumes for the key terms within each topic.

Consumers want things that help them not things that help the brands

The results make for interesting reading. For example, while augmented and virtual reality (AR & VR) are being hyped to the heavens by the industry, consumers say that in 2018 they are more interested in voice assistants and mobile payment technologies.

What's more, even as industry focus on augmented and virtual reality sharpens, the number of consumers and subscribers who want to spend less time looking at the screens on digital devices has actually fallen since last year. That's one disparity the industry needs to acknowledge and consider. The other more glaring and more immediate one is that consumers are demanding improvements to the digital products and services they have already bought or subscribed to - and they want those improvements now.

Respondents to the Code Computerlove survey put virtual reality and augmented reality down the list of the Top Five technologies they most want to use in 2018 at places three and four. Top of the list was voice assistants with 23.7 per cent. Second came mobile payments at 23 per cent (although 72 per cent of British consumers voice serious concerns about the security of mobile and contactless payment systems). VR stands at 15 per cent and AR at 11.3 percent. Bottom of the list is chatbots, favoured by a mere 8.8 per cent.

It seems that consumers quite like technologies, products and services that make everyday interactions easier and more convenient but are unimpressed by chatbots, a technology regarded as being primarily for making the lives of companies and brands easier rather their customers.

Overall, levels of consumer anxiety about digital technologies is remarkably low, but whether that is down to ignorance of what can go wrong or optimism that things will be alright is not covered. Either way, only 16.3 per cent of respondents admitted to worries about mobile payments, 11 per cent are concerned about chatbots, 9.7 per cent of voice assistants, 8.3 per cent of augmented reality and 8.2 per cent of virtual reality. The Code Computer report concludes that while "most consumers have no fundamental resistance to the aforementioned technologies" "the emphasis is on brands to get the execution right, with strong privacy and security measures baked-in."

In conclusion, the quick takeaway from the new research is that 28.8 per cent of those surveyed want marked and immediate improvements to the products and services they already have and use while 17.7 per cent are also open to innovation and would be open to adopting new ideas, products and services. That said, 14.4 per cent said they think comms technology is now too pervasive and would like less of it in their lives. Finally, 10.8 per cent look forward to an era of vastly improved integration, better connectivity between different digital devices and services and better and more reliable bandwidth. All in all it's not a lot to ask, is it?

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