Over half (55%) of UK adults will interact with brands more through digital and virtual channels than face-to-face post-pandemic, according to new research from Nuance.
The global study – which polled 10,000 adults across the US, UK, Australia, Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Italy, Spain and Mexico – also found that over half (51%) of UK respondents would rather use apps or a company’s website than go into a physical branch or store to complete tasks such as shopping and banking.
When it comes to communicating with brands, over one in four (26%) UK adults said they still preferred in-person visits or phone (13%), 42% choose digital channels including email, live-chat and chat-bots. Convenience (51%) and speed (36%) were the most common drivers for choosing a preferred method of communication, with speaking to a ‘real’ human (26%) trailing.
These findings clearly illustrate that consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable using technology to make purchases and access services, while still expecting brands to deliver a human touch when required.
“With convenience, speed, and ultimately getting the job done prevailing as clear priorities for buyers, organisations such as retailers, banks, and utilities companies must develop strategies for delivering consistently efficient and effective digital experiences,” said Seb Reeve, Intelligent Engagement Market Development at Nuance. “From slick and secure authentication processes to intuitive AI-powered intelligent assistants, technology must be able to manage the personalised needs of customers while seamlessly bridging to human intervention when required at the right moment.”
Increasing consumer tech confidence
In addition to being more comfortable using tech like chatbots, virtual assistants, and mobile applications to interact with brands, adults in the UK have also increased their trust in tech that helps them access their personal information and accounts online. According to the study, almost half (45%) are now more comfortable using biometrics to authenticate themselves when accessing their accounts than they were before the pandemic, with 38% feeling more comfortable using their smartphone to access their accounts as well. These figures are reflected in the global findings with a similar number (49%) more comfortable using biometrics and 47% more comfortable using their smartphone to access accounts.
A third (34%) of UK respondents now place the most trust in a form of biometrics (either voice, facial, fingerprint, behavioural, or combinations of each) as a means of authentication. This is an important step in the right direction, as fraudsters have been increasingly targeting individuals during the pandemic, exploiting archaic authentication methods like PINs and passwords that can be made accessible via the dark web to gain access to consumer accounts and funds. While this is progress, the UK still lags behind the US in terms of trust in biometrics, with nearly half (45%) of adults backing the technology.
This growing trust in technology across age groups is likely a reflection of the positive experiences customers have received online. When asked about how they would rate the customer services they’ve accessed online over the past 12 months – services that might have previously been accessed in-person, like banking or shopping – 58% of UK shoppers said good or excellent. This is less than the global responses, in which two thirds (66%) rated their customer services at the same level.
“Customers expect immediate and effective conversations with the brands they engage with – whether those conversations are happening on the phone or via a chatbot on a company’s website. Empowering these engagements requires an integrated approach where an organisation not only can understand the customer’s intent but also authenticate that customer and start personalising their experience across every single channel – from in-person, to phone, to web, to mobile,” added Reeve. “With the pandemic creating an increasing comfort, trust, and preference among consumers to use technology when engaging with brands, it will be critical that organisations prioritise delivering superior digital experiences if they want to retain customer loyalty and continue to scale.”