Next gen want a more ‘human’ experience online

New report by WP Engine shows next generation of Aussie customers demand a more human, personalised and authentic digital experience

The future holds a generation of socially-connected Internet ‘addicts’ that expect a more human and authentic digital experience, a new report has found.

Launched by WP Engine in partnership with the Centre of Generation Kinetics, the Future of the Internet: Australia Research Findings surveyed 1014 Australian respondents from ages 14 to 59, to discover what they expect from their internet experience now and in the future. WP provides hosting services for WordPress and targets the SMB space.

The next generation of Aussie customers depend on the Internet more than ever, with 22 per cent of Gen Z respondents saying that can go no more than one hour without Internet access. In contrast, one-third of Baby Boomers said they can comfortably go for two days or more without being connected.

Access to information was listed as the top reason for dependency across the board, followed by access to other people and connections, entertainment and business respectively. Meanwhile, a whopping 86 per cent of GenZ first think of social media when they think about the Internet.

Interestingly, 72 per cent of Gen Z would rather have access to the Internet over a university of college degree and 53 per cent of Gen Z feel the people who manage and build the internet are more important than political leaders.

Speaking to CMO in the week of WP Engine’s opening its third international offices in Brisbane, WP Engine global chief CMO, Mary Ellen Dugan, said this shift in generational expectations will impact marketers and how they tailor their content marketing strategies to meet different demographics.

“Because Gen Z view content as more fleeting, they’re more forgiving of content and are more open to test and trial, they are willing to see content you’re putting up, as long as it is authentic and they know it’s you," she said. "From a marketing perspective, this will change the content strategy for marketers and puts pressure to increase the amount of content aimed at Gen Z, versus other demographics. This will also changes the resources a marketing team needs, and get CMOs really thinking about how to deploy the strategy in a more timely and agile manner.”

An era of hyper-personalisation

According to the report, 51 per cent of respondents expect websites in the future will become more ‘human’ in experience by exhibiting emotions when you visit and interact with them. At the same time, 59 per cent believe all websites will ‘talk’ to each other and present a more holistic, personalised experience, while 60 per cent expect websites in the future will know what you are looking for before you even tell them.

Over a third of respondents expect all websites in five years’ time to recognise and adapt to the user to create unique, optimal experiences, while 26 per cent expect the Internet as a whole to simply predict what they want. Just over one-third (38 per cent) would actually stop visiting a website if it did not give them a personalised experience, anticipate what they need, liked or wanted.

Dugan said with increased connectivity, the lines between what our digital and offline experience are already starting to blur.

“What really came from this study is that the digital experience is now really the human experience,” she said. “And across all generations, it really is this human experience that they expect, it is something we all use every single day, and people aren’t necessarily separating their digital and offline experiences anymore.”

Seamless and secure transactional experiences are clearly becoming increasingly important, with 60 per cent of Millennials and 51 per cent of Gen Z wanting seamless and secure payment options. Over a third expect immediate and effective customer service when things go wrong.

At the same time, 40 per cent expect authentic customer reviews from real people that have purchased the item and were not incentivised to write reviews. And when it comes to shopping for clothes, shoes and jewellery, about a third want to see what the item looks like on them before making a purchase decision.

WP Engine global chief CMO, Mary Ellen Dugan says marketers need to be better prepared for the change in generational expectations
WP Engine global chief CMO, Mary Ellen Dugan says marketers need to be better prepared for the change in generational expectations

Virtual connectivity at scale

Looking to what the scenario could look like in five years’ time, 39 per cent of Australian respondents expect everything to connected to the Internet, from clocks to refrigerators, vacuums and dishwashers. Internet users also expect all industries to become fully connected, from education to manufacturing, healthcare, energy and finance.

Virtual reality is also at the forefront of customer expectations, with a quarter of respondents expecting VR to become a normal part of using the Internet is as little as three years from today. And over half of Gen Z expect VR to be part of their lives even sooner.

According to Dugan, these changing expectations puts the pressure is on marketers to evolve and adapt, and start putting strategies in place to collaborate with IT to be future-ready..

“One of the challenges we have on the IT and martech side is we’ve done a lot of contextual personalisation, but we haven’t yet gotten into that really predictable experience – and whether it really feel like the experience is tailored just for you,” she added. “The martech explosion is coming but from a marketing point of view, there needs to more strategies and paths in place to getting there more quickly. And I don’t think we’re quite there yet."

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu

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