Technology’s ‘raison d’etre’ has always been to simplify the complex and to increase efficiency. As the rate of innovation is increasing, the power of technology to streamline our lives has also grown exponentially. The gadgets our parents dreamed of, and many that they didn’t, have now been created and surpassed many times over.

Now more than ever we are on the cusp of achieving technological advancements that were long consigned to the realm of science fiction.

However, just as fast as technology can evolve and improve, so too do our expectations of what that technology can deliver. We are no longer satisfied with just web-based online banking but demand an app for that. Fast-paced food delivery apps have, for many, eroded the dependency on the weekly shop and given us choice beyond our imagination. And when we order online we don’t want to wait 5 days when we can have it in a matter of hours. Anything less than fast and seamless is becoming unacceptable - and yet we still expect more from our digital experiences.

Just as we are no longer settling for delays in the physical world, so too any lag or friction in our digital experience can quickly kill a product or drive custom elsewhere. Technology behemoths have shown us that we can have one-click experiences that simply work and that in turn has led to all of us expecting quick, convenient and secure experiences. With no exceptions.

In this hyper-connected, fast-paced world, convenience regularly trumps currency; consumers have a limited amount of time and money to spend and are increasingly only willing to trade their hard-earned dollars for hassle-free experiences.

Indeed, there’s an entire industry built around this premise, with services like Fiverr and TaskRabbit providing the ability to offload small inconvenient tasks for a small fee. Current consumer behaviour further backs this up, and it’s rapidly becoming the new normal. A survey by Clutch showed that 54% of people stop using a website for a session if it’s unreliable and/or if it loaded slowly and 63% of people would permanently abandon a site if it’s consistently unreliable.

2019 is the year business and governments need to take this emerging trend seriously and design experiences that delight, streamline processes to remove pain points and increase the ‘stickiness’ of products and services. On the one hand, this means using tools like AI and chatbots to improve product recommendations, but it also means rethinking platforms and services to be customer-centric, leveraging the best technology to make it simple and secure. In fact, about a third of online purchases are abandoned by consumers at checkout because they simply can’t remember their password.

Our survey of UK and US senior business decision makers in December found that almost half of respondents believe improving user experience online helps increase sales. While this is encouraging, it shows that half are still undervaluing the role user experience plays.

Research by The Baynard Institute found approximately $260 billion worth of lost orders in the US and EU could be recovered solely through the creation of a better checkout flow & design. The message is clear, experience is king.

‘Good enough’ really is no longer good enough – digital services need to put the people who use the services at their heart and be built around their needs. Fortunately, there are myriad new technologies that make this easier than ever before: from advanced biometrics that make online payments faster and more secure, through to AI-powered chatbots that check stock and help customers with simple queries in real time. Of course, the best tools in the world only work if systems are properly connected and the user journey is seamless and straightforward. There’s no point creating the ability for customers to order from their smart speakers if they then have to log on via phones or tablets to verify the order.

To avoid falling foul of this growing trend, businesses need to take stock of where and how they engage with customers day-to-day and build systems that support those engagements to create a consistent experience across all touchpoints. For most, this will mean a website that is also optimised for mobile – for others it will mean the added complexity of apps for mobile and/or voice. The databases that support these need to be connected and coherent and the processes for logging in, payment and verification streamlined and secure. Only once the basics are fully covered and optimised should you begin thinking about extra touches like chatbots and AI-powered recommendations.

If the user experience is poor, no shiny add-ons will be able to keep customers coming back for more.