At times, it can seem to the consumer that pulling back the curtains of the digital world reveals a lot of free-floating fairy dust. They don’t want to know how or why the internet and its many parts work. They’re just happy to know that it does work and delivers them what they want without fuss.
But with the digital journey we’re on, not only does it matter that our products give customers what they want, but all that fairy dust matters as well. Truth be told, its not fairy dust – it’s a variety of resources that come together seamlessly to provide the customer what they need. The use of those resources now needs to be viewed differently, through a new lens, if you will. Why? The energy they use day in, day out.
Environmental impact of data storage
For most of us working in the world of travel, we’re aware of the environmental cost of that travel. As the world aims for the important goal of net zero, we know that most people see planes, trains, and ships as major emitters of carbon. What they don’t see are the servers being used to drive the digital products they love so much. The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) recently conducted research into the hidden cost of data storage in the UK.
“With the average person taking almost 900 photos per year, the duplicated, unwanted images left in storage alone could accumulate 10.6kg of CO2 emissions annually for every adult in the UK – the equivalent of more than 112,500 return flights from London to Perth, Australia,” the IET said.
“But it’s not just our social media habits that are damaging the planet. With nearly 80 per cent of us failing to consider the environmental impact of our data use online, ‘dirty data’ habits could be silently contributing as much to global emissions as international air travel.”
So, all those holiday photos and data usage are just as problematic as the trips our customers take.
Digital transformation therefore means so much more than just a seamless user experience, and it is why we need to consider how we provide these digital interactions and the technologies that underpin them.
We need to be able to demonstrate we’re thoughtful to the climate challenge and the way we provide our services. We will need to demonstrate that we manage things like data with a concern not just for its security, but how efficiently it is stored to minimise the energy required to maintain it. No doubt there will be leaders who stand out in the way they provide infrastructure to organisations such as ours, and I believe it will influence from whom we buy technology services.
How we digitally service the consumer need, I think, will reputationally differentiate us. Simply put, our increased appetite to live digital lives means we're consuming more energy. We need to play our part in making this more sustainable. We also probably have to ask ourselves whether providing consumers every service in a way that they demand of us each time, is right. That becomes an opportunity and a challenge in how we create the right digital experiences for customers.
It’s interesting to see how the Covid pandemic has greatly accelerated digital transformation. What would typically take five years for people to adjust to and learn in the digital world was condensed into 18 months. What’s more, it happened to all of us. Things like vaccine passes being made available on smartphones gave people a reason to go digital. Personally, if I had thought that my dad was going to do that two years ago by himself, honestly, I thought it was impossible.
At Cover-More Group, we have made massive strides in the digital space, which we believe will exceed consumer expectations around the user experience. They will support safer and more secure travel, but also in a way that is more convenient.
Trust the source of information
But we need to focus on providing simple and trustworthy digital moments that clearly continue to improve. I don’t go to a bank anymore. I’ve moved banks just because the banking app wasn’t easy to use and stayed that way for too long. We must create a modern, but ever-changing environment that people then can trust. There’s an implicit trust – ‘are you going to hold onto my data in the right way? Can I assume you're doing the right thing by me in the background’? We must be on top of that, and if you can’t be on top of that, customers move on.
At the same time, you need to be nimble and agile. That’s not just about the front end and making the app up to date, but it’s the agility to add things that customers want. People have learned that it is not just the individual experiences that matter, but how the things they use frequently can interact simply and effectively. “When they’re all joined up, I have to do the least number of things to get what I want.”
To achieve that fluidity for the customer, we must be a trusted part of the ecosystem and we have to acknowledge and buy into the simplicity that the ecosystem creates. Otherwise, as soon as someone bumps into us and they go, ‘Oh, this is a little bit harder work than I expected, filling out some more things and having to do some more stuff’, people just drop out.
Complex products need seamless solutions
The pandemic has added another layer of complexity to insurance cover, and with that has come another learning opportunity as part of our digital journey. There are always people who need that bit more: “I understand what I’m doing online, but I think I still need to talk to somebody, I think I still need to have the Ts and Cs explained to me. They’ve made this simple and in plain language and I think I get it, but I just need that reassurance that I’ve read it the right way.”
As simple and brilliant as the digital interactions should be and will be in the end, there will be large groups of people who go, ‘I need to pick up a phone' or 'I need to go see someone actually’. But what if you were doing something online digitally, and the technology recognised you as someone who needs help and got someone to call you, how brilliant would that be?
Protecting the travel dreams and experiences of our customers through ever-improving digital services is our goal. Whether trying to bring a focus to how we better manage our carbon footprint in technology, providing simple, seamless experiences to our customers or better integrating the human touches our business provides so well, there is a lot to be excited by.