It’s been the busiest year yet for our UX team when it comes to user research. We’ve conducted hundreds of moderated user research sessions uncovering a huge number of customer problems and opportunities for our clients.
During these sessions we’ve noticed a growing number of trends around user behaviour which are applicable across a wide variety of customer demographics and markets. In this article I’ll share the top five behaviour trends for 2023, based on our interactions with users this year.
1. Resistance to sharing contact details
The most common behaviour we’ve seen this year is users becoming increasingly savvy to companies’ marketing strategies. In particular, we’ve noticed a growing resistance to sharing any contact information without a clear benefit or justification to why these are needed. Whether users are sharing their contact details for an order, account creation or for customer support, there is a growing expectation that their inboxes will be flooded with promotional material as soon as their email address is shared. Users therefore look to avoid entering this information at any cost, and will typically only do so when there is a clear value exchange, or when they’re already committed to becoming a customer.
2. Frustration at restriction of contact options
On a similar note, we’ve observed particularly high levels of friction from users when encountering callback forms. Rather than being able to maintain control by emailing or phoning a company at a time that suits them, an increasing number of companies ask users to enter their details so they can be ‘contacted shortly’. In these experiences, users are often left without context to when they might be contacted and expect to be contacted at an inconvenient time during the working day.
Users have also shared their increasing concerns over the ‘manipulation’ that’s used when they’re asked to opt-in or opt-out of marketing. Unclear T&C’s, or a “tick to unsubscribe” model are quick ways to diminish trust with users who don’t want their inboxes full of promotional material.
Whilst most users were seemingly happy to share email addresses and phone numbers a few years ago, these issues seem to have diminished trust with companies and have made people wary of any request for their information. As a result, we see more users choosing to shop with or use companies that have a variety of convenient contact options.
3. The importance of pricing transparency
Whether you’re a retail company hiding delivery costs until checkout, or a service that hides its subscription fees until the end of the sign-up form, we’ve observed significant levels of friction from users when they can’t quickly identify the full cost for the product/service they’re considering.
With price often being the core purchasing consideration, for users it’s crucial that they’re able to understand this as early as possible in their customer journey. When we’ve observed pricing opacity in usability sessions this year, users have wasted their time and patience looking at products or services that end up being entirely out of their price range. Not only does this create frustration and ill feeling towards a brand, but it prevents them from having the time and/or patience to look at options that are more in line with their budget. When unexpected costs are shown towards the end of a journey, this turns what might be a small/medium issue into a complete showstopper.
4. Scrutiny over sales and promotions
This year, users have also highlighted a growing awareness for the frequent and repetitive sales cycle that are employed by a number of companies. This is especially evident in industries selling high ticket items such as furniture, where sales and promotions are traditionally live for the majority of the year. As a result, we see a lot of scrutiny from users when trying to get the best deal, who highlight that they would often refuse to buy certain types of product unless it is on sale.
What’s been especially interesting in 2022, is users now scrutinising companies and industries who have not previously employed these tactics. We therefore see a lot of users screenshotting, bookmarking or making a mental note to continuously check websites until their chosen product is on offer. This inability to fully understand when and how they might get the best deal therefore adds a lot of time and frustration to their overall customer journey, as well reducing their perception of the company they’re buying from.
5. The role of trust and credibility
As you may have noticed from the other four trends, we’ve observed a significant drop in the inherent level of trust that people have towards the businesses they use and interact with. Whether this is a temporary hangover from the Covid-19 pandemic, or growing concerns ahead of the UK recession, we anticipate that the ability for customers to build trust with brands will be an increasingly important factor in persuading customers to convert, and offering content to help build this trust will be vital.
This is a big shift from a few years ago, when users seemed willing to push through poor experiences and terrible customer service to get the best deal possible. But whether they were choosing a savings account, gym membership or a piece of furniture; users we interviewed in 2022 seemed happy to pay a premium for peace of mind.
As a result, we’ve observed that trust and credibility are of paramount importance when choosing a company who can provide a product/service. In particular, users wanted honesty, transparency and ease of use throughout the entire customer journey (whether this be at the point of purchase or post-purchase). As a result we saw users spend less time comparing price points and more time on independent review sites, FAQs and corporate social responsibility pages.
As has traditionally been the case with previous marketing and sales strategies, users are becoming more educated and aware of the tactics now commonly used by companies to generate online conversions, bookings or enquiries. To increase brand perception amongst your customer base, we always recommend an honest and transparent approach to ensure that users are always fully informed about pricing, understand the benefits and consequences of sharing details, and have quick and easy ways to get in touch with customer support teams.