Over half (53 percent) of consumers believe that online experiences will be more important than in-person ones, according to Appnovation’s latest report, “The Digital Consumer: Shifting Expectation and Digital Readiness.”

The research, based on an online survey among more than 1,500 consumers in the US and Canada, revealed that consumers have two key expectations from brands—to deliver more online experiences and create more digitally-enabled in-person experiences that include touchless technologies.

The top consumer expectation of brands is to care for the safety and wellbeing of their employees (72 percent) and educate consumers about measures they’re taking against the virus (51 percent). But apart from COVID-related expectations, 44 percent of consumers expect more digital experiences from brands, while 45 percent of respondents expect brands to improve existing digital product and service offerings.

Digital self-serve options are also a priority for consumers. Sixty-six percent say they want brands to offer tap-and-go payment options, 65 percent want the option to book appointments through a website or app and 51 percent want to see self-service kiosks.

A majority of consumers surveyed understand that brands struggled to keep up with the digital acceleration amid the pandemic, yet not all are forgiving. Fifty-eight percent of consumers believe brands should have been better prepared to meet their online needs. 

Nearly half of consumers say the pandemic has shown them that everything can be done online and that in-person interactions are no longer needed to have great customer experiences. What’s more, half of millennials say they switched to a new brand based on the digital innovation they leveraged in response to COVID-19.

Looking ahead, though 84 percent of consumers in both the US and Canada say they expect brands to offer a seamless experience between online and in-store shopping, the same number of people say online shopping experiences will never fully replace in-person ones.

Still, brands that don’t increasingly adopt digital solutions will suffer, as 50 percent of consumers say they won’t engage with a brand as often if it doesn’t offer online experiences.

Online interactions surged during the pandemic and are expected to increase even further moving forward, reports Appnovation. This increase will be more pronounced among 25-54 year olds across a variety of verticals–from travel and tourism planning and insurance claims to health and wellness advice and buying non-essentials like clothes.

Consumers–particularly those aged 25-54 who say digital experiences are extremely or very important across all industries–show a strong digital readiness when it comes to the banking, travel and tourism, healthcare and insurance industries.

“Gone are the days when consumers measured and compared your digital experiences to experiences in the same space. Today, they’re comparing you with the very best digital experiences across completely different industries,” says Anton Morrison, Appnovation vice president, experience design.

Some consumers believe that brands have work to do in making certain experiences more digitally-enabled. For example, one in three feel that technological innovation is required to enhance interactions during a car purchase and shopping for essentials such as groceries.

With 67 percent of consumers saying touchless technologies make them feel safer interacting with brands in-person, it’ll be critical for brands to develop these experiences as more people resume pre-pandemic activities. Currently, 58 percent say that when outside their home, touchless technology is part of their everyday routine. Yet another 36 percent say using a self-service touch screen at a public place makes them anxious.

A little more than half of consumers are completely comfortable with sensor and gesture recognition and touchless technology. In addition, 74 percent perceive companies using touchless technologies as caring towards their customers.

Consumers expect their use of voice assistants and faceless recognition usage to grow in the next year or so, at 62 percent and 56 percent, respectively. They see public spaces like hospitals, airports and hotels being a better fit for gesture and sensor recognition technologies.