Embracing those who fear technology in the digital era

Change and resistance go hand in hand – and technology is no exception. Let’s look back to the early 19th century, when English textile workers known as Luddites destroyed weaving machinery to protest ‘the fraudulent and deceitful manner’ in which ‘modern’ machinery was bypassing standard labour practices. Their fear that technology was threatening their jobs has made Luddites synonymous with resistance to technological innovation.

Today, some of these Luddite-inspired trends are alive and well in “neo-Luddites,” those who resist the pull towards a world where digital is the norm, rather than the exception. Although they are not destroying the modern equivalent of weaving machines, they still resist modern technology – and this way of thinking is more common than you might think.

The case for modern-day Luddites

From mobile payments to the Internet of Things (IoT), people are now inundated with new technology that purport to make their busy lives easier, work more productive, and homes better equipped. But not everyone is convinced. Over 70% of adults have no plans to buy an IoT product in the next year.

Furthermore, British adults are less likely to use mobile wallet apps (17%) than some of their European counterparts, including German (22%) and French (21%) adults.

>See also: Overcoming digital fear in the digital age

These numbers illustrate how certain segments of the population will always resist change by hanging on to older technology or shying away from the often overwhelming number of new apps and social media news feeds bombarding them every day. That’s why it is important that organisations offer customers the experience they want, regardless of how they choose to engage with a brand.

Interestingly, some technology companies have capitalised on this movement and released low- tech products for the modern Luddite. Nokia, for example, revived its 3310 in Europe, 17 years after its first launch. With a price point of £50, it has a battery life of 31 days and does exactly what mobiles were originally designed to do: make calls on the go. Traditional watchmakers are even going against the smartwatch phenomenon and offering a “slow” watch – a beautifully designed, one-handed, minimalistic watch that just tells time.

Some companies are even doing away with email in an effort to boost productivity and encourage more face-to- face or phone interactions. Bournemouth-based IT consulting company, Rarely Impossible, banned internal email three years ago to the resounding relief of its employees. As a result, teams are forced to engage with their colleagues face-to- face, by phone or text, especially for urgent matters. The founder, Lee Mallon, estimates that the company has saved 20% of time a day just by eliminating email, and overall cross-team communication has improved dramatically.

>See also: Brands must embrace digital transformation to thrive

A complete shutdown of email may not be possible for every organisation, it is clear that an appetite exists for less digital entanglement today. Digital transformation has been at the forefront of organisation-wide planning for the majority of businesses over the last five years.

However, with a growing audience of neo-Luddites, companies also have to cater to these people, or work to get them on board with digital approaches about which they may be reticent.

The golden-rule of customer marketing is: “Go where your customers are, don’t expect them to come to you”. And it’s true. It’s why there’s been such a surge in mobile apps, social media advertising and connected devices beyond mobile. However, this isolates an entire audience who prefers offline, face-to- face, or voice interaction. That’s why it’s important for organisations to implement a full breadth of omni-channel capabilities to accommodate every customer, no matter how they want to get in touch – whether via mobile web or app, website, or direct calling.

>See also: Labour’s Tom Watson calls on society to “embrace an android”

Catering to customers who prefer a glossy, perfectly orchestrated website experience, as well as those who prefer a lower-tech interaction, requires organisations to take an omni-channel approach that is mindful of each group’s unique needs. Research shows that companies with an omni-channel strategy retain 89% of their customers, while those that don’t only retain 33%.

Furthermore, digital-first customers are not as loyal to a brand as those who prefer in-store or human interactions. Perhaps this is down to the abundance of options available on a digital level today but, whatever the reason, it’s further proof that neo-Luddites shouldn’t be ignored.

A truly omni-channel solution will allow organisations to deliver personalised experiences that give each user what they’re looking for at every point of interaction across every phase of the customer lifecycle. This approach allows businesses to maintain the high-touch, customer-centric service that all customers deserve, whether they’re a neo-Luddite or an early adopter.

>See also: Digital transformation: why it matters and how it can be achieved

Digital transformation is imperative to remain competitive, but it doesn’t always track exactly with the personal technology choices and preferences of customers. Every business needs to capture information across multiple channels, whether data comes in from a call centre as a voice file or in clickstreams from online orders. Businesses have to be able to understand it all – structured and unstructured – in order to recognise behavioural patterns and deliver a seamless customer experience.

The key to a successful omni-channel strategy is striking a balance between the digital and the traditional. Cater for the digital natives, but keep in mind the preferences of the existing customer base.

By using data insights to understand how best to reach each audience and provide a unified and consistent experience for all customers, a business can get the information it needs to win.

The modern-day Luddite is not going way. So learn, stay agile, and don’t ignore the Luddites, as they just might be the difference between an organisation’s success or failure – even in today’s digital age.


Sourced by Adam Howatson, CMO at OpenText

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...