Digital amnesia is changing consumer behavior

New research shows the majority of Americans are remembering less, choosing to subcontract their memories to machines. The widespread ownership of smart phones and anywhere, anytime access to the Internet has fueled this trend. Significantly, this isn’t simply a shift of where we store phone numbers and answers to trivia, consumers report that their reliance on smart devices is also impacting their ability to remember critical information and obligations. Will these frequently forgetful customers impact your bottom line?
Consumers have become completely reliant on digital devices, which is breeding a phenomenon called ‘digital amnesia’.

There was a time when we easily recalled phone numbers, addresses, important dates, and the name of the restaurant where we had dinner last week. But that time is now past, thanks to “digital amnesia.”

In 2011, researchers at Columbia University identified the “google effect” – concluding that when humans are confident that they know where to find the answers, they remember less information on their own. Now, when that original research was done in 2011, only 35 percent of Americans had smartphones and therefore carried with them anytime, anywhere access to the internet. Today – just five years later – that number has risen to 68 percent, equating to more than 166 million adults.

With smartphone ownership now the standard, a significant number of your customers are completely reliant on digital devices. Increasingly, we store information digitally and simply don’t retain it because we know how to find it again. We call this phenomenon digital amnesia.

In a recent survey produced by Nuance, in partnership with Wakefield Research, we found that most Americans – 63 percent – report outsourcing their memory to their mobile device or computer. For those growing up in the digital age—Millennials aged 18-34 – their dependence on devices is greater, with 78 percent outsourcing their memories.

The research uncovered interesting findings and implications for businesses due to this increasing reliance on digital devices as memory storage:

  • We’ve entered into an era of notifications. Billions of smartphones, millions of watches, and even thermostats and refrigerators are lighting up to tell us something every minute of every day. This means consumers now expect the companies they patronize to send them reminders as well.
  • PINS, passwords, and security questions are outdated. The majority of respondents indicated they forget basic information three times a week – and PINS, passwords, and security questions top the list.
  • Consumers reward businesses who reach them where and how they want. With more than two-thirds of consumers saying they have ended a relationship with a company after one poor experience, it’s become more critical to reach and engage your customers before they have an issue. Did you know text message is a preferred contact channel?
  • Americans want intelligent self-service options. Nine out of ten consumers have opted to use an automated solution to solve a problem or answer a question, rather than engage with a live customer service agent. Recent consumer research reveals 81 percent now say they want companies to offer intelligent technology solutions and they’re specific about what they’d find most valuable.

Stay tuned for in-depth analysis on each of these findings. If you can remember…

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The ‘Remind Me’ Generation

How digital amnesia is changing consumer behavior and impacting your business.


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Lynn Ridenour

About Lynn Ridenour

Lynn leads the solutions and channel marketing efforts for the Nuance Enterprise Division. She enjoys engaging with customers, learning about their businesses, listening closely to understand their challenges, and exploring how they are optimizing their customer care experiences. Lynn has spent more than 20 years working at the intersection of marketing and innovation. She’s a veteran of several venture-backed companies in the telecommunications, software, Internet and clean technology industries.