Rio Olympics: Why customers’ online experience depends on where they live

In the age of digital transformation, the Rio Olympics has offered a huge opportunity for the global community to connect and watch the Games in real time online.

However, research from Dyn, an internet support management company, has shown that the consumer experience while viewing the Games for supporters at home may drastically vary depending upon what part of the world they are in.

New Yorkers will experience a great connection to Rio at 216 milliseconds, but Sydney will experience a much slower connection at 453 milliseconds. Paul Heywood, managing director of Dyn, spoke to Business Reporter about the impact this variation can have on customer experience.

“As users, our tolerance for experience is very low these days,” he said. “The internet is a strange thing. It’s a relatively young system – four decades ago it didn’t exist. Now it’s a community of almost three and a half billion people. That’s three times the size of the population of Africa.

“It’s phenomenal growth but it’s still a very young system. In terms of having this access for something like Rio, thinking about poor experience over the internet or poor performance, the reality is that a lot of the rich content that we’ve come to expect when viewing major events or content newsfeed, the way we work today is that we expect to look for this very rich content.

“If people are looking at a relatively distorted picture and it’s slow, and they’re trying to view something in high definition, it’s a miserable performance, and they may not want to watch it anymore. The 100-metre final is over in just over nine seconds, so the performance is a big deal during those nine seconds!”

Cities such as Sydney and Tokyo are experiencing a significantly slower internet connection to Rio than New York and London, for example. Providers can make changes to improve the connection, according to Heywood.

“Companies need to get their content as close to their users as possible,” he said. “The way that is fundamentally changed is we used to live in a world from a digital perspective where users would connect from a central point – a central data centre, through application, whatever it is.

“Once they got there then the brand would look to manage that experience and concentrate on the flows that users would go through, pages and conversion rates and how to optimise that. But really they only started thinking about that once the customer got to that central point.

“Now the expectation and interconnectedness is so high that organisations have to have these widely distributed edges where they use things like cloud with technologies or software to say, ‘Where should I deploy my contacts? Where in the world should I spin up servers so I can ensure my content is as close as it can possibly be to my actual viewers rather than having to ask my viewers to come all the way to Rio?’”

Dyn’s research suggests companies must be in complete control of their internet assets to deliver a consistent, reliable connection and a good customer experience.

“The first thing you need to do when you’re thinking about internet infrastructure assets is you need to understand where they are right now,” Heywood said.

“You need to understand what your global footprint looks like from a digital perspective, understand your customer demographics and where your customers are, how they connect to you and you need to understand what is the current experience that I can deliver to those customers and is that acceptable.

“If it’s not acceptable in areas, then what can I do to expand my infrastructure with new technologies to make sure I improve that situation? So it’s about finding weaknesses and then deploying infrastructure in a way that brings everything up to the standard that defines everything as appropriate.”

A poor internet connection is also bad news for digital advertisers that wish to promote their products through the popular events. With connections a very real issue, it is likely that certain areas of the world will experience a large click-off rate on Olympics-related content that is not playing to a satisfactory standard.

Brands may be remembered for all the wrong reasons if they are heavily featured on poor-quality digital content surrounding the Olympics.

“Dyn does a lot of work with the advertising community, particularly in real-time bidding, where the speed of transaction is fundamentally essential and there’s been a lack of visibility for advertising transactions, over the last decade or so,” Heywood said.

“Failed ads or fraudulent bids within real-time bidding have been a real problem because there’s no real way of monitoring it and separating the good from the bad. I think advertisers are going to demand quality assurance because the reality is the digital advertising industry is only going to get bigger, therefore it’s only going to get more valuable as an advertising marketplace.

“But we also need to drive specificity and quality and I think that and speed are the most important things, which is entirely reliant on the internet and therefore the need for internet performance management solutions that give you that visibility.”

The Olympics have highlighted key differences in the speed and quality of internet connectivity around the globe. Increased expectations are making these disparities more unacceptable to consumers, and also damaging to advertisers’ campaigns.