The key to meeting and exceeding customer expectations

New research has unveiled that building brand trust, creating hybrid shopping experiences, and delivering personalisation at scale, are the key to meeting customer expectations.

This is according to Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer Report ANZ, which was released in partnership with the Australia Retailers Association (ARA) and revealed that 61 per cent of customers have switched brands at least once over the last year.

The report, which surveyed 16,936 consumers and business buyers from 29 countries including 654 from across ANZ, analyses how, and to what extent, customer expectations and behaviours have shifted amid the global pandemic and the new digital-first customer engagement landscape.

The research found 42 per cent of customers have switched brands in the last year seeking out better customer service, with 51 per cent stating that it feels like sales, service, and marketing departments don’t share information with one another. It reveals brands are under pressure to stitch together online and offline customer interactions, with 79 per cent of respondents more loyal to companies that provide consistent interactions across an organisation.

Jo Gaines, Area Vice President for Retail and Consumer Goods, Salesforce said that customers are reassessing established brand loyalties as their priorities and behaviours shift.

“At a time when it’s never been easier for customers to switch brands and loyalty proves elusive, retailers need to focus on creating great experiences across digital and physical and appreciate their customers recency and history with their brand.

“While customers have a decidedly digital-first mindset now more than ever, they expect retailers to know them, understand them and provide a humanised, thoughtful, and personal touch from providing personalised offers to recommendations based on their previous purchases. Those retailers who don’t create these experiences run the risk of damaging hard-won relationships.”

She said that as more shoppers seek out completely connected experiences across in-person and offline, retailers need to create moments and interactions that stitch together all elements of their brand.

“It’s never been more important to do in order to earn, build and maintain customer trust.

“We’re also now in the age of the conscious consumer, and shoppers are increasingly shifting to more values-driven brands that align with the issues that matter to them such as climate change. While people want brands that are clear about their values and stand up for them, they don’t want to pay much more for it.”

The report found that customers are adopting a digital-first mindset and are increasingly shifting their preferred experiences with brands to online channels. In the next three years customers expect to use more augmented reality (50 per cent), video appointments (55 per cent), virtual experiences (53 per cent), and social media to shop (50 per cent). Additionally, to meet their unique needs and preferences, 57 per cent of customers say they’re open to businesses using artificial intelligence to improve their experiences.

As customers navigate a rapidly changing world, trust is increasingly impacting their relationships with businesses. In ANZ, 90 per cent of customers believe trust in companies becomes more important in times of change, however 71 per cent lose that trust when there are inconsistencies across multiple touch points in an organisation. Furthermore, 48 per cent lose trust when they receive communications from brands that don’t match their interests.

Brands are under pressure to stitch together online and offline interactions into personalised experiences. The report found that 51 per cent of customers are willing to share their personal information with a company in exchange for personalised offers or discounts, with 41 per cent expecting offers from companies to always be personalised. Meanwhile, 48 per cent say personalised rewards would increase their use of loyalty programs.

According to Paul Zahra, CEO, ARA, customers are now more impatient than ever before, and if they don’t have a positive experience when they enter your store or go on your website, they’re very quick to move on and search out rival brands and products.

“This research is an important reminder for businesses on the importance of knowing your customers – what products they like, the communication channels they prefer and the personalised offers that work best.

“More and more Australians are purchasing the things they need with a few taps of their fingers and people now expect the best of in-store experiences to be delivered online and vice versa. Social media is also playing a greater role as part of the integrated online shopping experience, which means investments in the digital and innovation space are incredibly important for businesses if they want to remain relevant.

“Consumers are becoming more values driven and are shopping with brands that reflect their social and environmental concerns, so issues like sustainability and climate action are growing in importance for businesses in terms of strengthening their customer relationships. The debate over climate change is over, and it’s not ‘if’ but ‘how’ and ‘when’ businesses can meet their sustainability targets,” he says.

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