When It Comes To Customer Expectations, One Size Does Not Fit All
Consumers today make significant demands of the brands they engage with. Contributor Katy Keim lays out survey results that explain just what they're looking for.
We’ve been talking a lot about extreme customer expectations this year, attempting to better understand what motivates consumers in today’s digital world.
What we know is that we’re currently living in the age of the customer. People have easy access to more information than ever before. Digital — and obviously, social — media have created a direct link between people and brands in ways that marketers could never have imagined even a few years ago, forcibly filling the space where traditional marketing once firmly held its own ground.
As a result, consumers expect all of their brand experiences to be seamless or, as I like to put it, “frictionless” — well-integrated, personally relevant, timely, and engaging.
The Frictionless Brand Experience Challenge
This shift in expectations has led to the rise of a much more savvy consumer. This has challenged marketers to be even savvier as well.
So, to crack the code on what makes today’s consumers tick, we (at Lithium, where I work) fielded a global survey with our friends at Harris Poll. We engaged thousands of participants from across the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Australia in questions that led us to insights about their online behaviors and preferences.
We asked questions like:
- How many sites do you visit online to do research before making a big purchase?
- Will you only call customer service for help or to answer questions as the last resort?
- Are you more receptive to recommendations from family and friends than marketing?
We even asked them, quite shamelessly, if they had to make the choice, would they rather give up good internet service for one month or withstand an entire month without good sex. (The difference in how men and women responded to that question is rather amusing!)
As with any research study, we thought we’d come out with a silver bullet that would potentially allow us to say, “We’ve unlocked the secret to customer expectations!”
Not As Simple As You Might Think
Unfortunately, that wasn’t how the data played out. (See the full white paper (free with registration) to get a closer look at the survey results.)
What seemed to be pretty consistent in all countries surveyed is a preference toward word-of-mouth recommendations from trusted sources before making big purchases.
It’s no surprise that today’s consumers are slowly becoming overwhelmed by brand messages. Especially given the fact that those messages are being hurled at them in every channel at rapid-fire speed.
As you might expect, the more over-saturated the marketing playing field gets, the less receptive consumers become to being told how to feel and think (by brands, that is). So, they are increasingly turning to the advice of family and friends to help them work through the decision-making process.
In fact, we saw in the research that over two-thirds of American, British, French, Australian and German adults (68%, 69%, 67%, 67% and 78% respectively) are more receptive to online recommendations on what to buy from family and friends versus online advertising.
That’s likely to be a trend that will only continue to grow.
But here’s the deal: while there are some interesting commonalities among consumers from around the world, as in the example above, we came to learn that people’s online behaviors and expectations are quite different from one country to another in some unexpected ways.
Even so, the consistent thread that seems to unite consumers across geographical and cultural borders is extreme expectations, even more pronounced in this era when the power of community is starting to trump the impact of brands at a dizzying pace.
So, it goes without saying that we, as brands, need to be much more cognizant of what our target audiences want and need from us. Otherwise, we will have a much harder time cutting through all the noise.
Ask yourself: Do you know what your customers really want? Feel free to post your response in the comments below