6 trends that drive today’s consumers
Today, businesses know that they need to focus on constantly improving the experience they provide if they want to win and retain loyal customers. However, as well as looking at how they can deliver a better service across the customer journey and at specific touchpoints, it is important to look up and take a wider view. What are the high level trends in society that are driving today’s consumers and leading them to act the way that they do?
Thierry Spencer, Associate Director of the Service Academy has been working closely with Eptica, including speaking at its recent customer day. Here he outlines the six key societal trends that he sees for 2018.
1. Consumers want companies to look out for them
People today have a much greater knowledge of what is good for them and the wider environment. Consequently, they expect brands to provide them with products that safeguard their health – whether that is organic food, sugar free drinks or, increasingly, low or zero emission vehicles. Failure to deliver this, or even worse attempts to sidestep regulations (such as in the case of diesel emissions), can be both catastrophic to brand reputation and sales. Companies therefore need to build trust with consumers if they are to remain loyal.
What does this mean for customer experience? Brands need to be in tune with their customers’ needs, providing them with detailed information, such as about the ingredients in their products and the way that they operate. They need to show that they are looking out for their customers if they want to keep them for the long-term.
2. The world is accelerating
Today, speed is of the essence. Consumers are trying to do more and more – and have less and less time. The result? They aren’t willing to wait and demand everything faster, from deliveries to responses to their questions. This acceleration also brings stress to consumers as they try and juggle multiple activities at once. Brands need to understand this and do all they can to remove stress from the relationship, by valuing consumers’ time, making processes easy and giving them the fast service and responses they require.
3. We live in a mobile-first world
When the internet took off, most people accessed it on their PCs. That meant that while they could connect to huge amounts of information and interact with brands, family and friends in an unprecedented way, they were tethered to a computer, limiting when and how they could log on. The mobile revolution has completely changed this – most people are now happy to go online and interact with brands wherever they are through their smartphone. Therefore companies need to make sure that they have fully optimized their business for the mobile world – not just through fast-loading sites, but by exploring digital channels such as mobile chat to ensure they are fully available to customers 24x7.
4. The shift to subscription models
Spotify, Netflix and other streaming services have fundamentally changed how we interact with brands in many sectors. Rather than buying individual CDs or DVDs people pay a subscription fee, which they have the flexibility to cancel at short notice. This means that their experience has to be high quality not just up to the point of sale, but beyond it if you want to ensure that customers remain loyal. On the plus side, brands get the opportunity to analyze how customers interact with their service, but bear in mind that consumers expect this information to be used to improve their experience and choice moving forward.
5. Voice assistants are growing
Smart speakers and AI-powered digital assistants from the likes of Amazon, Google and Apple are becoming more and more common, while the technology within them is increasingly incorporated into many other products, from TVs to fridges and even cars. Brands need to understand how they can approach this new channel, optimizing the experience if they are to create an ongoing, two-way conversation with their customers.
6. Balancing humans and technology
There is currently a huge amount of interest in artificial intelligence, and the impact it will have on society. This is particularly true when it comes to customer experience. While automation can deliver real benefits in terms of efficiencies, multiple studies have shown that customers still want (and value) the human touch when it comes to more complex and involved conversations. Brands therefore need to strike a balance, using AI to augment existing communication channels and to improve the experience, rather than simply removing humans from the equation.
For their customer experience to truly match consumer needs, brands need to ensure that they understand what drives customer expectations and requirements. And that means taking a step back and reviewing the wider trends that underpin the world today.