Customer experiences can power a brand’s competitive difference, drive customer acquisition and engagement, and boost retention. With COVID-19, the importance of the customer experience is more important than ever. But what do today’s consumers now expect? And are brands delivering?
Brands and consumers have had to quickly adapt to a digital-first reality. Consumers are engaging and purchasing more online. Brands are responding to this new online reality by providing more sophisticated digital experiences.
Research was recently conducted by Acquia to better understand the types of experiences today’s consumers are seeking. According to their survey of more than 8,000 global consumers, 74% of respondents said their digital experience with brands has changed the start of the pandemic.
Brands are trying to adapt and keep up with consumers, so this experience will continue to evolve for some time as the economy and new landscape remain in flux. The shopping habits of consumers have changed in the past year. In addition to more online shopping and less in-store visits, people are trying new brands and new services.
- 73% of U.S. consumers have changed stores, brands or the way they shop. (McKinsey)
- 25% of consumers have tried a new private-label brand. (McKinsey)
- Of consumers who have tried different brands, 73% intend to continue using those new brands. (McKinsey)
- 21% of U.S. consumers are researching brand and product choices before buying. (McKinsey)
- During the pandemic, 79% of consumers have bought groceries online, a jump from 19% a year ago. (Inmar Intelligence)
- 78% of consumers have made a change in where they shop for food. (FMI)
- 41% of consumers are delaying making large purchases. (Deloitte)
In Acquia’s research, 40% of consumers reported buying more online than they did before and 24% of respondents reported purchasing from a larger variety of brands than they have in the past.
Consumers are also using online more and using more types of channels than they have in the past. According to the study, consumers have increased usage of the following areas:
- 45% – Social media
- 44% – Video streaming
- 42% – Email
- 42% – Mobile video chat
How Marketers Are Responding
With consumers changing the way they shop and engage with brands, marketers were forced overnight to accelerate their digital transformation. With such a rapid onset of new ways of engaging with consumers, 97% of marketers cited challenges with technology and processes designed to support digital transformation.
The top 3 challenges marketers identified were:
- 46% – Adopting new marketing solutions
- 41% – Getting existing marketing solutions to integrate with new ones
- 41% – Creating new content for customer engagement
Brands also reported implementing new marketing or CX tools over the past 12 months with 82% of respondents reporting that their organization’s ROI on marketing technology improved in 2020. This adoption of new tool sets is expected to continue with 77% of marketers anticipating their department’s budget to increase in the next year.
Marketers expected to invest in the following areas:
- 63% – Marketing automation platforms
- 54% – Customer data platforms
- 44% – AI and machine learning
- 43% – Personalization
- 35% – Content management systems
Delivering on the Customer Experience
Who in the company is driving CX strategies? For just over half of brands (52%), the CMO is primarily responsible for driving customer experience. The Chief Digital Officer or Chief Information Officer lead just a portion of strategies at 14% and 13% respectively.
While driving CX starts with the leadership, implementing strategies has left many businesses with a skills gap. 43% of companies are in need of data analysts and data scientists and 40% lack machine learning engineers.
The focus on customer experience is largely concentrated around personalization efforts. 96% of marketers reported they have seen improvements with customer engagement due to personalization initiatives. Half of brands saw increased engagement with their branding and 41% saw more repeat purchases.
At V12, many of our clients have turned to our marketing data and technologies to help accelerate their transformation and overall CX strategies. While there are many commonalities, we have seen the emergence of themes specific to industries:
All in all, how well a brand adapts to the now new normal will have a lasting impact on consumers. In fact, according to Deloitte, 39% of consumers say they will purchase more in the future from brands that responded well to the crisis. With shopping patterns and behaviors continuing to evolve, the time to get your CX in order is now to order to retain customers before they defect to another brand and to attract new consumers who are willing to engage and try new products and services.
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