Experience Evolution What brands need to do to meet changing consumer expectations
Nearly 18 months on from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, UK consumer behaviour and expectations continue to be impacted. For the second year running, our 2021 Future of Experience Survey shows certain consumer preferences have intensified and others have slowed. While some consumers accepted COVID-19 as an excuse for poor experiences, expectations in the post-pandemic world will be more demanding. In the 'new normal' businesses need to refocus their way of engaging with customer to respond to their changing expectations and needs. In this report we highlight key customer experience trends and examine online brand experiences as a new generation of purpose-driven consumers are changing their purchasing habits. We also explore how marketers can address consumers’ growing distrust in sharing personal data. Below are some of the key themes that emerged from Deloitte Digital’s 2021 Future of Experience Survey.
Online experiences are falling short of consumer expectations The transformation from offline to online presence was propelled to a new level in 2020 and 2021 with global e-commerce growth reaching 16-19 per cent. The shift from physical to virtual impacted nearly everyone’s life – from online banking to telemedicine and food subscription services. However, according to our latest survey, a quarter of respondents say that online service experiences have not been adequate for their needs during lockdown. In addition, one-third of respondents believe the online service experience is still not good enough. When it comes to digital experiences, there is scope for brands to do better. Getting the online customer experience right will differ by industry, customer needs and current capabilities. But it does not need to be complex. Below we have outlined key enablers businesses can use to design experiences for customers that will not leave them frustrated, or worse, looking elsewhere. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements around ways the COVID-19 pandemic may have impacted on your expectations when it comes to customer experience? Source: Future Customer Experience Table stakes Organisations need to test and analyse their online experiences repeatedly to ensure they consistently deliver on their core promises at scale. For example, at the start of the first lockdown grocery companies had no choice but to ensure their online check-out processes met customers’ needs.
Key enablers Consistent performance No process breaks Layman language Intuitive navigation Dynamic search
Brilliant basics The best experiences are intuitive and make the customer’s job easier, wherever they’re located. Whether it’s paying a bill, signing up for service, ’trailing’ a product or providing feedback, brands need to evaluate how easy and convenient it is. For example, Monzo and Starling simplified banking sign up and verification utilising straightforward mobile functionality.
Key enablers Most of mobile functionality (mobile payments, ID scans, selfie verifications) Cross-device fluidity User generated content Data driven advertisements Feedback loops
Looking ahead Forward looking organisations are utilising innovative technology to make key moments with loyal customers even more impactful. For example, Quay Australia set up virtual events, such as online cocktail parties on TikTok, focused on more 1:1 video communication with customers and recently added a virtual try-on tool.
Key enablers Blending online and offline experiences through augmented reality Gamification Predictive tailored services
Following the pandemic people will continue to shop and interact with brands online: two in five consumers agree they are more likely to spend money at a business that makes it easy to interact with online. Whether they stay loyal to their usual brands will depend on the online experience offered.
The rise of the purpose-driven consumer Socially conscious consumers continue to make themselves heard. In addition to considering factors such as convenience and price, consumers are willing to spend more money on brands that share their values – sustainability, equity, wellbeing. Our 2021 Future of Experience Survey shows a spike in the number of consumers seeking value-driven organisations whose words and actions have a positive impact on their people, on society and the planet. Supporting local businesses: As lockdown restrictions ease, consumers continue showing a strong preference for local and small businesses. Three in five consumers say they are more likely to spend money at a business local to their area, while a further 61 per cent say they are more likely to spend on locally sourced goods. Prioritising the safety and wellbeing of employees: The past 12 months have shown that shoppers are more likely to favour of brands in their purchasing decisions that are perceived to have ensured employee wellbeing during the pandemic. 54 per cent of consumers say that they are more likely to spend money with companies who have taken extra steps to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their employees. Moreover, a third of consumers stopped using a particular company as they failed to ensure the safety of their employees and customers during the pandemic. Sustainability in mind: One in three British adults say they consider their carbon footprint when buying a product and this increases to 36 per cent among 18-24-year olds. Furthermore, according to Deloitte’s Sustainable Consumer Survey, a third of respondents have chosen brands over the past year based on their ethical practices and values. What does this mean for experience? The pandemic highlighted the importance consumers attribute to an organisation’s values. One in two consumers (52 per cent) indicated that they stopped using a particular company during COVID-19 primarily for the way they treated their staff (49 per cent). Companies need to ensure their marketing practices and communications are aligned to their customers’ values. Here are some key considerations for brands:
Marketing can’t address customer values in isolation
A truly purpose-driven enterprise uses its values in decision-making across all business areas, extending beyond marketing and public relations. A brand’s values and purpose need to be agreed at the executive level and applied across all functions. A company’s purpose needs to be reflected in how the Finance function determines how profit and growth are achieved, how its products are made (Supply Chain), how it reaches its customers (Marketing), through to what, where and how it hires staff (Human Resources). An even more holistic approach to purpose demands a broader alignment of values and commitments to all stakeholders – employees, suppliers, local communities and the planet. Such an approach not only focuses attention on the brand but it also impacts consumer action. It is important to remember that purpose-driven consumers are looking for an emotional connection with an authentic brand, not false marketing messages.
Share quality content with intent
Brands need to evaluate how they can genuinely communicate their efforts through owned, earned and paid content that exhibits purpose and creates an authentic and personal connection with customers. Two in five consumers have opted out of marketing communications over the past year, with the majority citing that they received too many and that the content was no longer relevant. Empty mission and purpose statements can do more harm to brands as consumers are growing more sceptical. Thus, it’s essential to live up to the purpose brands communicate to their consumer base, while keeping a finger on the pulse of consumer preferences and behaviours to determine appropriate amount and format of interaction. An industry leader in this space is Patagonia. Their editorial web content is regularly refreshed akin to a magazine feed while being focused on topics that resonate with their customers.
Make it easy for consumers to find product information
Brands need to demonstrate that their products reflect their values by surfacing relevant information at key stages of a consumers online experience. Ikea includes an option to filter their products based on “more sustainable material” and, similarly, Allbirds includes details on where the product material was made and sourced from. Retail brands have also shared information on carbon footprint associated with different shipping options. Having the right Product Information Management infrastructure to track and surface this data is key enabler to do this at scale. CIOs and CMOs need to work together on how to capture this information, where to store it and how it can be used by Marketing Technology to improve customer experience.
To which extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement: 'Once lockdown has eased (April 12th) I am more likely to spend at a business that...' Source: Future Customer Experience
Case studies
DAYZN uses a strategic collaboration and campaign with UEFA Women’s Champion to ensure women’s and men’s sport is viewed equally. Read More UK media agencies use IPA’s Media Climate Charter, a tool designed to help marketers measure and reduce the carbon impact of their media plans. Read More Patagonia’s focus on brand purpose is applied across all areas of its business. Read More
You'll find more perspectives on how organisations can deliver greater human connections and experiences with customers here
Brands need to do better to understand their customer preferences Consumers remain sceptical about how companies use their data. According to our 2021 Future of Experience Survey, more than half (52 per cent) of respondents are not comfortable with companies using their online purchasing and browsing history to offer more relevant products. Meanwhile, 44 per cent have used the pandemic to opt out of marketing communications claiming they get too many communications (65 per cent) that are not relevant or useful to them (30 per cent). This raises the question [yet one more time] of whether ‘personalisation’ has failed. The answer is, naturally, more nuanced than the survey responses suggest. The survey results indicate a significant difference in attitudes between younger and older demographics. As a result, businesses need to develop a personalised approach to how they engage with customers not only from an experience perspective, but from a data collection and privacy perspective as well. Below are a number of measures we believe businesses could adopt.
Put the customer in control
Consumer trust in organisations use of their data is at an all-time low. Therefore, integrating controls and preferences as feedback loops into customer experiences can help build trust with customers over what data is being used and what is being sent in return. StitchFix uses an interactive sign-up quiz allowing them to get to know the customer and provide relevant recommendations from the start. Customers are then able to provide detailed feedback on StickFix’s recommendations to improve their next ’fix’. According to our survey, 55 per cent of 18-24-year-olds and 41 per cent of 25-34-year-olds are happy to fill in quizzes and surveys for more personalised experiences.
Provide value back in exchange for data
In a previous Deloitte Future of Experience survey, 39 per cent of respondents did not find the products that brands recommend online useful. One of its key findings was that too often personalisation had become intrusive by retargeting ads or fairly basic product recommendations. Personalisation is about making every experience relevant and useful to the customer. Therefore, businesses should use data to help customers save money, find the right product or service or generally have a better experience when interacting with them. Grocers, such as Sainsbury’s, have been using customer transaction data for years to deliver highly relevant offers and rewards. It has been a successful and trusted strategy because there is a clear agreement with the customer in exchange for their data.
Make personalisation seamless
Personalisation should largely go unnoticed by embedding it within the customer’s experience. Netflix, for example, personalises every title for every film to the individual user based on their viewing and browsing habits, creating 33 million different versions of Netflix. For the viewer this is very subtle and it helps them select the best content based on their preferences. Therefore, businesses need to consider the customer journey and identify where a personalised intervention can not only be useful for the customer but can help meet their strategic business objectives as well.
Human interactions still matter
Our research shows that online chats with a real person are favoured by most when it comes to online support. Eighty per cent of customers ranked it in their top three, closely followed by phone support (69 per cent). Brands should ensure marketing, sales and service teams are all aligned when it comes to how and when to introduce human experiences in this virtual world to deliver maximum impact. The ability of a customer to ask someone a question or receive a sympathetic response while solving a problem is invaluable.
Test, learn and adapt
The most successful organisations are continually testing personalisation approaches to understand what works and what does not. In determining whether an approach is successful, businesses also need to understand its impact on different customer groups and adapt the experience based on this analysis. While working with our clients has shown that personalisation has a significant impact for most consumers, there are some segments that respond better to a default experience. Therefore, it is important for businesses to ensure that they are balancing a good user experience with personalisation with the need for a default experience for some customers.
Balance historical and contextual data
Businesses are often very good at either using historical data to predict customer behaviour or using real-time browsing behaviour to identify complementary products to recommend. However, neither is a perfect approach. In the analogue world, a personal shopper would combine their understanding of the customer from past interactions with the customer’s current needs. Therefore, in the digital world, the best organisations achieve a balance between predicting customer behaviour and adapting those predictions based on the real-time context.
In summary, organisations need to be able to adapt how much data is used, where and how they use it based on the customer’s explicit (comes from customers via feedback functionality) or implicit feedback (comes from analysis of website statistics).
of British consumers are not comfortable with companies using their browsing data to offer more relevant products. However, younger people may be more willing to answer additional questions if they know it will lead to a more personalised product or service. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement: 'I am comfortable when companies ask me to complete a quiz to offer me personalised products' Source: Future Customer Experience
Get In Touch About the methodology: These findings are based on a consumer survey carried out by independent market research agency, YouGov, on Deloitte’s behalf. This survey was conducted online with a nationally representative sample of more than 3,000 UK adults aged 18+ between 1 and 8 April 2021. Authors
Ramya Chari Senior Manager
Richard Horton Head of Consulting Insights
Will Pickard Senior Manager
Anastasiia Polner Research assistant manager