(credit image/Pixabay/Gerd Altmann)Salesforce has released the fourth edition of its State of the Connected Customer report. The research reveals that the string of crises has affected all facets of life. This includes a fundamental shift in how customers connect with brands. The report notes factors like empathy, personalisation, convenience, and digital transformation are the keys to customer relationships. As customers re-evaluate the role of business in society, the notion of stakeholder capitalism is increasingly factored into purchase decisions.

Shift to digital channels

(Credit image/LinkedIn/Vala Afshar)
Vala Afshar, Chief Digital Evangelist at Salesforce

According to Vala Afshar, Chief Digital Evangelist at Salesforce, “Regardless of who they market, sell, or provide service to. Businesses are navigating a landscape they couldn’t have imagined at the beginning of this year.

A massive shift to digital channels isn’t the only challenge that leaders have to grapple with. They also need to listen and respond to customer demands for empathy and understanding, innovative products and services, and a fundamental rethinking of the role of business in society. Connecting customers at various touchpoints — digital, human, or other — to gain a holistic understanding is the first step on the path to resiliency and growth.”

The global report captures insights from over 15,000 consumers and business buyers across 27 countries. This included 650 respondents from the United Kingdom, to help companies transform how they drive customer success. The research examines survey results across four generations of customers: baby boomers, Gen Xers, millennials, and Gen Zers.

New for this year, interactive data by country and generation is available in Tableau. The research highlights the key findings by COVID-19 impacts, consumers and business buyers.

The key trends revealed in this year’s State of the Connected Customer include:

Customer connections are essential amid crises

The events of this year have upended the relationships between customers and brands. During a time when uncertainty and confusion reign, brands have an opportunity to reinforce and rebuild trust with new and loyal customers alike. In the UK, 89% of customers say how a company acts during a crisis demonstrates its trustworthiness.

Understanding and convenience drive differentiation

As each individual navigates change and uncertainty, empathy for and support of customers’ unique needs, expectations, and challenges are critical. Businesses need to provide a convenient, connected experience that eliminates unnecessary burdens in a stressful time. Fifty-six per cent of British customers say it generally feels like sales, service, and marketing don’t share information.

The digital imperative hits its Moment of Truth

Digital-first behaviour is here to stay as customers develop new habits that will last for the long term. As digital engagement grows, customers expect companies to digitise their operations for multichannel, high-touch interactions. This relies on the use of personal information, and customers are calling for enhanced transparency and stewardship. In the UK, sixty-six per cent of customers say that COVID-19 has elevated their expectation of digital capabilities.

Customers demand that brands demonstrate their values

Long-overdue reckonings with social, economic, and ecological ills have come to the fore. The report says society is calling on businesses to do their part in righting wrongs. A failure to heed responsibilities to more than shareholders threatens bottom lines. Eighty-three per cent of British customers say the societal role of companies is changing.

Customers navigate products, services, and experiences from a variety of industries throughout their day-to-day lives. People move between the personal and professional, digital and physical, essential and supplementary. As they do this, their standards are being constantly influenced, with distinctions between sectors often blurred in their minds.

Research Methodology

Data in the State of Connected Customer report is from a double-blind study of 12,000 consumers and 3,600 business buyers. Respondents came from North America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia Pacific. Data was collected between July 16 and August 18, 2020. All respondents are third-party panelists. Countries surveyed include Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Singapore, S. Africa, S. Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, UAE, the UK, and the US.

Enterprise Times: What this means for business

Businesses, irrespective of size, sector and maturity have had to reinvent themselves during the Coronavirus pandemic. They have had to adopt social distancing and remote working for their staff. Retailers and merchants embrace kerbsite pickup or click and collect. Many enterprises have had to upend their traditional business models through the rapid adoption and integration of technology. Key to this change will be the relationship between customers and business. The report describes a radically, rapidly and permanently altered dynamic between customers and companies driven by digital transformation. This includes trust and values as impacted by ongoing health, economic and social crises.

Companies seeking to differentiate themselves are wise to look beyond their immediate competition. They now have to evaluate how their capabilities stack up against other industries. Globally, 62% of consumers say their experiences with one industry influence their expectations of others. As the report notes, digital engagement hit a tipping point this year, overtaking in-person interactions as the dominant way customers do business. Additionally, customers expect their shopping, meetings and customer service interactions to lean digital in 2021.

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