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Top snapshots from the Connected Customer report [Salesforce]

The world is adapting and reshaping, and any sales challenges should create opportunities. Ingenuity and innovation, listening to the connected customer at this critical time and pivoting to meet their expectations will separate resilient and strong businesses from those that struggle to adapt.

In light of ongoing economic, health, leadership, social justice, and climate crises, we want to introduce the report that provides a snapshot of a world in flux. And like always, you can read the whole State of the Connected Customer’s report from Salesforce here.

Customer connections are crucial

The customer experience continues to be a critical competitive differentiator. Flawless engagement is as essential as product quality for four out of five customers. 

Furthermore, 83% of millennials and 85% of business buyers agree that customer experience is crucial for B2B and B2C companies alike. Customer experiences earn companies more than sales – they build relationships.

source:  State of the Connected Customer’s report from Salesforce

Additionally, while 54% of customers believe companies should offer new products and services in response to COVID-19, there’re customers (significantly less than the 69%) who want companies to offer digital versions of in-person experiences.

source:  State of the Connected Customer’s report from Salesforce

There are numerous ways businesses can change their operations, engage with society, and contribute to society. In terms of everything from how they treat the environment to the support and service they provide to the nature of their business models, the majority see significant or moderate room for improvement. 

Above all other imperatives, trust is the fundamental building block of relationships.

source:  State of the Connected Customer’s report from Salesforce

These days, customers don’t just value trust in their relationships with brands. They also set higher standards for earning that trust. Most people trust companies to be honest and to act in their customers’ interests. On the other hand a significant minority has their doubts. 

In general, baby boomers are the most skeptical generation when it comes to corporate actions and motivations. Although Gen Z customers are slightly more likely to doubt a company’s honesty than baby boomers. In contrast, millennials are the most trusting generation.

source:  State of the Connected Customer’s report from Salesforce

Convenience and understanding are what drive differentiation

Relationships between customers and companies must be nurtured to achieve their full potential. For example, 91% of customers say they’re more likely to make another purchase after an excellent service experience. 

However, service experiences that are personalized, seamless, and quick are accessible in theory but hard to deliver in practice.

Personalization has become so ubiquitous that customers now expect nothing less from all their interactions. Every customer is navigating their own set of uncharted and evolving circumstances, so personalization is part of something much bigger: holistic understanding and, ultimately, empathy. 

source:  State of the Connected Customer’s report from Salesforce

Even brands with sterling reputations can fail if they make it difficult to do business. As digital natives’ purchasing power increases, convenience is also changing. 

Millennials prioritize comfort over the brand, but this is especially true for Gen Z. Thus, they are experimenting with both established and emerging ways to simplify purchases. More and more customers are using self-service account portals, popularized by retail banks. 

Also gaining traction are cutting-edge offerings powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and automation.

source:  State of the Connected Customer’s report from Salesforce

It’s the digital moment

The average customer uses nine channels to browse inventory, ask for advice, and make purchases. More millennials use channels than any other generation, including Gen Z. Email, phone, and in-person interactions remain top favorites, while online chat and mobile apps come in fifth. 

The popularity of messenger apps like WhatsApp and social media increased in 2020. This year, text/SMS and video chat made their debut on the list of customers’ 10 most preferred channels.

source:  State of the Connected Customer’s report from Salesforce

People are spending more and more time online. This year, digital engagement has reached a tipping point, with an estimated 60% of online interactions, compared to 42% last year. The trend is likely to continue beyond the pandemic. 

More than half of consumers expect to do more online shopping after the pandemic, and 80% of business buyers expect to conduct more business online. The fact that consumers and business buyers alike spend more time at home and in their living rooms and less time in stores and offices has accelerated the pace of digital transformation. 

source:  State of the Connected Customer’s report from Salesforce

AI is gradually becoming more and more recognized and understood in everyday life. In general, 60% of customers are open to using AI in customer engagement, including 66% of millennials. However, nearly half (48%) of customers do not trust companies to use AI ethically, and 54% are concerned about its potential bias. 

source:  State of the Connected Customer’s report from Salesforce

More consumers recognized the benefits of sharing personal information in 2019, but nearly two-thirds view its uses as opaque. In addition, the share of consumers who feel they have lost control over their personal information has grown dramatically in just one year. 

Despite the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), among other privacy laws, having been in place for two years, this continues.

source:  State of the Connected Customer’s report from Salesforce

Demonstrating values by brands

As digital transformation changes customers’ behaviors and preferences, it is not the only factor affecting their purchasing decisions. Reputations are shaped by e.g. employee treatment, racial and economic injustices, community involvement, and climate change as an existential threat. 

Essentially, companies are being held to a higher standard, in areas largely ignored by boardrooms. Many may assume these sentiments are confined to younger generations, but they are shared by all ages.

source:  State of the Connected Customer’s report from Salesforce

As a result, the rising calls for businesses to stand for more than their financial interests are also a call for action. Customers expect companies to clearly state their values, and 90% expect them to demonstrate those values. 

source:  State of the Connected Customer’s report from Salesforce

Over to you

We have experienced dramatic changes in our professional and personal lives, from how we interact with one another to how we get around to where we work. Our day-to-day experiences look very different from those at the dawn of 2020. Customer-brand relationships are not immune to this tidal wave of change.

Each day, consumers interact with a variety of products, services, and experiences from a variety of industries, crisscrossing between the personal and professional, digital and physical, essential and supplementary. 

As a result, their standards are constantly influenced, and we need to remember that and adjust our business to them.

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