By Mpho Hlefana, Group Marketing Manager at Decision Inc.
Accenture surveyed more than 25,000 customers across 22 countries and found consumers have changed their buying habits and preferences, altering the power dynamic between brands and people completely. The research didn’t find these changes within a specific demographic or age group, in fact they’re a heterogenous group that expects more from brands when it comes to values, cost, convenience, service, reputation and trust. Consumer attitudes have been fundamentally reshaped by the pandemic, and will likely continue to evolve in fresh directions that will equally reshape how companies engage with them. Those that do not evolve, will not survive.
Dealing with consumers has become more complex primarily because of expectations. The power dynamic that long rested in the hands of the mighty business has now landed in those of the consumer. They have more choice, they have access to more information, they want better pricing and service, and they want personalisation. Thanks to exposure to global brands and standards, customers expect fair pricing and good service – and they will leave brands they’ve been loyal to for years to get what they want, at a better rate.
Customers also expect businesses to know them better. To be able to almost identify their needs pre-emptively with interactions and engagements that connect with them on a highly personalised level. Brands need to be serving up ads and content from the moment a customer starts surfing for a product or service, and they need to ensure that these are relevant and customised. They also expect that their experiences with a business will be uniform across every channel and touchpoint – regardless of whether this is instore or via a digital channel. Customers are more connected now than ever before and they’re influenced by more than just adverts and content, they’re equally influenced by their peers, influencers, social media and global opinion. Purchasing decisions are powerfully impacted by the people that customers identify with, but equally by how products and services recognise customer individuality and uniqueness.
These shifting dynamics and requirements are putting organisations under immense pressure. They have to do more, go further, and reinvent old wheels so that they always feel fresh and relevant. They have to invest more time into understanding how to compete globally while still remaining locally engaging, and they have to stay top of customer mind all the time. Especially the minds of those who are perceived as influential. From a business to business perspective (B2B), this may mean having a customer advocate or working with ordinary people who have large online followings to promote their brands.
Companies are also increasingly turning to data as a way of navigating these complexities. They’ve recognised the importance of analytics and data insights in helping them to make decisions that are comprehensively relevant to their business and their customers. And they want to effectively use the data available to their business so they can make faster and more accurate decisions. The value of this data-driven mindset is not just that it offers the business vivid insights that can transform decision making and customer engagement, but that it’s accessible to organisations of all sizes.
Companies that don’t have the resources and scale can use data to gain a competitive edge. By listening to their customers, they can remain competitive and alert to further change. And if they focus on using the data alongside influencers and toolsets designed to drive hyper-personalisation and engagement, then they can effectively compete in a crowded market. Dealing with empowered customers is extremely challenging given the rapid pace at which consumer needs change, so packing the toolbox with all the right equipment is essential for any business of any size. It may seem overwhelming, but if companies use the data at their disposal and respond with more informed reactions and engagements, then they are setting themselves on the right path to success.
Mpho Hlefana is the Group Marketing Manager at Decision Inc. She is responsible for building and strengthening Decision Inc.’s brand, supporting growth strategies, cultivating opportunities in new and existing markets, and increasing demand for Decision Inc. globally.