At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, your customers' expectations have substantially changed from just five years ago. The change may have felt gradual, but if you compare 2010 figures directly with 2015, it becomes very apparent how much consumer behavior has changed in a relatively short period of time.
Think about how long you are willing to wait for an item you've ordered online, or whether you're even willing to pay for shipping. Thanks to Amazon's Prime service, two‑day shipping has become the norm for frequent online shoppers, and the retail giant continues to elevate expectations by delivering next‑day or same‑day without additional charge for certain items. Five years ago, many of us used a GPS as our primary navigation device; now we count on Waze, Google Maps or our phone's GPS feature to show us the way – be it in the car, by subway, on foot or by bike. In other words, 2010's customer experience innovations are 2015's table stakes. You know this because you are today's consumer.
It has become urgent for marketers to respond to consumers' elevated expectations by assessing the profound impact of these expectations on customers' perceptions and decisions. Marketing strategies and tactics will vary by brand and product; however, according to David Chang, Cognizant's global vice‑president of agency services, there are also some universal expectations that cut across markets and customer segments. Here are the top three:
"You should know me by now."
As a customer, there is no worse feeling than having your loyalty taken for granted or, even worse, being completely unrecognized. Along with their expectations for personalized service and a superior experience, consumers are increasingly willing to share personal data and their location in exchange for greater convenience and better deals. Uber, and the numerous service companies emerging with a similar business model (marked by location‑awareness, mobility, social networking, existing assets, stored credit card information and superior service), are great examples of this. Further, airlines and hotels have been elevating customer expectations around loyalty perks for years, making frequent travelers feel entitled to shorter lines and free upgrades. Netflix recommends entertainment based on our stated preferences and viewing history – again, offering value in exchange for personal information.
" I need instant gratification."
As consumers, we've become impatient. Over the past 20 years, with the spread of the Internet and the mobile Web, consumers have become accustomed to immediate access to information. In the past several years, the expectation for immediate gratification has spread to products and services, spanning the digital and the physical. From timely and location‑based deals (through the use of beacon technology, for example), to streaming Netflix entertainment on any device, to Amazon's same-day delivery, to a car service that's two minutes away, ready to whisk you to your destination – today's consumer hates waiting.
"I'm bored. Entertain me."
Now that the consumer is in control, it has become challenging to create brand and product awareness. Today's consumers have a highly tuned "bull meter" and are not willing to sit through anything less than captivating. They will happily watch advertising, but only if it's engaging. For example, BlendTec's highly successful videos have garnered over 263 million views, and its YouTube channel boasts over 824,000 subscribers. Newcastle's online spot featuring Anna Kendrick generated a billion media impressions and became the most talked‑about ad following the 2014 Super Bowl despite the fact it didn't air on TV.
Some marketers might be reading this and thinking, "Tell me something I don't already know." But the real test is whether your business's customer experience meets the elevated expectations of today's consumer.