As marketers, we’re constantly being told that younger generations are more demanding when it comes to how they experience their favourite brands. As digital-natives, they’ve become so desensitised to the banal and monotonous experiences churned out and blared in front of their faces on a daily basis, that only the most consistent, emotive, and transparent brand experiences are likely to encourage them to loosen their purse strings.
Yet how do their perceptions of technology and brand experiences differ from those with those with, ironically, more experience themselves? Do older consumers really prefer human interaction above anything else, shrinking away from anything vaguely resembling a screen? And how can technology be used to complement and create memorable and lasting experiences, regardless of your age?
Across different regions and age groups, Adobe’s Experience Index: Consumer Experience Expectations Survey provides a fascinating snapshot in the habits, preferences, and perceptions of consumers. Results were measured against four tenets of the consumer experience; know me and respect me, delight me at every turn, make technology transparent, and speak in one voice. Here are some of the key takeaways.
- Shoppers will ditch a brand following a bad experience
From the research, it’s clear that the consumer experience in Europe has been found wanting. Following a bad experience, one in three consumers from France and the UK say they’ll never buy from a company again.
Consumers cite an overcomplicated or time-consuming purchase process as their biggest turn off, with shoppers from France (50%), the UK (43%), and Germany (41%) also likely to abandon their online shopping cart following a negative experience.
These frustrations are likely to manifest themselves even further as people spread the word, with over a third (36%) of people across the UK, France, and Germany likely to discuss a poor brand experience with friends or family.
So, what‘s turning consumers off their favourite brands? According to the research, above all else, consumers want their services to be highly personalised, with over two-thirds of shoppers across France, Germany, and the UK demanding a personal service, regardless of whether it’s online or in-store.
However, there’s a worrying disconnect between what consumers expect and what they’re actually experiencing: they rate their average consumer experience a concerning 50% in France and Germany, and 54% in the UK. Their biggest gripes include complicated websites, lack of open communication, and failure to satisfy returns policies.
- Real-life experiences spark most delight, while customer service and anticipation of information must improve
Those brands creating immersive and emotive experiences in real life, delighting consumers at every turn, are undoubtedly those who will survive and thrive over the coming years.
The most positive experiences that are wowing and delighting consumers include museum apps that use augmented reality during tours, loyalty programmes that proactively send out test products to valued customers, and home retailer apps that use voice activation technology to help shoppers locate items quickly and easily in-store.
From these examples, it’s clear an ‘experience’ can’t just be defined by a positive face-to-face interaction with an employee (although this is important), but is instead driven by a rich and layered understanding of the customer, unlocked and enhanced by the power of technology and data.
And speaking of customer service, across all regions and industries surveyed, customer service and anticipation of information consistently rank as the most-maligned experiences that consumers encounter.
Also, the most highly-criticised industry for customer service and anticipation of information is media and entertainment, with France being the most damming, rating customer service at 49% and anticipation of information at 45%. The biggest pain points for customers include hidden fees from online services, slow-loading content, and poor personalised suggestions.
- People are less awed by technology developments, encouraging brands to continually innovate
As future innovations inch closer to reality, people are less impressed with technological advancements than they were a year ago. Just look at supermarket chain Sainsbury’s, who opened the UK’s first till-free store in London earlier this month, with shoppers relying exclusively on their smartphone to scan, track, and pay for their items. Smart stores experienced the most notable drop in excitement, with its ‘impressed’ score dropping by an average of 6.3% across Germany, the UK, and France.
Other innovative experiences that have decreased in their ability to dazzle consumers include smart prescription bottles, synced vehicles touch screens at drive-throughs, and automated interactions with governments.
While it’s understandable that the closer innovations come to reality, the less they’d impress people, it does encourage brands to keep pursuing creative and inventive ways to improve their consumer experience. And just because these experiences are less impressive than a year ago, it doesn’t mean they’re not successful. Sales of smart pill boxes and bottles are expected to surge to around 800,000 during 2019, while Deloitte predicts automation of administrative and operative tasks (including public interactions) could save the UK Government $17 billion by 2030.
- Older consumers crave human interaction, but attitude towards technology is mixed
It should come as no surprise that older consumers prefer their brand experiences to be guided by face-to-face communication, rather than by a computer – regardless of region. After all, the majority of their experiences have been defined by human interaction, and the prospect of relying on a faceless machine to guide their digital journey can prove a far from appealing prospect.
However, while younger people in the UK recognise the importance technology will play in improving our lives (with 74% in agreement), in Germany, it’s actually those aged 65 and over who are most inclined to celebrate the potential of technological innovation (67% compared to 56% of 18–24 year-olds).