A few years ago, I went on a Mediterranean holiday with my family. As creatures of habit, we would go to the same café every evening where the service was erratic to say the least. The prices, products and service quality varied hugely depending on who was serving us. One night a beer would cost €2 and come in a small tumbler. The next night it would cost just €1 but come in a pint glass.
We found this hilarious at the time—it was like restaurant roulette—but none of us would accept this inconsistent service outside a relaxing holiday setting. If my local café took the same approach I would avoid it like the plague and go somewhere with higher standards.
As consumers we crave consistent and personalised experiences. They set our expectations and help build our sense of loyalty to a brand. When a company delivers inconsistent experiences, our expectations are confounded and we have little reason to give them more business.
That’s why it’s worrying that many brands still take an inconsistent approach to their customer-facing services, especially on digital channels. The Adobe Experience Index—a study helping brands understand current consumer expectations in Europe, how they’re evolving, and what to anticipate—reveals that companies are still coming up short in this regard by delivering disjointed experiences that leave a negative impression of their brand.
To overcome this, businesses first need to break down the barriers to consistency in their own organisation. It’s not enough to roll out a slick new mobile app or interface. These services need to be built on a complete behind-the-scenes understanding of their audience, which comes down to a more unified approach to customer data throughout the company.
Another takeaway from the Adobe Experience Index is that Generation Z (consumers between 18 and 24 years old) have much higher expectations of brands than older generations. For them, convenient, personalised and consistent digital experiences are table stakes. In the UK, for instance, millennial respondents said they would be impressed if an airline automatically rebooked them on a new flight if their initial one was cancelled, while consumers in Gen Z simply expect this level of service.
Interestingly, our craving for personalisation gets stronger as we get older. In Germany, 91 percent of consumers over 66 years old believe businesses should deliver personalised services whether serving customers in-store or online, compared with just 69 percent of respondents between 18 and 24 years of age.
This reveals a critical nuance that some companies might overlook, which is that our concept of personalisation evolves with age. Consumers in different generations have grown up with different needs, different expectations, and different levels of familiarity with technology. Any brand that tries to appeal to every demographic with the same approach is only revealing that they are unaware of their own customers’ needs.
Of course, it’s not enough to just deliver on expectations. Consumers want to be delighted at every turn. They want experiences that stand out for being particularly smooth, unique, or personalised. From a grocer that provide customers with a voice assistant to help them navigate its aisles, to a hotel that allows its guests to use their mobile phone as a room key, to an airline that sends passengers timely updates on the status of their checked bags—it’s the little things brands do that delight us and make us come back for more.
The gauntlet has been thrown down, and brands, no matter what industry they’re part of, must ensure they’re delivering on consistent and personalised digital experiences. It’s a big ask, but one no company can afford to ignore. Soon enough, even tourist trap cafés will need to adjust. Now, that’s a dream worth fighting for.