From omnichannel shopping to brand switching, the pandemic has accelerated some key trends in consumer behaviour. It has also profoundly altered customers’ perceptions and beliefs about the companies that serve them.

Four key trends in customer behavior

As an organization that specializes in Total Experience Management (TMX), at Alida, we wanted to take a closer look at what has changed, and most importantly, see if consumers feel that brands are changing in step with them. To do that, we created the first edition of our global trends report, entitled “The Alida 2021 Global Trends Report: Customer Experience”.

In July 2021, our researchers connected with 5,300 consumers in different age groups from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and India. We discovered four core themes that businesses need to consider carefully. In this short report overview, we’ll summarize the main trends in consumer behaviour that can inform your CX strategies in the following year.

1. Rapid change has left some customer segments behind

One in four respondents said their customer experiences have gotten worse over the last year. As one participant commented: “Just good manners and common courtesy is so lacking these days.” Another said there was a need for “focusing on the little things that actually matter but are mostly neglected.” These types of negative experiences seem to be especially pronounced in the older generations – Boomers and Gen X.

an image showing a pregnant women shopping.

We also know from the study, as well as some of our previous research, that there are significant differences among industries. While streaming services and online retailers tend to be the most likely to exceed expectations on customer service (at 35% and 30% respectively), it is very different for in-person retailers (19%) and credit card companies (18%).  

Businesses need to pay close attention when such discontent is expressed and understand how customer experience is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. Brands should assess their touchpoints – particularly digital ones – across all age groups and geographies they serve. It’s important that voices from all generations and demographics are included in your customer experience strategy to ensure you’re meeting the diverse – and changing – needs of every customer.

2. Your customers expect to be treated as individuals

When customers decide whether to stick with a brand, their first-hand, personal experience is twice as significant as external opinions or price. It’s so important that 79% said if they have a bad experience, they will avoid that brand in the future. And if the company wants to do something about it, the personal touch with a sincere apology is essential. Consumers say that’s more meaningful than even receiving credits.

A diagram showing trends in customer behaviour across different generations.

All this demonstrates how every interaction matters. Strengthening the bond with your customers by delivering exceptional experiences is what will ultimately have them returning because they will always leave with a positive and lasting impression.

To ensure this happens, maintain a rich history of your touchpoints with customers and keep track of changes. It means tapping into multiple data sources – not just ad-hoc snapshots of customer feedback, but also changing emotions and expectations, married with ongoing operational data like purchase and service history.

3. Consumers are keeping an eye on your brand values

There is a strong connection between customers’ values and the brands they choose. About 86% say they are more likely to spend with a brand that has values that align with their own, 82% say they will never do business with a brand that discriminates, and 80% said a strong position on diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) is a priority when it comes to making purchasing decisions with a brand.

In fact, DE&I was among the top five reasons for choosing a brand. As one respondent explained: “Treat your employees fairly and don’t have a gender gap.”   

Because consumers want to know what you stand for and how you treat people, be transparent about your efforts in these areas, and share the results with your customers. That will work to increase their trust and loyalty. Our survey showed this is particularly important for women and younger consumers.

4. Brands have not only to gather but also to react on customer feedback

an image showing a customer providing a feedback as a trend in consumer behaviour.

If consumers know their feedback will be acted upon, 97% say they are likely to share that input. The problem is that three quarters don’t think companies actually listen to enough of it, and one in ten thinks all of it is completely ignored.

So, the message from customers is clear: They have things to share about your business and they want you to listen. As one respondent put it, they want their feedback to be “respected.”

By actively investing in customer communication channels and feedback opportunities, you can demonstrate to your consumer base that you do, in fact, want to prioritize their opinions and that they have weight in driving your business forward. Make sure you not only do that but also close the loop by addressing any problems that come to light. Then communicate what ended up happening, to show that their feedback was taken seriously and led to concrete results.

Engage in conversation with your customers

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that customer experience and a strong CX strategy are essential to maintaining competitive advantage. Keeping a pulse on trends in consumer behaviour changing through a comprehensive listening and feedback program is critical for driving the lifetime value of your users.

An equally important aspect for success is creating a way to act on what your customers are telling you, both at the individual level and at the process level. By doing so, you can ensure every interaction your customers have is memorable, positive, and ultimately drives brand loyalty.

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