Understanding the values of your customer is vital to a company’s growth and user retention, but things change fast in this digital era. The widespread use of technologies such as AI, virtual reality, voice assistants and chatbots have permanently changed customers’ expectations. “Today every company is a tech company and should operate like a software company,” said Vala Afshar, chief digital evangelist at Salesforce, during a breakout session at Dreamforce 2018. “That means agile, iterative in nature and with a closed loop feedback to refine services.”
To get a clear view on users’ needs, Afshar dug into the Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer report, which surveyed over 6,700 consumers and business buyers across the world. These are some of the key findings.
User Experience Expectations
“If your experience is poor, your competitors will win,” Afshar said, highlighting how 80 percent of respondents said that user experience is as important as the product and that 51 percent said that companies fall short in this area. This applies across the spectrum, from your website and mobile experience to your brick and mortar offerings.
—Vala Afshar, chief digital evangelist, Salesforce
The key is reducing friction, he said. “The most impactful way to create an experience in retail is continuous flow—every time we stop at a hotel or venue that's a moment of friction,” he said. The initial set-up costs of sensors, mobile and social tech may be concerning, but the payoff is long term. Sixty-seven percent of respondents said they'd pay more for a great experience, and 57 percent said they stopped buying from a company as their competitor offered a better service.
The Ultra-Connected Customer
Today most retailers provide a mobile version of their website and sales have grown exponentially. By the 2018 holiday season, Afshar said that for the first time ever, 46 percent of all orders will come from smartphones. “That's more traffic from a smartphone than all the devices in 2015,” he said. “In three years, the center of gravity has shifted to this.”
He forecast that in five years, 80 percent of all traffic and revenue will be mobile. “This is a global phenomenon,” he said. The rapid rise has created a subset of digital natives with certain expectations. “They want things fast, to them there's no ‘We're not available on weekends,’” Afshar said. Sixty-six percent of respondents said on-demand engagement is very important to them, with agents able to answer queries and problems in real time. This means that retailers need to be present on these channels—in 2018 there was more time spent on messaging apps than social media, totaling more than a billion users. Additionally, Afshar warned for companies not to forget smart speakers—one in five homes are equipped with them today. “The future of Gen Z and millennials is hyper-connected,” he said.
Consumers unilaterally embrace new technologies, with the survey finding that they're nine and a half times more likely to view AI as revolutionary versus insignificant and 59 percent are open to companies using AI to improve their experiences. At the same time, they're concerned with how this relates to their data. Recent data scandals and breaches have made them more aware and suspicious of companies’ motives. “More than half of the respondents aren't comfortable with companies using their data,” he said. “Customers must foster trust in the data value exchange.”
The best way to grow their trust is with transparency. Eighty-eight percent of people have more trust when the company requests permission to use data, and 91 percent trust more when its usage is explained. “Ninety-five percent of consumers are loyal to companies they trust,” he said.