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Our research for the State of the Connected Customer report found that today’s hyper-connected and data-driven world, consumers increasingly expect personalised, intelligent and seamless customer experience. Here’s how to provide it.

The Internet of Things has given consumers the ability to reach more businesses, in more ways, than ever before. In order to pique customers’ interest and gain their loyalty, organisations will need to provide more personalised, connected, and intelligent customer experiences.

To get a better understanding of how businesses can best meet customers’ new expectations, Salesforce Research surveyed over 7000 consumers worldwide – including individual consumers and business buyers – and created their second edition of the State of the Connected Customer report.

Here are the key takeaways to help your business stay ahead of the curve:
 

1. Create a great customer experience

 

Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer report found that 80% of customers feel that the experience a company provides is just as important as its product and services, and 57% of that group say they’ve stopped buying from a company because a competitor provided a better experience.  

Customers are pushing companies to do better:

  • 95% of customers say they’re more likely to be loyal to a company they trust.
  • 67% of customers say their standard for good experiences are higher than ever.



2. Personalise your B2B marketing

 

The concept of B2Me isn’t new, but it’s gathering steam. Eighty-two percent of business buyers want the same experience as when they’re buying for themselves. But only 27% say companies generally excel at meeting their standards for an overall B2B experience, signaling ample room to improve.

Business buyer expectations are becoming consumerised:

  • 72% of business buyers expect vendors to personalise engagement to their needs
  • 69% expect Amazon-like buying experiences
  • 67% think vendors are providing more retail-like experiences than ever before
  • 67% have switched vendors for a more consumer-like experience
     

3. Forge a seamless customer journey

 

Our culture is shaped by constant connectivity and instant gratification. At every stage of the purchase process, “me” and “now” are the magic words. For 84% of customers, being treated like a person, rather than number is very important to win their business. Another 70% say connected processes (such as seamless handoffs between departments and channels, or contextualised engagement based on earlier interactions) are very important to win their business. This means that the marketing, e-commerce, sales, and service teams that have traditionally concerned themselves only with one part of the customer journey must now consider every customer touchpoint.

Even before a purchase, personalisation is critical; 59% of customers say tailored engagement based on past interactions is very important to win their business. For example, sending unique offers for an item that was abandoned in a cart, or offers for items that complement another purchase they’ve made can make all the difference.

While they buy, 78% of business buyers seek salespeople that act as trusted advisors with knowledge of their needs and industry. Business buyers are more likely than consumers to value product recommendations and mobile apps — a testament to the blurring lines between B2C and B2B behavior.

After they buy, consumers and business buyers alike hail the importance of real-time service that’s available on their preferred channel. Self-service tools and chatbots are rapidly gaining popularity, as they empower customers to find quick answers and skip service queues.

4. Inspire customers with innovative solutions

 

Real innovation, not lip service, is a deciding factor for most customers. Fifty-six percent of customers (including 66% of business buyers) actively seek to buy from the most innovative companies.

Technology, of course, plays a significant role in those innovations. Fifty-nine percent of customers say companies need cutting-edge digital experiences to keep their business. Fifty-nine percent also say they’re open to companies using artificial intelligence (AI) to improve their experiences.

While some emerging technologies are only starting to take root, a majority of customers say these technologies have transformed (or are actively transforming) their expectations: the Internet of Things (60%), voice-activated personal assistants (59%), and AI (51%).
 

5. Earn customers’ trust, and their data

 

To provide the experiences that customers expect and demonstrate a 360-degree understanding of each customer, companies need a new breed of tech as well as a heap of data. But, as recent incidents have laid bare, not all companies are earning their customers’ trust to do the right thing with these technologies and data. Sixty-two percent of customers say they’re more afraid of their data being compromised now than they were two years ago — and nearly half of customers (45%) feel confused about how companies use their data.

On the surface, it may seem that companies face a paradox: How can they provide personalised experiences when customers don’t trust them with the data necessary to provide them? Yet, when the benefits of their data use are clearly spelled out, a majority of customers are actually on board. Some of the standouts include:

For 92% of customers, the ability to control what personal information is collected makes them more likely to trust a company with that information. Building trust, and balancing personalisation with privacy, will be key for companies to meet customer expectations in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Discover more about how technology is changing consumer expectations in our new State of the Connected Customer report.