What Consumers Expect in 2022 and How Companies Can Rise to the Challenge

We’re kicking off the month of February with a brilliant blog post from one of our members, Audiencerate. CEO, Filippo Graminga, dives into the topic of consumer needs in a post-pandemic, digitally charged world, so if you want to know more about the expected online experience, keep reading!

As a result of two years of intermittent lockdowns and limited social interactivity, people have come to demand more and more from their digital experiences as a way to compensate. The spheres of online and offline continue their trajectory towards complete synthesis, and as they do, consumers expect the digital to be life-like, and to meet them in the here and now.

What does this mean for businesses? For one, 2022 can be considered “The Year of B2H” – business to human – where experience trumps all else. This means that to retain consumers and build long-lasting loyalties, companies have a lot of boxes to tick: interactions need to be immersive, personal, and real-time – all the time.

Up to 80% of consumers consider current experiences to be lacking, and businesses that did not meet expectations during lockdown could have lost as much as £2.5 billion per year. So as businesses set out in the new year, it is crucial for them – whatever their expertise – to remember that they are marketing to people searching for meaning, engagement, and personal value.

Closing the Experience Gap

Traditionally, there has been a discrepancy between what consumers want and what businesses and organisations offer. Customers want their brands to see them as they are, for who they are, and what they need. Importantly, the picture of the public is changing: purchasing power and influence are escaping narrowly definable cohorts, extending to digitally savvy TikTokers, senior citizens with more disposable income, financially empowered female consumers, and globally attainable markets. Companies need to learn how to tap into shifting paradigms and power dynamics while avoiding tuning out existing long-term customers. The ability to communicate personal messages across borders, generations, and circumstances is no easy task – and it takes more than simple data collection.

The truth is, simply amassing information is no longer enough. One of the ways businesses can begin to tackle this is by introducing unity from the ground up: making more connections, creating fewer barriers. In practice, this means everything from your tech stack to your business operations needs to reach new levels of effective cooperation. Intelligence must be able to flow from product development and design to marketing, with gathered insights then feeding back up the supply chain, constantly optimising and integrating new information. Tools that aid businesses in aggregating and centralising their data – thus preventing the formation of disconnected data silos – will be vital to help companies provide users across the globe with the experiences they are looking for.

It’s Now or Never

While the word ‘instant’ in a digital context once referred primarily to messaging, ‘instant’ now permeates, if not defines, the entire online experience. The pandemic accelerated this process, exemplified by companies such as Gorillas and Weezy popping up to provide ultra-speedy grocery deliveries alongside go-to established supermarkets, while transactions within the realms of banking and real estate occurred as close to real-time as they can get. It has been seven years since Google started to talk about micro moments’ – that itchy impulse we all have to reach for our phones, tablets, or laptops to answer a sudden but pressing question or need that has infiltrated our brain – and still, businesses are failing to truly capitalise on these.

Customers are looking for answers within the first seconds of their search, and the first five minutes of a query. Since technological development and processing speeds are becoming more reliable, the onus is migrating from the device to the company to fulfill expectations, and any lags are considered a failure on the behalf of the business for not updating their deals, their inventory, or their content properly. In some cases, going further and messaging proactively can hit the spot – as long as it stays personal, relevant, and most importantly, valuable to the consumer: specific new products, information on purchased products, and time-sensitive updates. For businesses to meet these expectations, they need to make sure that not only their technology is continuously providing and integrating real-time updates, but that they are acting on this information effectively.

Every Path is a Path to the Consumer

While communications from businesses to the public used to be unilateral, following a “one-to-many” approach – from newspaper announcements to TV and radio advertising – communication paths have opened up, giving consumers unprecedented access to the companies that serve them. The surge of e-commerce, bolstered by the pandemic, further emphasised this reliance on digital channels. Crucially, there is no one channel to dominate them all: customers flick between platforms and applications, with nearly half (46%) opting for email, more than a third (35%) for live chat online, and nearly a fifth (17%) taking the social media route.

Up to 80% of interactions between customers and businesses are now digital, with companies such as WhatsApp, Pinterest, and Instagram expanding features to meet demand with personalised responses, and refusing any one of these would lose out on a considerable user base. Yet while 70% of UK SMEs acknowledge that communication is key, 40% do not invest in personalised strategies or more than one channel. This has to change: digital can no longer be an afterthought, it needs to be integrated from step one, with the right tools and technology to facilitate omnichannel experiences while enabling tracking and performance measurement. A growing number of marketers have turned to specific data management systems – Customer Data Platforms (CPDs) – to accurately gather and collate data from multiple touchpoints, building and updating consumer profiles in real-time, to meet all of the criteria.

Digital and social experiences are inextricably intertwined. Companies must make sound technological investments moving into 2022, to meet consumer demands. Only through providing the best services can they expect to stand out in a saturated market, a challenge that is becoming ever more complex. The key elements of hyper-personalisation, hyper-speed, and hyper-connectivity help create a positive customer experience, which will unlock company growth. There is no turning back the clock: digital immersion is necessary for survival.

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