Report: Covid has created new digital consumers

Businesses have pivoted and delivered new digital experiences during the pandemic to meet the rising needs of digital shoppers

Customer migration driven by the COVID-19 crisis might be here to stay for many businesses across Australia and New Zealand, according to the latest Salesforce State of the Connected Customer report. 

The report found more than half (52 per cent) of all interactions between local customers and businesses this year were digital, compared to just 36 per cent last year. Customers expect next year that 50 per cent of interactions next year will continue to be online.

“Digital is no longer ‘nice to have’ or even a choice for brands. COVID-19 has changed consumer behaviour for good and businesses will need to continue to accelerate their digital transformation to keep up,” Salesforce Australia, area vice-president, cloud sales, Jo Gaines, told CMO.

Businesses that pivoted and delivered outstanding digital experiences during and after lockdown have set the bar. “Customers who have experienced an improved digital experience with a business, that tends to set the bar, not only for their competitors, but for every industry. Organisations can no longer only look within their own industry to benchmark their digital success,” Gaines said.  

While customers expect companies to digitise even further, expanding multi-channel, high-touch and responsive interactions, there is increased public awareness that shopping and interacting with companies online involves exchanging sensitive personal information. Gaines said customers are calling for enhanced data transparency and stewardship.

“These are big, important issues and a commitment to customer trust, data privacy and security is paramount,” she said.

Brands adapting to Covid consumers


Across the board, brands in Australia and New Zealand have typically adapted quite well, Salesforce has found, with 52 per cent of customers stating their experience with a brand improved during the pandemic. 

“We've witnessed many brands expedite their digital transformation plans with testing and trialling of approaches that may have seemed out of reach prior to the pandemic,” Gaines explained. “For their part, a lot of brands see the coming year as an opportunity to reinforce the trust they’ve earned from loyal customers and attract new customers. To do this, the research suggests that Australian and New Zealand businesses need to become closer to the audiences they serve through their actions."

The kinds of ‘action’ local customers want to see from brands includes flexible shipping and order options. “This is potentially a reflection on both a shift to more shopping being done online, as well as apprehension about Xmas delivery times," Gaines continued. 

Consumers expected interactions with a company to be consistent, regardless of which department they are dealing with, and how a company deals with them is just as important as the products and services they offer.
 

In terms of engagement channels, in Australia and New Zealand, the most preferred nominated by customers are email, followed by phone, online/chatbot, on-person, mobile app and online portals. “Customers expect their interactions to be multi-channel, so it's important that organisations are able to seamlessly stitch identity and customer history together across these various channels,” Gaines said.
 
There's no doubt COVID-19 has brought about one of the most significant digital migrations in Australia and New Zealand, with around half of all interactions between customer and business are now online. “Throughout this year we’ve been talking to our customers about making sure that when increasing digital channel use, that they also become much more open and transparent in their interactions,” said Gaines.  

“Customers need to trust brands will carefully look after the data they provide and crucially the value transaction of providing that data is realised."

Salesforce has seen brands like True Alliance and Grill'd needing to close stores across the country which made ecommerce sales more important than ever. Salesforce tapped real-time trending search data and targeting digital ad spend, True Alliance was able to drive high volumes of new traffic to its sites and supported sales.

Grill'd was able to more than double the percentage of its online sales while restaurants were closed and we worked with it to set-up a dashboard which allowed staff to trigger an SMS notification to allow customers to safely pick-up takeaway orders.

“No one can deny that 2020 has proved to be a challenging year for retailers," Gaines added. "Almost overnight, retailers practically had to respond to the challenges in a remarkable way, pivoting to solutions that drive engagement and respond to the fast-evolving situations and changing consumer expectations.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia.


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