We’re far from the days when customers just weighed price and quality before buying from their local retailer. As shoppers interact with brands in more numerous and complex ways than ever, companies need to perfect every facet of the customer relationship, from the first Google search to the buy button, to post-order communication.
Astound Commerce Insight’s Global Brand Survey details the changing ways shoppers interact with brands, and what they have grown to expect along each step of the journey. At the core, customers expect more immersive and informative experiences from brands.
Here’s what the survey revealed about how consumers interact with brands:
- Comprehensive Product Information Is a Must On All Channels
Customer relationships begin long before the first purchase, as shoppers now spend more time researching and comparing products. Exploration usually starts on the brand level: Almost six out of 10 (59 percent) customers prefer to research products with brands rather than retailers. With this in mind, brands can’t rely on retailers to best represent their products; customers want to hear direct from the source. However, 72 percent of customers did report that they still purchase from multi-brand retailers, which suggests that brands are simply gaining ground.Additionally, customers expect more product information when shopping in store with both retailers and brands. Nearly a third (31 percent) find it essential to access in-store devices that allow them to research products, check inventory and place orders, while 29 percent value QR codes to access prices, reviews and other product information.
- Personal, Ongoing Relationships With Customers are Key
Besides comprehensive product information, customers crave easy access to brands, with many forming relationships that go far beyond transactions — whether on social media, live chat or more.In fact, 54 percent of consumers are connected to at least three brands on social media, and almost half connect with brand manufacturers on social media at least weekly. More than a third (36 percent) have also used live chat options with customer service representatives.
Brands need open channels to foster these ongoing customer relationships. A strong social media presence strengthens the emotional connection customers expect from brands, and should be supplemented with open channels for communication. Customers want easy access to brands, whether asking a question on Facebook or reporting an issue on live chat or Twitter.
- Brands Win by Providing Wider Selection and Better Prices
Customers don’t have to shop at retailers for their favorite products anymore — in fact, many prefer to go straight to the brand source. Two-thirds of shoppers have purchased at least three products directly from brands in the last six months.This indicates brands are delivering on the higher standards consumers have for branded shopping experiences. Half of consumers expect better prices from brands over retailers, while 45 percent expect a broader assortment of products. Additionally, 37 percent expect more engaging experiences with brands. If brands can’t deliver, shoppers will either turn to retailers or competitors.
Clearly, brands play an important role in consumers’ lives. They are no longer a place for cut-and-dry transactions. Brands must embrace new ways to impress, acquire and retain shoppers. This means top-notch, accurate product information, more personal connections with shoppers (online and off), and a more engaging shopping experience competitive or superior to their retailer counterparts.