To maximize sales, you have to know what your customers want and expect from you. Unfortunately, that’s getting more and more difficult for online businesses to pinpoint. Just when we think we have it figured out, technology changes or new trust issues arise.
Further complicating matters is that the scope of customer expectations has broadened considerably to include their entire experience and how it makes them feel. Marketing, sales, eCommerce, security, and customer service are expected to combine into a consistent, seamless, contextualized, positive experience overall.
A 2018 global study by Salesforce provides current insights from Canadian business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) customers. The data reveals a somewhat skittish and demanding online buyer profile, but once identified their demands are quite easily met. Doing so can give you a competitive advantage. Ignore them at your own peril.
“While expectations for personalized, connected experiences are soaring, trust in companies to responsibly handle the data they require is bottoming out,” concludes the survey.
Connected Canadian Customer Standards
Today’s consumer expects a positive experience overall when shopping online, but most companies are providing the opposite. Large businesses are focused on automation that allows them to streamline operations, but that automation is often cold and flawed. It doesn’t help that most still use customer service call centres for email and social support, which reduces customer service to a game of volume vs speed. Small businesses often excel at customer service, but lack the tech and innovation budget to explore areas like artificial intelligence (AI).
- Sixty-nine percent of all Canadian customers say their standards for customer service have increased.
- Eighty percent of respondents say their shopping experience is as important to them as the product or service.
- Seventy-eight percent of B2B shoppers expect the same experience they would receive when B2C shopping.
Eighty-four percent of customers buy from businesses that treat them as a person, not a number. That alone can give small businesses an edge over large companies.
Canadian business customers communicate with companies through an average of 11 channels. Consumers use an average of nine channels. They fully expect to be able to contact companies through their preferred channels, or at least most of them. Online shopping is all about convenience, so it makes sense that convenient communication would be important to online shoppers.
What are the top five channels that Canadians use and prefer when communicating with businesses?
- Eighty percent use online portals most often to communicate with companies, 42 percent prefer them
- Seventy-seven percent use mobile apps most, 41 percent prefer them
- Seventy-four percent use text, 39 percent prefer it
- Fifty-nine percent use online communities, 26 percent prefer them
- Forty-four percent use voice activated devices (Alexa, Siri, etc.), 16 percent prefer them
Tech and Innovation in Canada
We’re living in what some refer to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Everyone is surrounded by innovation, thanks to the perpetual state of evolution of technology. Everything from our phones to our fridges are constantly upgraded to the latest and greatest version. We’re no longer surprised by innovation, we fully expect it to happen.
Innovation and the latest tech are very important to online Canadians, especially B2B shoppers. Fifty-two percent of all customers surveyed said companies need to provide a cutting-edge digital experience to keep their business. That jumps to 64 percent for business customers and drops to 45 percent for the average consumer.
Those expectations extend to products and services offered by businesses too. Fifty-four percent expect companies to offer new products and services more frequently than they used to. Again, businesses are more demanding in this respect at 65 percent. Forty-nine percent of consumers have the same expectations.
Artificial Intelligence is already having a significant impact on customer expectations.
Forty-four percent of all consumers report that AI is already transforming their expectations. Sixty-two percent recognize the benefits that can come from AI, and 55 percent are open to AI improving customer experiences.
Fifty-two percent of business customers report that AI is already transforming their expectations. Sixty-seven percent recognize the benefits that can come from AI, and 65 percent are open to AI improving customer experiences.
Forty percent of B2C customers report that AI is already transforming their expectations. Fifty-nine percent recognize the benefits that can come from AI, and 50 percent are open to AI improving customer experiences.
Other innovation expectations revolve around smartphones, the Internet of Things (IoT), voice-activated personal assistants, cloud computing, blockchain and cyber security.
Digital Trust Issues
A whopping 95 percent of respondents say they’re more likely to be loyal to a business they trust. Loyalty is pure gold in any kind of sales scenario, be it online, offline, or both.
Forty-four percent of all Canadian online shoppers are confused about how companies use their data, including 33 percent of B2B consumers and 50 percent of B2C buyers. Sixty-six percent of all shoppers believe their information is vulnerable to security breaches, including 55 percent of business buyers and 72 percent of consumers.
As more data breaches and violations become public, Canadian consumers are increasingly concerned about how their personal information is stored and used. Improving customer trust is relatively straightforward, according to the survey results.
Participants suggested the following:
- Transparency about how customer information is used
- Request consent for specified uses of personal information and promise not to share it without permission
- Allowing the customer to control how collected information is used
- Demonstrating a commitment to protecting shopper information
- Provide an explanation as to how personal information is used to improve customer experience.
Data storage concerns can be addressed by simply choosing a website host that has data centres in Canada. A 2017 CIRA study found that 76 percent of Canadians are more concerned about their personal data if it’s stored in the United States. To ensure data is protected by Canadian law against intrusive provisions from the USA Freedom act, sweeping server seizures under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the loss of net neutrality, and other foreign laws or policies, your website servers must be physically located in Canada.
What Does it all Mean?
Canadians love to shop online, but more than ever they expect you to earn their business and protect their data. Initially, standards were lower for online business. Now, consumers demand the same experience that they’ve come to expect from offline retailers, and then some. They know they’re important and they expect you to acknowledge, value and appreciate them. Unfortunately, many businesses have ignored these expectations to one degree or another.
The results are dissatisfied customers. Fifty-one percent of online consumers say most companies don’t meet their experience expectations, and 54 percent of customers don’t believe companies care about their best interests. Obviously, many businesses have a lot of work to do if they want to improve their bottom line.
“Fifty-seven percent of customers have stopped buying from a company because a competitor provided a better experience,” states the Salesforce report. “What’s more, 62% of customers say they share bad experiences with others. With the proliferation of peer review sites and social media, this practice can inflict widespread reputational damage.”
??? What are you doing to keep Canadian online shoppers happy and secure? Please share your experience and questions in the comments below.
Data Source: Salesforce Report: State of the Connected Customer
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Melody McKinnon's formal education is in business management, which she enhanced with more than 60 certifications revolving around business, marketing, health, general sciences and writing. In over 20 years of working online, she has owned or managed both educational and eCommerce websites.
Melody has worked with many businesses & brands in a multitude of capacities. She can often be found on CanadiansInternet.com, CanadianFamily.net and AllNaturalPetCare.com, as well as other quality digital publications. Her content has earned reference links from highly-respected websites, magazines and university textbooks.