Whether it's changing the channel or putting their heads in the sand, 50% of Americans say they will do almost anything they can to avoid seeing ads, according to a new report from Razorfish which chronicles the habits and behaviors of those living in the U.S., UK, China, and Brazil. This "Digital Dopamine" research identifies key trends that are shaping marketing, so that marketers can incorporate these critical findings in 2015 and beyond.
For one, there are sharp contrasts in attitudes towards advertising among these four countries.
"It was surprising to me that Brazil was responsive to advertising," says Razorfish's Global CTO Ray Velez. "Only 49% of Brazilians prefer to skip through ads. And 83% say ads give them ideas about things they want to buy, contrast that with just 58% of people in the UK. We are seeing more and more cord cutters and premium content providers like HBO are starting to do it on their own without ad supported models in the U.S."
Still, the majority of respondents in all four countries agree that advertising is most effective when it is part of a value exchange. Consumers are now aware of how much their attention is worth to marketers, and they expect to be rewarded for it, says the report. They look to be compensated with loyalty programs, free content or useful tools that solve problems. In fact, 72% of Americans and 92% of Brazilians say it’s important for brands to reward them for being a loyal customer. And 70% of consumers in U.S. and UK and 77% in China don’t mind viewing ads in exchange for access to content online.
The report finds that in order to stay relevant and connect with consumers, brands need to tap into the 'digital dopamine' that engages people today. It’s no longer sufficient for a brand to promise the world in vague terms without truly delivering value. Rather, brands need to understand the unique ways different generations and markets interact with digital technology. There's room for improvement: 79% and 87% of Chinese and Brazilian consumers, respectively, believe that most online shopping sites need improvement, versus 52% in the U.S. and 50% in the UK.
Indeed, good digital experiences keep all shoppers loyal, even in the face of infinite online choices. Three in four Americans (76%), 72% in the UK, 73% in Brazil and 82% in China say they’re more excited when online purchases arrive in the mail than when they buy things in-store. And 62% of people in the U.S. and Brazil admit to getting excited when they get a text or notification on their phone.
Yet, brands can't merely upgrade their online platforms in order to appease shoppers. Today's consumers see little difference between online and offline shopping. Instead, what matters to them is cross-channel convenience. And yet, rather than work seamlessly together, online and offline customer journeys are often riddled with dead ends, both customer-made and brand-made. While in-store behavior shows consumers distracted by their smartphone — or perhaps using it to make them smarter shoppers — online behaviors show that the stores themselves, and their e-commerce presences, are often the biggest deterrent to conversion.
One important key to winning loyalty is through empowerment. Flexible return policies, in particular, are a major point of friction in both the online and offline retail experiences. A good return policy is an easy way to differentiate a brand from the competition, build loyalty and earn trust.
Meanwhile, age, unsurprisingly, influences digital habits. The report finds the advertising industry is not drawing big enough distinctions between Gen X and Millennials. For example 56% of U.S. millennials say their phone is their most valuable shopping tool in-store, compared to 28% of U.S. Gen Xers. And 74% of U.S. millennials trust brands to protect their privacy vs 63% of Gen X.
The report, which surveyed more than 1,600 people examines the ways digital technology is shifting traditional brand-consumer relationships. Researchers selected these four countries, in part, to compare two of the fastest growing markets and two of the most established markets. "It seems as though both can learn from each other," says Velez. "Brazil and China get to leverage established best practices and the U.S. and UK get to gain insights from fast moving innovation and testing."