It's all about trust.
B2C and B2B customers worldwide now expect brands to earn their loyalty by treating them well and reflecting their values, judging by The fifth State of the Connected Customer study released Tuesday by Salesforce.
And firms are delivering, as shown by the fact that 52% generally trust companies, up from 48% in 2020 — as firms have dealt with a supply-chain crisis, shifting regulations, systemic inequality and environmental degradation.
And consumer needs have changed — a full 88% of buyers now say that the experience is more important than the products and services being offered, versus 80% in 2020.
Of the customers polled, 77% say most brands make honest claims about their products and services, versus 68% in 2020.
In addition, 75% say firms act with the customer’s best interest in mind -- up from 65% two years ago.
Moreover, 71% feel brands make honest claims about their values, compared to 64% in 2020. And 68% believe companies act with society’s best interest in mind, a jump from 59% two years ago.
In general, customers will buy from a firm based on:
But 66% of consumers have stopped buying from a brand whose values didn’t align with theirs, rising from 62% in 2020.
Marketers also face challenges on the privacy front.
Overall, 61% of consumers are now comfortable with companies using personal information in a transparent and beneficial manner -- a leap from 52% in 2020. And 79% are more likely to trust a brand that offers transparency.
Moreover, 64% say companies take online privacy more seriously than they used to. But 74% feel brands collect more information than they need, and 64% feel that firms are not transparent.
This is happening as people embrace digital — 61% now engage with firms online and 39% offline.
Last year, the margin was similar — 60% online and 40% offline. But there has been a shift since 2020, when the margin was 56% online and 44% offline.
Among generations, 65% of Gen Zers and millennials prefer digital channels, compared to 52% of Gen Xers and 42% of baby boomers.
Still, 59% of customers overall prefer to interact by phone, compared to 54% two years ago.
In contrast, email has lost the top slot, falling from 65% in 2020 to 57%.
Online chat is now utilized by 42%, up from 44%.
And 78% have utilized omnichannel to start an interaction.
In another finding, Salesforce reports that 56% of consumers are more likely to buy from a brand with a loyalty program. But that doesn’t always translate into engagement: while people belong to an average of 4.3% programs, almost 66% interact with them quarterly or less frequently.
Consumers demand these features from loyalty programs:
Business buyers have different needs. Of those surveyed, 895 are more likely to buy from firms that understand their goals. However, 71% say most sales interactions feel transactional, and 75% say sales conversations are more asynchronous than they used to be.
But 61% generally trust sales reps, and 87% expect them to act as trusted advisors.
Salesforce surveyed 13,020 consumers and 3,916 business buyers worldwide.