While consumers’ expectations are constantly rising, they accelerated at a remarkable pace last year. Brand Keys’ latest findings show that these expectations grew an average of 37% compared to the prior year, with the loftiest reserved for smartphones, up 58%, and the lowest for soft drinks, up 11%.
Despite those dramatic increases, brands only managed to keep up with that expectation growth by 9%. “That leaves a huge gap between what consumers truly desire and what they perceive brands deliver,” says Robert Passikoff, founder and president of the loyalty and customer engagement consultancy.
People make an average of 35,000 choices daily, or one every 2.5 seconds. Of those, Brand Keys says 10,500, or about 30%, “relate directly to consumer marketing and brand choice.”
People typically base those selections on how well their preformed expectations are met. And in an age of one-hour grocery deliveries and instant banking, expectations are always on the rise -- but marketers should worry about how fast they are changing.
“The recent velocity shift should concern marketers because expectations drive marketing and brand choice,” Passikoff says.
After smartphones, demands about social networking brands took second place in increased demands, up 57%, followed by online retailers (up 55%); tablets (54%); EV and luxury automotive and instant messaging, both up 51%; and video streaming, up 50%.
After soft drinks, the lowest growth in expectations is bottled water and gasoline, which both increased by 12%; network news (up 13%); and online shoes (14%).
Passikoff says it’s no surprise that tech-related categories make up half the list of the top 12 and occupy the first six rankings. While tech does get faster and more innovative each year, “it’s nothing compared to customer expectations associated with it.”
Yet what exactly those expectations are is hard to pin down., he tells Marketing Daily. “They’re not constrained by reality.”
Brand Keys uses psychological measures to understand consumer expectations because it’s hard for people to articulate them. Consumers tend to fall back on rationalizations, Passikoff says. For example, they might talk about sustainability as an expectation for an EV, “when it really has to do with self-image.” For smartphones and social networking, people expect personal connection and communication, while online retail is about immediate gratification. In luxury cosmetics, “people are all about personal transformation.”
The fact that expectations are emotionally driven makes it hard for brands to keep up, Passikoff notes. Also, traditional research doesn’t capture the emotions that drive expectations: “People don’t think how they feel, and they don’t say what they think, and they don’t do what they say.”
Brands that work to bridge gaps between expectation and reality through improved customer experience tactics have an advantage. “Brands that best meet consumer expectations are always category leaders with largest shares-of-market,” Passikoff says.
The findings include a review of 140 categories based on 31,600 people between 16 and 65.