I recently wrote about a dynamic that I’m calling the Great Global Transition.
The first aspect of the transition is that technology is letting us do things we didn't think were possible, like uniting online and offline commerce in the palms of our hands. Consumers are online even when they’re in a store. They read reviews, compare prices, and ask their friends on social networks for ideas and recommendations. It’s not uncommon for people to want to start shopping on their computer in the morning and finish it up on the phone later on in the day. With this technology, we’ve begun to take a fragmented series of transactions and merge them into a seamless whole.
Today’s, consumers piece together processes to get what they want, but they’re looking for banks and merchants that can eliminate the need to cobble together different processes.
- On average, globally, more than one-half want a seamless experience. Consumers in Brazil, China, Middle East and India are most interested in seamlessness.
- On average, 45% use their phone to compare prices while shopping in a store. The greatest use of smart phones for comparison shopping takes places in India and China. The least in-store price comparison occurs in Poland and Germany. In the United States, it’s 40%.
- More than 60% check products and prices online before going to a store. This behavior is most prevalent in China and India; only one-third do this in Germany.
- Online banking is common. Globally, 71% of consumers expect real-time access to their financial accounts. They want to know balances and activity anytime, anywhere. More than half bank online using their laptop and more than a quarter bank online using their smart phone.
From Transaction to Experience
The second aspect of the Great Global Transition is that consumers now expect something more than a transaction. They want to feel informed so they can make smart purchases. Consumers now want the commerce experience to be personalized for them; they expect stores and banks to know them. They know you have information about them and they expect you to use it to their benefit, not yours.
- Nearly half of the consumers we surveyed want businesses to get better at tailoring ads and offers. Consumers in China (76%) and Mexico (64%) are most interested in more tailored ads and offers. Consumers in Germany are the least interested (22%).
Consumers want convenient and fast experiences. They want to get in and out quickly, whether they’re in a store or bank or even online. Shopping and banking should be easy.
- Over half appreciate anything that will speed up shopping or the checkout process. China (73%) and Mexico (68%) are most interested in speed at the checkout. By contrast, approximately a third of Germans want speed at checkout.
The expectation for simple, connected experiences also affects expectations of technology. Nearly half of our survey respondents will stop using technology right away if it is not intuitive, easy, and straightforward. Consumers in US, China and Mexico have the least tolerance for technology not being intuitive and easy to use. The bottom line is that consumers expect more from technology, which means that we may only get one chance to impress them.
Social and Sharing
Humans are social creatures, and we live to share our experiences, so a third aspect of the Great Global Transition is that it changes how communication between businesses and consumers works—shifting from top-down to peer-to-peer, and even bottom up.
Social media has substantially increased our span of influence in recent years. If we have a good experience, we tell friends. Or, more likely, if we have a bad experience, we tell anyone who will listen. We tell friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances across Facebook, Twitter, review sites, forums, blogs and more. And we tell the company.
- On average, one half of global consumers post reviews online.
- 83% Chinese respondents post reviews, followed by 74% in India and 60% in Germany.
- More than one half consult social media prior to making a purchase, including an astonishing 80% of Chinese and Indian respondents.
- Just about one half say they prefer companies that are smart about using social media and technology.
What You Can Do
The pace of change in our industry is unprecedented, and the first thing you should do to keep up is to listen to your customers—using technology and in person—and anticipate their evolving expectations so you can craft seamlessly integrated online and offline experiences that are simple, efficient and enjoyable.
Rethink the way you do segmentation so that you can tailor the consumer experience. Don’t just think about your perspective (e.g., high value and low value customers); you need to think about it from your customers’ perspective. Anticipate when they’ll be frustrated by your processes and figure out how to pre-empt that frustration. Help them before they know they need help.
Finally, don't let emerging competitors make you obsolete. When it comes to innovation, the best defense is a good offense.
Larry Drury is the chief marketing officer at First Data.