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The new reality customer

Globally, consumers believe they will be living their lives very differently for the foreseeable future. They feel more vulnerable, less secure and less in control than ever before. They expect the brands they have to interact with – digitally or, as lockdown eases, physically - to deliver better, safer, and more seamless interactions at a lower cost.

"As the effects of COVID-19 reshape our economies, organizations will need to strategically re-engage with their customers. Whilst behaviors and spend levels have already changed dramatically, it is the evolution of customer needs, attitudes and values that will most disrupt how businesses compete."

Tim Knight
Partner, Customer Advisory
KPMG in the UK

They are financially constrained, want touchless experiences and are more thoughtful and selective in their decision-making giving preference to brands they trust. They have a deeper appreciation of family, friendship and health and are keen to see COVID-19 as an opportunity to reset their values in the world while getting value in all they experience.

As a consequence, we see some new and different behaviours because of the way that we have had to adapt to life in lockdown. Some were already present and have been accelerated or sharpened but many are new and likely to remain and indeed impact customers’ purchase behaviour. Purchasing patterns are also changing as consumers shift from discretionary spend to essentials and it is likely to stay that way as the finances come under pressure and they seek to rebuild their financial safety net.

Value and price are becoming equals for customer loyalty

Consumers’ spend is impacted by both the decrease in disposable income and the psychological impact of COVID-19. We see new segments arise, separated by a need to group products and services into categories of necessity, with spend moderated by financial attitudes.

Consumers in Germany, France and Hong Kong (S.A.R), China feel more calm and secure, fitting into the financially comfortable category. In Brazil, Japan, Italy and Spain, consumers have stopped all non-essential purchases and are more selective, feeling more financially overwhelmed and giving their financial recovery priority.

Value for money, and its corollary price, is the single most important factor in decision-making and our research this year shows that it has become a significant driver of loyalty.

In addition, in previous years of our CX study we have seen that Cost or Value has had little impact on how a customer’s assessment of their experiences translates into advocacy and loyalty. This year, however, for those countries experiencing severe economic impact at the time of the study, we have seen that Value as a determinant of loyalty is second only to Personalization. In addition, brands are perceived to be providing more value for money with the results revealing a 3% uplift.

Key takeaway

Organizations will need to rethink their business and operating models. The consumer’s search for value for money is much more than just short-term margin dilution. It is a fundamental change in purchase priorities and will be prevalent for 12 months or more.

Consumers have become more digitally savvy

COVID-19 has amplified the need for easy access to products and services and information. Most customers are now comfortable using online channels to buy what they need. They are reducing physical purchase occasions and are gravitating towards touchless shopping and contactless payments. 82 percent of consumers stated that they are more likely to use digital wallets or cards in the future.

Use of chat technologies and social media has grown with a threefold increase in consumers claiming they will use social channels, webchat, messenger apps and SMS chat as their main means of communicating with organizations in the new reality .

Key takeaway

Organizations will need to invest in new digital methods of communication and payments. Prioritizing digital security will be key.

Trust becomes multi-dimensional

Trust underpins the commercial cadence between customers and organizations. Integrity and trust are therefore two sides of the same coin. Integrity is how the organization thinks and behaves and trust is the outcome gained as a result from its customers.

During lockdown customers have become more aware of environmental and corporate behaviours. They are more questioning as to whether brands behave credibly when it comes to their environmental and social obligation. They have added further dimensions such as safety and support of the local community.

Key takeaway

Integrity and trust are anchored in an organization’s purpose. It sets an ethical standard that the business must live up to. Like the CX leaders in our research, firms who have demonstrated resilient, moral principles and a commitment to humanity, the environment and social aims are those that consumers are gravitating towards.