State of the Connected Customer

Insights from 6,700+ consumers and business buyers on the intersection of experience, technology, and trust
State of the Connected Customer: Salesforce Research

Executive Summary
Rising generations take for granted that they can order almost anything by just talking to a device. But their parents remember when mail-order catalogs were the norm. Suffice to say, technology is raising customer standards at a breakneck pace. For businesses, there’s more focus than ever on going beyond the expected product or service, to deliver a customer experience that truly differentiates.

But while expectations for personalized, connected experiences are soaring, trust in companies to responsibly handle the data they require is bottoming out. This report examines the
evolution of these expectations, the technology that’s driving them, and the balance of trust between customers and companies.

Customer Expectations Hit All-Time Highs
With more choice, more access to information, and less incentive to be loyal, today’s customers are firmly in control of their relationships with companies. Consumers and business buyers alike seek differentiated experiences based on trust and understanding and will shop around to find them. Eighty percent of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services.

Companies Face a New Connected Mandate
From product recommendations to proactive service, customers expect engagement that’s uniquely personalized. What’s more, customers are looking for interactions that are connected and contextualized at every turn. Seventy percent of customers say connected processes are very important to winning their business.

Technology Sets New Benchmarks for Innovation
As technology evolves at a head-spinning pace, customers have been conditioned to expect newer and better experiences. Customers are far more likely to view various emerging technologies as revolutionary, rather than hyped, with artificial intelligence (AI) playing an increasingly prominent role in their daily lives. Fifty-six percent of customers actively seek to buy from the most innovative companies.

Customers Balance Personalization and Privacy Amid a Crisis of Trust
Delivering personalized experiences requires a data-driven, 360-degree view — but more than half of respondents are uncomfortable with how their data is used. Customers say companies can earn their trust by taking certain steps, such as giving them control over how their data is applied and being transparent with how it’s used. Eighty-six percent of customers are more likely to trust companies with their relevant information if they explain how it provides a better experience.

The ripple effect of a single bad experience goes beyond one lost sale. Fifty-seven percent of customers have stopped buying from a company because a competitor provided a better experience. What’s more, 62% of customers say they share bad experiences with others. With the proliferation of peer review sites and social media, this practice can inflict widespread reputational damage. But this new dynamic is not all doom and gloom. Seventy-two percent of customers share good experiences with others — a full 10% more than those that share the negative. Two-thirds of customers will even pay a premium to companies that offer superior experiences, thereby introducing not just competitive differentiation, but increased or even new revenue streams.

SPOTLIGHT: B2B Expectations Mirror B2C Standards

Naturally, business buyers also have personal lives as consumers — and their expectations as consumers have seeped into their professional world. 82% of business buyers want the same experience as when they’re buying for themselves. At a time when personalized recommendations, proactive engagement, and deeply relevant content are table stakes, more than seven in 10 business buyers expect vendors to personalize engagement to their needs. And for 84% of business buyers, trust is a critical factor in choosing vendors.

To put a fine point on this convergence of B2C and B2B worlds, 69% of business buyers expect an Amazon-like business buying experience. However, only 27% of business buyers say companies generally excel at meeting their standards for an overall experience, signaling ample room for improvement.

Top Actions That Increase Customer Trust

  • Giving me control over what information is collected about me
  • Having a strong privacy policy
  • Asking for my explicit consent to use my information
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