The customer experience is now a centerpiece of brand strategy, PR and marketing initiatives, and the ever-evolving practice will get more intricate as expectations increase. But pigeonholing customers on channels is quickly becoming obsolete: new research from customer experience agency Mindstream Interactive reveals that consumers can no longer be put into the category of either an online or offline customer, given how connected people are through mobile devices while still expecting in-person experiences.

The study, CX Revisited, Our Obsession with Customer Experience, and the Surprising Role of Brands, explores how today’s constantly-connected customers use their mobile devices—and how that behavior will dictate their expectations of customer experience in 2018.

“Customers are online the vast majority of the day and they expect brands to be there as well,” said Marti Post, Mindstream VP of strategic services, in a news release. “Even when shopping in a store, people go on their phones for coupons, to read online product reviews, watch video tutorials, download an app, or ‘check in’ to score a good deal. Brands who know how their customers make their buying decisions using both digital and offline experiences and use that insight strategically, will be the leaders in their markets.”

Some key insights from the study:

The role of the brand website has changed

Once an all-important hub for everything, it’s now flanked by many other touchpoints and distribution channels. Websites are still important, but nearly half of the respondents said they visit the site as a second or third step when considering a purchase.

Only 19 percent of respondents trust completely that what brands say on their website is truthful

Instead, they rely on reviews on other sites to provide honesty.

Most customers will only tolerate a 1-hour response window

This is regardless of how they reach out (social media or web contact form).

Customers are online from early morning until after 10pm

This will likely start to shape new hours of operations for social media and customer service departments and/or increase the use of other digital properties like messenger bots.

Additional insights:

  • 34 percent of respondents said they can’t recall the last time they interacted with a national brand without the use of digital support, 36 percent said the same for a local brand.
  • 35 percent of respondents (the top answer) said retail experiences have been enhanced most with the advent of digital.
  • 74 percent of respondents prefer to shop in department stores (Macy’s, Kohl’s, Nordstrom, etc.) or online retail sites, versus branded stores (Oakley, Fossil, Victoria’s Secret, Pink, etc.) sites or apps (24 percent).
  • The vast majority of customers are not ready to accept augmented or virtual reality yet, some calling it a “gimmick” or “marketing tactic.”

“The results of this survey show us unequivocally that customers are very savvy and their expectations are very high,” said Post. “For brands, this means it’s more important than ever to understand their customers’ journey as well as their expectations, from every perspective online and offline, so they can create the customer experiences that keep them coming back.”

Download the full white paper here.

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