In the following interview Guntram Friede, Head of Marketing Switzerland at Salesforce, talks about the state of the connected customer. Salesforce has recently released an award winning report on customers' attitudes about digital interaction and commerce. The report was named top report 2019 in the category "E-commerce".
ITRF: In your report «State of the Connected Customer” you point out that expectations of consumers have shifted heavily with regard to their online shopping experience. What makes the difference today?
Guntram Friede: Globally, customers' standards for modern engagement are a far cry from the transactional, one-size-fits-all experiences that were once de-facto. Tailored, contextualized engagement across multiple touch-points is the benchmark, and disruptive business models are further raising the bar. Customers already expect companies to use new technologies to create better experiences. Innovation is accelerating across industries thanks to emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things. Customers today have stated that service is getting more important in their buying decision than the product itself. With so many consumers and business buyers willing to pay a premium for differentiated, first-to-market products and services that enhance their experiences, the pressure is on for companies to get ahead of the digital curve.
ITRF: Your report states that “trust becomes more important yet more elusive”. How can companies earn the trust of the connected customer today?
Guntram Friede: Trust has always been foundational in customer relationships, but it's a more nuanced subject in an era where customers expect transparency, authenticity and ethics. Globally, customers feel that honesty is the best policy for earning customer trust. Our research shows that transparency is crucial in this regard. Customers are more likely to trust companies with their personal information if those companies are transparent about how that data is being used.
It’s not enough for businesses to say “we value the security and privacy of our customers’ data.” Businesses need to show how they are doing that and then let customers decide for themselves what information is appropriate to use and what’s not. It shouldn’t, therefore, come as a surprise that the large majority of customers say they’re more likely to trust a business with their data when they’re given control over what information is collected and ultimately used. Therefore, companies will need to be smart about how they are using existing customer data to make customers feel recognized and understood.
ITRF: This is already the 3rd edition of your report. Over the years, what have you seen in terms of significant changes and what are your expectations for the future?
Guntram Friede: Before, the product was the focus of any marketing activity, nowadays the customer stands in the center. Due to new technologies, he or she is better informed. That is why customers are gaining more and more power towards companies, and expectations regarding quality of service and product are increasing accordingly. Today, in a world of social platforms, every person has a voice. The rewards of harnessing your most passionate fans are great, but at the same time customers will also be very forthright when they are displeased. So knowing your customers and understanding their needs has become more critical to success, no matter what industry you’re in. Individualization became key to reach the relevant target group at the right time with the right offer - customers experience this more as a consulting service than a marketing activity. Also, the average number of data sources marketers draw on has grown by 20 percent since 2017. With sources multiplying, it can be an uphill battle for marketers to keep up, and as a result, most organizations are using only a fraction of the data they have access to.
ITRF: Thank you very much for this interview, Guntram!