February 22, 2021
Brands are always watching customer behavior to predict spending habits. Last year saw several dramatic shifts in consumer behavior due to the pandemic – many of which are expected to continue well into 2021. However, there are also some new spending behaviors that marketing and operations teams will be eying. Here are the top five customer demands that companies will be watching throughout 2021 and what some are doing now to fulfill those needs.
Enhanced Customer Service
Enhanced customer service expectations still reign at the top of the customer behavior list. Customers have grown more sophisticated over the years about the level of customer service they expect and will often seek out a competitor quickly if expectations are not met. Rackspace Technology, Inc. (Tii:RXT) is looking to remain at the forefront of customer service. The cloud services provider offers “fanatical support” that not only provides support 24 hours a day but has, on occasion, gone as far as having pizza delivered to unsuspecting customers that were in a marathon meeting.
Another example of enhanced customer service in action comes by way of hotel chain Marriott International, Inc. (Tii:MAR). On one occasion, hotel guests who were staying at a Bali location brought specialized ingredients for their child who suffered from severe food allergies. When learning that some of the perishable ingredients didn’t survive the flight, the hotel manager had a relative purchase the items from Singapore and flew them to Bali to personally deliver the items. This undoubtedly resulted in strong brand loyalty.
The concept of convenience was hit-or-miss for some companies before the pandemic as supply chains and work productions didn’t prioritize consumer convenience, which often comes with a price tag. Yet 2020 changed that for the most part as convenience became a necessity if a brand wanted to continue to engage with consumers. As a result, we saw free pick-up and home delivery options, curbside pick-up and the like. Rite Aid Corporation (Tii:RAD), which began offering free home delivery for prescription medications last year, continues to do so in 2021. The drugstore chain touts that many of the prescriptions arrive within 1-2 hours.
Rapid Delivery Options
It’s not just prescription medications getting the rapid delivery treatment. Consumers demand their grocery items, clothing, electronics, and other packages need to get into their hands as quickly as possible. Not only is this trend unlikely to change, but brands are also finding that customers are willing to pay a little extra to get their packages a bit sooner. Walmart Inc. (Tii:WMT) has been at the forefront of shipping logistics and rapid home delivery for years. The next step in the evolution of rapid delivery may well be self-driving vehicles, which the retail giant is testing out in select locations.
Some consumers care more about an online experience that feels customized just for them more than prices and product selection. Creating an online experience with the same effect as a brick-and-mortar manager knowing every customer’s name is not an easy thing to accomplish. Uber Technologies, Inc. (Tii:UBER) is a prime example of this in action. The developers for the rideshare platform analyzed the issues customers faced when hailing a taxi and systematically eliminated them. The company also allows users to customize their experience by providing options for vehicle and service types.
“Now Customer” Experience
One phenomenon that will be more pronounced in 2021 is the Now Customer. This term represents customers who spend much of their time online and demand rapid resolutions and engaged interactions from their brands at all times. Many will be sure to leave negative reviews – potentially turning away future customers. About 96.2% of customers have this shopping mentality to some degree, according to Shep Hyken, a customer service and experience expert. Canadian e-commerce platform Shopify Inc. (Tii:SHOP) is an example of a company that not only offers 24/7 customer support via email, live chat, and phone but also utilizes social media to implement support services rapidly. This includes a dedicated Twitter account so customers can tweet their problems directly to Shopify and receive a quick response.
Whether or not these consumer predictions evolve as the year wears on, those companies that remain engaged with consumer demands and able to react quickly will be better positioned in the long-term.