So says a new Havas study, dubbed The X Index, which surveyed 28,000 consumers across five markets, and found that of the 40 criteria analysed, “the customer journey was simple” and “the customer journey was pleasant” scored the highest – above other factors including brand loyalty, customer service and price.
In total, 250 brands – including both retailers who have implemented digital transformation programmes, so-called bricks and clicks firms, and online-only players – were rated across each criterion according to consumers’ perception of their importance to the overall customer experience.
For bricks and clicks brands, the pleasantness of the experience ranked as either the most or second-most important factor in all five markets surveyed – the UK, the US and China, where it took top spot, plus India and France – with simplicity and seamlessness also ranking highly.
For online-only players, simplicity was the most important single factor in three of the five markets (the UK, France and China) and while pleasantness of experience did also emerge as a discerning factor, it was considerably less pronounced than it was for bricks and clicks brands.
Overall, the study – conducted by Havas CX in partnership with research institute OpinionWay – shines a light on the dual but contrasting needs of consumers who demand what the study brands an “almost Darwinist functional efficiency” while simultaneously seeking an emotional connection from the brands they interact with (and buy from).
It also uncovers a divide in consumer expectations of bricks and clicks brands compared to digital players – with emotional needs ranking higher for the former, functionality for the latter. This underlines a clear opportunity for online firms, with functionality very much a given, the emotional can represent a clear differentiating factor.
In total, 40 criteria were analysed across the key components of a customer journey, including brand, relationship, purchase, product and response to Covid-19.
While the importance consumers place on efficiency and emotion stands out, effective CX is driven by a unique combination of these factors in each market. Havas CX has analysed this data to identify four key overarching principles of best-in-class customer experience in 2021:
– Put efficiency at the core: Consumers have gone massively digital in their shopping this year, a trend exacerbated by the pandemic. This shift has made them even more sensitive to the efficiency of the experience, and a simple and seamless purchase journey makes up a substantial portion of the CX scores in each of the five countries, including a 31% of total score for digital pure players in the UK.
– Align your purpose and actions: CX is ultimately a matter of perception – or what a consumer is promised versus what they experience in practice. The fact that “the brand keeps its commitments” ranks in the three most important criteria in two out of five markets underscores the importance of reliability and not overpromising/underdelivering.
Likewise, “I completely trust the brand” made a marked contribution to CX scores in three out of five markets, with a high of 25% for bricks and clicks retailers in France. At a time when trust in institutions and political figures is low, brands can stand out by transparently and consistently communicating their values and backing those words with action, the report claims.
– Reinvent relationships: Underlining the shift from physical to digital commerce, “the attention and efficiency of staff” saw its contribution to the X Index reduced by more than half in France and to zero in China and the US. With sales staff largely out of the picture, personalisation – which accounts for a significant contribution to total X Index score in each of the five markets, including a significant 30% for UK ‘bricks and clicks’ retailers – must take different forms.
– Fight against digital sameness: Delivering on effectiveness alone is not enough to make a lasting difference and, this year, the ability to bring to life signature moments and forge an emotional connection created value for brands.
Indeed, “the purchase journey was pleasant” is a major contributor to the X Index across all markets and was ranked the single most important criterion for consumers in three of the five markets.
Sébastien Houdusse, chief strategy officer of Havas CX agency BETC Fullsix, said: “The X Index demonstrates a clear tension in customer experience between efficiency and emotion – with these two contrasting factors sought by consumers more than any other.
“But with functionality very much ‘table stakes’ in 2021, it’s the emotional through which brands can really stand out from the crowd. This is particularly the case for online players, operating in a world in which the relentless pursuit of optimum functionality has seen it cease to be much of a meaningful differentiator between competing brands.”
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