COVID-19 has brought about many changes and affected many things this year, including customer sentiment. What are they and how do they affect marketers? The results of a consumer experience sentiment survey of nearly a thousand U.S. adults this July by Merkle were recently released and revealed these results.
One of the main things Merkle wanted to learn about and better understand was the personal experience brands were delivering to consumers during the pandemic and how it may be changing. Their secondary goal was to gauge consumer preferences and perceptions about brand authenticity in marketing. In releasing details, the global performance marketing agency added that it was planning to conduct a follow-up survey in about six months.
What Merkle discovered was that privacy and authenticity are becoming increasingly important to consumers. Of the respondents, 71% said they’d be willing to take a short 60-second survey on visiting a website for the first time, but half felt brands already knew too much about them.
The strongest demonstration of authenticity to respondents was a brand’s demonstration of diversity in advertising as well as the support of social causes dear to them through monetary and in-kind donations. They said they expected brands to demonstrate support rather than appearing to jump on the bandwagon by responding with press releases after certain newsworthy events.
Marketers should be aware of and possibly concerned about these key takeaways. Only 35% of those surveyed felt that current advertising and marketing met their needs, while 34% often felt that brands were meeting their needs. Just 29% believed they saw themselves exemplified in advertising and messaging.
The overwhelming majority of the remaining dissatisfied others represent a big challenge to marketers. CMOs need to do a much better job of understanding the values and motivational factors behind them in order to tailor meaningful messages that will cause them to take notice and patronize those brands.
Of those who felt that brands already knew too much about them, the most deeply affected were people over 40, males, and those with higher incomes. Brands need to do a better job of avoiding the appearance of being invasive as well as how they gather information and pass it back to their customers. On the other side of the coin, only 16% of respondents felt that brands didn’t know enough about them.
Most respondents, and particularly younger audiences, said they’d be willing to share a little more information about themselves if it resulted in a more tailored online experience. Just 13% disagreed. Customers with higher incomes, however, felt that moves toward personalization were indiscreet and that it was nothing they cared about. Women and younger audiences, on the other hand, said they would be more inclined to share personal information if it led to better personalization.
The top reason for those willing to share personal data was to enhance and customize their shopping experience. The next three were targeting advertising, customized online profiles, and pharmaceutical research. Yet, when it came to matters of importance, personalization ranked a distant sixth behind the quality, price, brand reputation, customer service and brand loyalty.
CMOs need to recognize generational differences and find a balance between being perceived as being intrusive while addressing and tailoring communications to the needs and desires of all.