How consumer expectations for brand experiences, personalization are changing, per Forrester

Dive Brief:

  • More than half (54%) of the most empowered consumers expect to become more digitally engaged with brands over the next 12 to 24 months, per Forrester’s “The Future Of The Empowered Consumer In The US” report that was emailed to Marketing Dive. The empowered consumer group labeled Progressive Pioneers by Forrester leads the demand for product and experience innovation.

  • Nearly two-thirds (63%) of Progressive Pioneers will choose brands that help their local communities, while 57%  intend to buy from companies that contribute to sustainability more frequently over the next two years. Meanwhile, 20% of U.S. online adults believe that brands’ attempts at personalization undermine their feeling of control.

  • Progressive Pioneers make up 20% of consumers, while Convenience Conformers — those who opt for digital products and services largely to enhance the speed and ease of their experiences — make up 44%. These empowered groups are increasing their share of the total consumer base and can key brands into where trends are headed. Innovation-averse Settled Survivors and Reserved Resisters are down to 21% of the consumer base from 35% in 2015, per Forrester.

Dive Insight:

Forrester’s report keys into what CMOs need to know about shifting consumer habits in 2021 and beyond, with a spotlight on a growing consumer base that is both more demanding of brands and tech savvy. While the types of behaviors adopted by empowered consumers — including a heavier reliance on personal devices,  higher expectations of seamless digital-physical interactions and a stronger desire to harness brands for personal well-being — have not changed since the coronavirus pandemic disrupted the globe, those same behaviors have become more widespread.

As demonstrated by previous reports, pre-existing consumer trends have been accelerated by the pandemic. People have looked for brands and digital tools that restore their sense of confidence, but 34% of U.S. online adults said that social media, video calls and texting didn’t make them feel as connected as they hoped, Forrester found. The report also suggested that those who engage across multiple channels have the most fulfilling experiences, suggesting that brands must adopt a multichannel approach to break through.

“The most empowered consumers need both online and offline interactions for meaningful experiences,” Anjali Lai, a senior analyst at Forrester, wrote in the report. “Rather than replacing ‘offline’ behaviors with ‘online’ alternatives, use multiple types of experiences to build a richer, holistic emotional journey.”

Progressive Pioneers demanding that brands help their communities and show a commitment to sustainability follows previous research that indicates consumers increasingly want purpose-led actions from brands to come down to the local level. Forrester suggests that brands work to clarify their commitments to social, environmental or culture values to preserve trust with these consumers.

Similarly, the resistance of one-fifth of U.S. online adults to personalization efforts by brands follows other reports that suggest privacy is becoming more important to consumers. More than half (57%) of consumers have spurned personalization to preserve their privacy, per a recent survey The Conference Board conducted in partnership with Nielsen.

Forrester suggests that CMOs who market to Progressive Pioneers can use these findings immediately, while brands with less empowered consumer bases can expect these changes to be reflected in the next three to five years.

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