The world is changing and with it, customer mindsets are shifting. So what is the South African customer thinking right now, and how will this affect your business in the short and long term? These are five big customer trends that you need to think about and find strategic ways to incorporate them into your business.

1. A big move to a trust-based economy

The past few years have been brutal on consumers and with it, government support is waning. Making it essential that you as a brand and business, are trustworthy during uncertain times. What this means in practical terms, is that customers want businesses to do the right thing and build trust with them. Trust lies specifically in areas of privacy, responsible use of data and honest communication. With this in mind, the best way to build trust with customers is through transparency, clear communication channels and by treating your customers like people and not bottom lines. Customers expect that you will use their data responsibly and resolve issues quickly and proactively. All this needs to be dealt with consistently and when done authentically, a customer will come to trust your brand and the team behind it. 

2. Brand loyalty matters

Digitisation has made the world a bigger and better place. But in a faster, more accessible world - where customer relationships can be influenced by unexpected factors - it is important that brand loyalty is prioritised. A high number of customers are looking to be treated in a particular way like treating employees well and responding to ethical and environmental factors and injustices. In fact, when a company doesn’t align with their values, the majority of customers will be happy to ditch a brand in favour of one that speaks their language. A great way to encourage brand allegiance is through loyalty programs. These not only entice new customers but are a great way to reward existing ones. These loyalty programs can also be personalised and work across multiple brands and networks simultaneously. 

3. Balance personalisation with privacy issues

When it comes to personalisation in business,  this area is highly evolved and has moved beyond basic communication. In fact, customers expect brands to understand their needs and expectations and to anticipate them at every point along the customer journey. Many customers are prepared to swap their personal data in return for a more streamlined customer experience. To help customers feel more at ease about this, businesses need to communicate why they are asking for their data in the first place and then be transparent with how it is going to be used. This experience reinforces the idea that your business sees the customer as an individual and that there is an upside to getting more personal with you. 

4. A fine line between mistrust of tech and promises of a better experience

While many customers understand that artificial intelligence (AI) can make their lives easier, there is also a large contingent of customers who are afraid of technology which can be used against them. With this in mind, customers want greater control over how their information is used and require feedback in this regard. They also want to access the research behind the technology and insist that human rights and ethics are considered as much as possible. In this way, it is important to help customers understand how tech plays a role in streamlining and automating their customer experience. Reassuring them with your good intentions and reminding them along the way that AI can make their lives easier.

5. Interdepartmental consistency is key

Customers are starting to demand that customer experience is consistent across departments. Often it feels like departments are segmented and that the head doesn’t know what the tail is doing. Making it so important that the overall brand experience is seamless and integrated. When this doesn't happen, customers lose trust in the brand and this is incredibly difficult to win back. 

 The bottom line

The world is changing faster than ever and with it, customer expectations are evolving. Trust and loyalty are closely intertwined and this is reinforced at critical points along the customer journey. With responsible and transparent use of technology and personal information, you can begin to personalise the customer experience, align with your customer’s values, and give them real value in exchange for loyalty, and of course, sales. 

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