How consumer expectations of "online" brands have changed

How consumer expectations of "online" brands have changed

For a long time, online brands, those who run the websites and apps we use to inform, entertain, educate, sustain and transport ourselves, thought themselves immune from the pressures businesses in other sectors experienced. Today, arguably, the reverse is true.

At Brands2Life we work for many such brands, so we decided to find out what consumers think of them, what they want from them and, crucially, how they act if they don’t approve of their actions. The report – WALK THE TALK – what consumers think of today’s online brands – took in the views of 6,000 consumers in Europe and the US.

Today, 41% of consumers say they have stopped or reduced their usage of an online brand in the past year because of poor reputation or malpractice. Unsurprisingly, poor customer service and lack of protection around privacy and data ranks highest but there are many broader societal factors coming up fast.

People really want the brands they use to be good corporate citizens.

When asked about what’s important, consumers ranked the following three next most highly: treating their staff and suppliers fairly (90%); safeguards vulnerable groups (89%); pays the right amount of tax in my country (87%).

And there are plenty more listed in our report. Have all online brands considered these factors as important as product functionality and user growth in the past? I’m guessing probably not but they certainly need to do so going forward.

The youngest age-group polled – 18-24-year olds – have the highest expectations of online brands. Over 10% of those polled have stopped or reduced their usage in the past year because of concerns around: CEO behaviour; lack of action to reduce their carbon footprint; ignoring consumer rights; failure to give back to society; and failure to protect vulnerable groups.

Giles Fraser

Can corporations meet, or even, surpass consumer expectations across all the factors they consider important? Possibly not. But they need to ensure that they meet acceptable levels across all of them and, we think, pick at least one where they need to be exceptionally good compared to their peers as a differentiator.

When consumers were asked about what they wanted from online brands’ marketing, honesty and authenticity came out top. They want to trust them; to feel the brands are on their side and care about them as individuals. This sentiment was backed up when we asked them about AI – 46% said they wanted to deal with a person not a robot.

At the end of our report we boiled down our recommendations for marketers to the following. I admit they are very generic but they’re not a bad starting point for a checklist.

Be transparent

The more consumers know about the business behind the brand, the more they will trust it

Be customer-centric

The more personalised interaction a brand can provide the better

Be better

Consumers want brands to treat people well, put something back and consider the planet not just profit

Be local

Show tangible evidence of respect for every local market

Be engaging

Marketing and communications needs to be honest and authentic but also educate, entertain, inform and surprise in equal measures.