Expectations changing fast; customers demand brands keep pace

A new study has found consumer expectations are more fragmented and shifting faster than ever before following recent crises including the pandemic, extreme weather events and armed conflict.

The research, conducted by consumer intelligence company Talkwalker, analysed 145,000 social media conversations of 100 global brands between February 2020 to February 2022 to understand what topics people cared most about when engaging with brands online.

Conversation topics and keywords were grouped into three main categories – self-focused, society-focused, and globally-focused – to uncover trends in consumer expectations.

The vast majority (64 per cent) of conversations were self-focused with the most common consumer expectations in this category being faster customer service (26 per cent), understanding what consumers want (17 per cent), and easier customer service (15 per cent).

Over one third (35 per cent) of the interactions were found to be society-focused with consumers most concerned with how brands were creating a wider product variety for different people (50 per cent), improving employee standards of living (30 per cent), and advocating for diversity and inclusion (20 per cent).

Although only one per cent of the conversations were globally-focused, there was a single topic that dominated these discussions – sustainability (100 per cent).

Dimitri Lanssens, managing director at Talkwalker A/NZ, said the recent rise digitalisation had made it harder for brands to connect with consumers due to the seemingly infinite amount of data being generated from daily interactions.

“Brands need to cut through the static and listen to what really matters to their customers by proactively approaching the interplay between data, technology, and people,” Lanssens said.

When trying to connect with their consumers, he said it was vital brands moved away from reactive and siloed digital strategies to a more proactive footing that not only seeks to predict shifting expectations, but also helps to shape them.

“The key takeaway from the data is that there isn’t a simple answer to the question ‘what do consumers want?’,” Lanssens said. “We’re human, we get pulled in different ways. We want to care about society and the environment, but we struggle to balance that with day-to-day requirements.”

“We can see at any moment what the current demand priority is, but it can change day-to-day. Brands need to keep listening to their audience, to truly know what their consumers want, and how they can adapt.”


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