The pandemic has elevated digital expectations

A survey by OpenText suggests Canadians now have higher standards for what they consider a positive online experience.

As much as brands strived to improve their digital experiences during the pandemic, a survey suggests the leaps they made have had a corresponding effect on consumer expectations.

Commissioned by technology and data company OpenText and conducted by market research firm 3Gem, the survey polled 27,000 consumers in 12 countries, including 2,000 in Canada.

The report found that 68% of Canadian consumers are more likely to buy from brands that “treat them like an individual,” instead of treating them the same as the rest of their customers. The prevalence of this feeling in Canada is roughly in line with Italy (70%) and the U.S. (67%), but ahead of several countries, including Spain (63%), France (59%) and Germany (55%).

What’s more, 45% of Canadian consumers say they only buy from brands they believe understand their preferences. This can be shown by communicating with a customer through their preferred channels, or by providing personalized deals.

Lou Blatt, SVP and CMO at OpenText, says this sentiment is largely due to the fact that the digital transformation that has been accelerated at many companies due to the pandemic has consequently elevated consumer expectations. According to the survey, 53% of Canadian consumers say the pandemic has changed their expectations of what a brand’s digital offering should be.

“They now expect more from brands – more communication channels, more personalization and, above all, a more continuous and connected digital experience,” Blatt says. “The ability to deliver rich, ultra-personalized communications at scale, across all touch points and channels, is now mission-critical for acquiring, developing and retaining customers.”

Along those lines, 59% of Canadian consumers say a bad experience would have them question whether they’d buy from a brand again. What’s more, 56% do not believe in being a “customer for life” anymore. That’s partially because consumer choice has made it easier to discover new options – 48% of Canadians say they have become more comfortable with digital-only businesses – but it also suggests, according to OpenText, that brands cannot rely on customer loyalty stretching far enough to recover from bad experiences.

In terms of what makes a good online experience, 77% of Canadian consumers say being able to easily search for products they are buying online is important, with 47% preferring to shop with brands that “auto-fill” or remember details of previous searches. For 46% of Canadian consumers, a personalized digital experience was described as “vital” to whether they will make repeat purchases with a brand.

This does require a lot of data, and the responsible collection and storage of that data is something Canadians also factor in to a positive digital experience, with 60% willing to pay more to do business with a brand that does so.