4 Ways Brands Can Drive Experience-Led Growth in the Digital Economy

In an era where economic priorities and digital-first spending habits continue to transform customer expectations, competition for share of wallet has intensified. Today’s businesses must do more with less, differentiating themselves by delivering more intuitive and relevant customer experiences that add value, build trust and loyalty, and drive profitable growth.

To help brands successfully navigate the economic uncertainty ahead, we conducted two studies across 14 countries from February to May 2023, capturing the perceptions of over 13,000 consumers and 4,000 marketing and customer experience professionals, in each study.

The research shows leading brands succeed by focusing on three key area their customers and employees value most: delivering personalised experiences, innovating to stay ahead of expectations, and running their businesses responsibly.

1) Amid economic uncertainty, consumers prioritise great experiences

When times get tough, people expect the brands they buy from to exercise more empathy, respect, and understanding. With a potential economic downturn on the horizon, it’s no surprise that consumers feel similar, with exactly half of global consumers saying they expect even better experiences from brands when the economic climate worsens.

Among younger consumers (generation Z and millennials), expectations are even higher. Almost two-thirds (65%) say they expect better customer experiences during tough economic times, and 35% indicate their expectations are much higher.

2) Consumers prefer better customer experiences over rock-bottom prices

As our research shows, consumers are fiercely loyal to brands that take a balanced approach. When asked the best formula for winning their loyalty during an economic downturn, brands that adopt an even focus between profitability, customer experience, and corporate responsibility ranks highest.

The fact ‘focus on customer experience’ edges out ‘offer absolute lowest prices’ as the next best formula for keeping customer loyalty only serves to underscore how CX has emerged as the key competitive differentiator in building stronger personalised connections between brand and consumer.

3) Consumers want brands to use generative AI to improve experiences – responsibly

Excitement around the transformative impact of generative AI is continuing to surge across global markets – its potential to enhance creativity and improve the customer experience is already clear to see. In fact, almost nine in 10 (89%) of marketing and CX professional are actively exploring ways to integrate generative AI into their work.

However, while consumers are also enthusiastic about generative AI’s ability to make a positive impact on their daily lives, they want brands to wield its power responsibly. Above all else, consumers want brands to prioritise ethical considerations when it comes to generative AI – such as guardrails to protect creators’ intellectual properties (34%).

Consumers also seem well aware of how much the customer experience is set to benefit, with 30% hoping brands prioritise generative AI to improve the customer experience. Some also want focus to extend to the employee experience (15%).

4) Responsible business practices build consumer trust

In this new moral age, customers want to buy from brands that are authentic, sustainable, and transparent. One of the top ways to build consumer trust, according to our research, is to keep data safe and use it in-line with customer expectations.

Along with data privacy, purpose-led issues have also evolved into a mainstream concern for business leaders, and customers place significant trust in brands that demonstrate more social accountability. Sustainability is higher than ever on the consumer agenda, with over eight in 10 (82%) consumers saying they’d reduce spend with brands they think don’t care about the environment, while 27% will refuse to spend money at all with those brands.

Accessibility is also becoming an increasingly important part of the customer experience. In fact, 85% of consumers say they’d reduce spend with companies that don’t invest in making their workplaces, products and services accessible, while 29% say they’d refuse to spend any money.

Growth comes from experience

As economic uncertainties increase, our research shows brands can grow trust and profits by investing in transformation technologies and using them to deliver great customer experiences, while never losing sight of their duty to operate responsibly.

This extends across all areas of an organisation, from purpose-led issues such as social impact and governance, to ethical use of emerging and disruptive technologies like generative AI. Brands that neglect this duty – especially in areas related to data privacy, accessibly, and sustainability – will likely see profits and trust suffer.