Greater expectations: What do customers demand online?

In Charles Dickens’ classic novel Great Expectations, the main character Pip is an idealist; on experiencing or learning something better, he immediately desires more. This mindset of always wanting something better quickly turns into his foundation, and ultimately leads to his downfall. But what can B2B learn from his story?

Pip embodies the fatality and impossibility of always wanting more – something that we share in B2B. This conversation has been echoed throughout B2B over the past two years with growing demands to hit unachievable targets, born from a digital world of immediacy, relevance and convenience. 

While there’s nothing wrong with these traits, consumer expectations today are constantly being driven by digital. Much like Pip, we all desire better experiences in every step of the online experience. Here are three areas:

1. Tech for tech’s sake never works

This increasing dissatisfaction with technologies that were previously deemed superior is aptly demonstrated by the advancements in mobile networks. 

In the early days of the 21st Century, the UK’s trade and industry secretary Stephen Byers hailed the introduction of 3G as having, “the potential to transform everyday life, opening up full scale, multi-media access to millions of people.” 3G would allow users to surf the net, download emails, stream music and send high-quality pictures. 

Funny to think that was only 20 years ago. We’re now living in a world where 5G is delivering entirely new concepts from web 3.0 to quantum computing; let’s not forget the impact that the metaverse may have on how we communicate and interact daily. 

As technology continues to change and evolve in the pursuit for something better, we mustn’t lose sight of what the customer truly wants: interactions that impress and leave a lasting feeling of genuine connection. Challenge your inner Pip – don’t get swayed by the latest, so-called ‘best’ tech but instead keep your customer’s needs at the centre of what you do. 

2. Resetting great expectations

What exactly does ‘great’ mean? It’s a question that is set up for failure -  every single person expects something different to the next. We tend to get lost in the larger-than-life element of greatness, going down an endless cycle of trying to constantly reach unrealistic criteria to satisfy customer expectations – especially when it comes to digital experiences.

Resist the next best thing and get the basics right first to build from there. For instance, hygiene factors in the online experience such as data security.

Whilst for younger, so-called digital natives, navigating the online world is second nature, customers with less experience and confidence now use digital channels for shopping, banking, etc as a result of the pandemic. They in particular need to be reassured before they share personal information with your marketing team. So how might any of these online customers, confident or not, feel about a brand if the website is blocked by a browser or if it triggers a security warning simply because an SSL certificate has expired? It won’t matter how engaging the brand’s content is or how good their products and services are, most customers won’t get past the browser-block!

3. Your site was the future once

When it comes to the digital ecosystem we inhabit, one of the biggest challenges B2B organisations face is keeping up with customers. What may have once been considered award-winning, highly-performant and trouble-free could now be atrophied through bloated visual content or poor content governance.

Take Great Expectations. Pip eventually learns that loyalty and conscience are higher qualities to attain over wealth and advancement. Yet, will digital consumers settle for anything less than ever increasing speed, convenience or ease in their quest for richer and friction-free online experiences?

To echo Pip, "I was too cowardly to do what I knew to be right, as I had been too cowardly to avoid doing what I knew to be wrong.” Brands can ill afford to not understand customers because they will demand everything and give nothing in return if their expectations are not met.

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