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Brands struggle to meet digital need

News, 26 January 2015

NEW YORK: Just 11% of US consumers strongly agree that companies are effectively converging digital, mobile, social and traditional channels, according to a survey that reveals how brands are falling short of modern customer expectations.

Despite their efforts to improve products and services, brands have not been able to keep up with consumers' greater use of digital channels and their "always on" behaviour.

This, in turn, means that changes in consumer spending habits and their increased willingness to switch providers has created a "switching economy" in the US worth $1.6 trillion, a 29% increase since 2010.

These are the headline findings from Accenture, the management consultancy, which questioned more than 2,000 US consumers as part of its global survey of 23,665 people and their views about marketing, sales and customer service.

Looking at the US segment of the worldwide poll, Accenture found more than half (56%) say the number of brands they consider has increased significantly over the past 10 years.

Meanwhile, nearly as many (46%) say they're more likely to switch providers than 10 years ago and nearly a quarter (24%) want more digital interactions from brands.

Just over a quarter (28%) of US consumers say they feel very loyal towards their providers and only about a third (31%) are willing to recommend them to others.

Also, a similar proportion (34%) say they're open to purchasing products and services from non-traditional providers, such as online-only organisations.

Robert Wollan, senior managing director at Accenture Strategy, said many established companies are reacting too slowly to meet the needs of today's "non-stop customers" – an important consideration, given the $1.6 trillion "switching economy" Accenture identified as being up for grabs.

"While many companies have been chasing the opportunity digital brings, they have not addressed the root causes of the problems that are exposed when they don't execute well," he warned.

"Companies have been focused only on 'doing the same things better' when these issues really require them to 'do things differently'."

A good starting point, the research suggested, would be to address the top three US consumer frustrations for customer service.

These are a failure to resolve an issue quickly (86%), lengthy hold times (85%) and dealing with company representatives who cannot answer questions (84%).

Data sourced from Accenture; additional content by Warc staff