Who's driving your customers' digital expectations?

Who's driving your customers' digital expectations?

iStock illustration.

By Kevin Sanders, chief marketing officer, Onosys

I was at a restaurant industry conference recently listening to a presentation on mobile adoption and which digital technologies were on the priority lists of today's restaurant brands. As the session ended, I overheard a restaurant executive at the table next to me say he was reluctant to adopt all this digital technology because he was wary of raising his customers' expectations too high.

Digital expectations are already high

What this executive failed to realize is that his customers' digital expectations are not driven by experiences with other restaurant brands. When you think about which brands have had the greatest influence on your digital expectations, it's the big players. While these companies have (very little) to do with food, they have everything to do with molding today's customer's expectations.

Instant access to information anywhere

Google has certainly played the major role in training us to expect relevant information at our fingertips, instant results, and access to our full history of activity.

Google was one of the first to show us what a true frictionless, device-agnostic experience can look like and they also set the bar on anticipating our needs by using our activity to make relevant suggestions and recommendations. But perhaps Google's most significant contribution is yet to come. Their work with artificial intelligence and virtual reality will radically change how we engage with the digital world. If you're still trying to figure out how to meet today's customer expectations, prepare yourself to fall even further behind.

Sharing and direct engagement is the new normal

Facebook has also profoundly shaped our digital expectations, especially regarding transparency and connectedness.

We are now comfortable sharing the most intimate details of our lives throughout the most public of domains. This has in turn defined the level of transparency we expect from the brands we engage with both online and off. Facebook – and social networks in general – has also created an expectation of direct engagement and interactive communication. Your customers expect to reach you through a variety of different channels and not only be heard and listened to, but responded to – promptly. If you currently respond quickly to customer complaints, don't pat yourself on the back just yet. It's projected that soon even an immediate response won't be fast enough.

At the same time, all this public intimacy has made consumers more willing to share personal information with the brands they do business with. In return, they expect these brands to apply personal data to deliver more personalized products.

Convenience is key

When it comes to the digital shopping experience, we can thank Amazon for setting our expectations for convenience.

In one intuitive, easy to use interface, we can shop for just about anything, read reviews from other users, purchase with one click, and have the product delivered at ever-increasing speeds right to our door (and soon to a specific room in our house!). They also update us in real time throughout the process so we can plan accordingly. Oh, and it's available 24/7. Amazon never closes. How well do you compete with that level of convenience?

What this means for your business

None of these are restaurants (yet…?). But as far as the customer is concerned, if someone can deliver this level of digital experience, everyone should be able to. We're all playing on the same digital field in their minds. Unfair? Yes. Reality? You bet. Now, I'm not suggesting that you need to deliver a Google or Amazon level experience. But you do need to be mindful that your customers are having these experiences and it is affecting how they will evaluate yours.

The stark reality of it is your average customer believes your burrito, pizza, or burger isn't that much better than the guys across the street and if he can provide a digital experience that better meets their needs, he'll get their order – today and likely moving forward.

Topics: Mobile Marketing, Restaurants, Retail, Trends / Statistics

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