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Fully 85% of business leaders surveyed around the world agree that the needs of their customers are changing rapidly, and even more (93%) agree that their customers’ expectations are increasing. That’s according to the Global Trends Barometer 2019 from Vodafone, which also found that retaining customer trust is the top concern for businesses surveyed.

That concern is understandable in light of research showing that only half of Americans trust business as an institution and that brand trust matters a great deal in consumers’ purchase decisions.

One driver of trust in business is ethical practices – and 93% of business leaders surveyed by Vodafone likewise agree that their customers expect their organization to act ethically. Three in 10 are optimistic that there will be more focus on ethics in the future by businesses, and 83% recognize that acting ethically ultimately generates more revenue for them.

With brand purpose also figuring more into purchase decision-making, the study notes that more than two-thirds of businesses, regardless of size, feel that the importance and visibility of a company’s business mission has increased over the past 5 years. Moreover, almost three-quarters (72%) report that they actively depend on their company mission to attract customers and win business.

9 in 10 Have A Clear Objective to Change the Customer Experience

The Vodafone analysts note that “disruption is putting people – customers and employees – at the heart of the business.” As a result business leaders are prioritizing innovation and the customer experience. Indeed, 90% have a clear objective to be more innovative than the competition, and 88% have a clear objective to transform the customer experience.

The trend towards greater customer-centricity is brought home by the finding that business leaders are more focused on keeping customers happy (61%) than on growing revenue (55%) or cutting costs (49%).

In turn, it’s understandable that businesses would prioritize customer satisfaction when considering the growing clout that they believe customers have earned. Separately, 76% of survey respondents noted that customers are becoming more powerful, against just 4% who said they’re becoming less powerful.

Moreover, 71% feel that people on social media are growing more powerful, against 7% saying they’re losing power.

These two groups – customers, and people on social media – are more likely to be seen as gaining power than any other group, including regulators, businesses, media, and employees.

Social media users themselves are in agreement: in research released last year, Sprout Social found 3 in 4 social media users surveyed saying that social has increased accountability for brands by giving consumers power.

About the Data: The results are based on a survey of 1,733 businesses, industry analysts, global consultancies, futurologists and more in China, Germany, India, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, the UK and the US. Respondents hail from a variety of company sizes and industries, with the Manufacturing, Financial and Business Services, and Tech and Media sectors most heavily represented.

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