The Digital Divide: Research reveals discord between marketers’ actions and consumers’ behaviours


This article is brought to you by Retail Technology Review: The Digital Divide: Research reveals discord between marketers’ actions and consumers’ behaviours.

The ever-evolving digital landscape, with its ever-increasing online channels, is posing significant challenges on marketers to understand how best to interact with their customers. 

According to research announced by Upland BlueVenn, marketers are struggling to establish a unified customer experience due to the sheer volume of channels and devices they need to manage. The research further highlights the rise of the ‘Hybrid Consumer’, with customers now interacting with brands across a mix of digital and offline channels and expecting their experience to be consistent across all. 

On average, UK consumers are using more than 20 channels to interact with brands across online and physical touchpoints. As a result, 83% of marketers believe it is now a challenge to unify consumers’ data when so many have multiple identities across platforms. In addition to this, nearly two-thirds (64%) of marketers believe their team lacks the knowledge or skills to effectively analyse and segment customer data. The impact of this is confirmed by consumers themselves, with just 35% believing brands they interact with understand their shopping needs – despite 79% of marketers claiming to have unified customer profiles. 

That begs the question therefore of whether the responding marketers can identify their customers and track brand journeys as effectively as they think. Since 39% of UK marketers claim they can deliver a consistent, personalised message on three or more channels, while only 12% of customers (1/3 of that proportion) agree that brands provide them with a consistent experience, on all channels, it is clear there is a discord between the two.  

Steve Klin, General Manager of Upland BlueVenn, commented, “It’s common knowledge that ecommerce has dramatically increased since the pandemic due to global lockdowns, but now that lockdown regulations are easing, shoppers will be eager to purchase in-store again, whilst others will continue to transact online. Our research has found that many UK brands are simply not prepared to keep track of the many digital interaction points and are potentially not focussed on the channels that they need to be. Consumer expectations are at an all-time high and many are looking for a more personalised experience whilst engaging with brands in more places than ever before, which makes the life of the multi-channel marketer very challenging.” 

Online or in-store engagement depends on what consumers are purchasing 

Understandably, the preference of either online or in-store consumer interaction varies depending on the product or service. When shopping for clothing, homeware, and exercise equipment, 48% of UK consumers prefer to do so via a laptop/desktop web browser, similarly 41% prefer to use this channel when shopping for financial services. However, when in the market for a new car, the majority (36%) would prefer to shop in branch.   

However, the research indicates this focus on laptop/desktop web browsing could easily switch to mobile handsets, with 40% of consumers stating that they’ve increased the amount they’ve used their phone over the last year. Furthermore, 34% of consumers stated that a better user experience on a mobile app would encourage them to use it over a web browser proving that the mobile customer experience is something businesses should be focussed upon. 

Consumers want to give brands their data directly 

Despite the influx of data now available to brands due to the multiple channels that exist, consumers remain hesitant in sharing their personal data. There are concerns from consumers when shopping online (75%) and in-store (56%) over their data security, which is indicated as one of the main reasons why a consumer may not purchase a product or service. 

It should be seen as a priority for marketers to do what they can to allay consumer fears about how their data will be held and used in a transparent way. Encouragingly for brands themselves, over a third (37%) of UK shoppers would prefer to share their data directly with a brand they trust rather than with a tech giant, however 36% said they’d prefer not to have to share their personal data with neither brands nor tech giants. 

Consumers want to be targeted, but marketers aren’t listening 

With a demand for personalised marketing and a good customer experience, understanding what resonates with the customer is important in order to get it right. Seven in ten UK consumers (69%) find it frustrating being contacted regularly by brands and 80% find pop-up notifications on their phone or laptop frustrating. With so many channels and opportunities for businesses to engage with a customer, brands need to be mindful of how frequently customers are being contacted and ensure that annoying CX niggles are removed, and message fatigue is monitored. 

With three in four consumers saying a poor user experience will stop them buying, both online and in-store (76% and 74% respectively), marketers need to gain a better understanding of the evolving customer journey or risk losing customers altogether. 

Encouragingly, almost half (48%) of marketers collect information regarding how frequently their customers want to be contacted, however, a substantial 43% collect this insight but do not act upon it. Similarly, 44% of marketers are collecting data on their customers’ likes and dislikes, but a disappointingly higher percentage of marketers (46%) are obtaining this information but not using it, and a further 10% don’t collect it at all.  

Klin continues, “In order for brands to provide customers with the most personalised experience, they really need to move beyond just collecting this data, but also start to put it to use. There is no worth in asking a customer what they like and dislike if you don’t have the skills or marketing platforms to be able to activate this information. Customer Data Platforms are becoming essential to make this customer data actionable across all channels, and with consumers moving between digital and offline channels more frequently, it’s essential that businesses empower their marketing teams with the ability to activate their customer data more effectively.” 

Consumer behaviours vary internationally 

For businesses reaching international audiences, it is key to understand market nuances and the most effective ways of reaching target consumers in each region. For example, our research finds 25% of US consumers prefer to use Twitter to browse for clothing, homeware, and exercise equipment, compared with just 4% of UK consumers, indicating US homeware marketers should consider investing to a higher degree in social media. 

In general, US consumers are more inclined to embrace many channels. Around 20% of stateside respondents favour 10 or more channels to browse for homeware, cars, charitable donations, and holidays, while UK consumers shop primarily on one or two channels for these products (they especially favour their laptop/web browsers, which they are twice as likely to use when shopping for certain products as their US counterparts). A seamless, multichannel strategy is therefore a must-have, right now, in the US, but perhaps the UK has a little more time to catch up.  

For those developing personalisation strategies, it is interesting to note US consumers are over three times as concerned (40% vs. just 11%) about receiving a personalised customer experience.  

Meanwhile, mobile commerce is becoming popular in the US, with mobile browsers and/or apps regularly appearing among the most popular shopping channels. This correlates with the considerable uptick in mobile commerce in the US (61% increase) compared to the UK (40% increase) over the last 12 months. This popularity may be driven by the more personalised experience that can be delivered via a mobile, since 89% of US consumers reported they would use an app over a browser if it offered better personalisation (compared with 50% in the UK).  

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