Consumers Ditch Brand Loyalty, Prioritise Experience and Price

Consumers demand "wow" experiences that are personalised, fast, and secure. Is AI the key to delighting them & boosting loyalty? Find out now.

Reading Time: 5 mins 


  • Once we all started living digitally, it was only a matter of time before market trends reflected the flexibility of the ecommerce world. Just as orders can be fulfilled fractionally, so can consumer tastes twist and turn in the breeze. So must you if a competitor finds a way to give same-day delivery. If a competitor offers buy-now-pay-later (BNPL), so must you. The same applies to engagement channels and customer experiences of all types. 

    In a survey of 13,000 consumers across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), ServiceNow and Opinium found that shoppers are prioritising experience more and more. 79% of UAE consumers expected brands to know their purchasing habits, and 91% wanted this individualisation reflected in discounts. Privacy also loomed large as almost all (93%) of consumers in the Emirates agreed that a good level of security for personal data would be a prerequisite. But regional shoppers haven’t forgotten about price; 37% indicated they would switch brands for a better deal.

    The total of all this is a UAE consumer base that is, on average, 91% less loyal to brands than it was two years ago—a whopping 15 percentage points higher than the EMEA average. A change of this magnitude is a cry for back-to-the-drawing-board thinking. Something must be done if your organisation is to remain relevant. But what? An organisational reshuffle? Territorial expansion? Rebranding? Here, I shall argue that it is none of these. The answer is good old seamless service and rapid results—a customer experience that can deliver the transition from “Meh” to “Wow”.

    Castle on a hill

    Our EMEA research could not be clearer on one point. Almost all UAE customers (94%) told our researchers that they gravitate towards businesses that can resolve their issues quickly and efficiently. If you think that sounds like a job for a technology platform, you would not be alone. For almost two decades, the region has been investigating ways of using tech to do more with fewer resources, less human capital, and less training. And while many technologies have risen to fill that void, AI is the roundest of all pegs. An AI-powered customer experience is the shining castle on the hill. And it is finally within our grasp.

    Consider what customers have always wanted—a frictionless journey from initial engagement to after-sales service. AI can automate processes, minimise repetition, and reduce complexity. And it can immensely improve the employee experience, taking over tasks such as email composition and data gathering. 

    Before we get too carried away with supplanting our human workforce, we should note that many modern customers do not crave a 100%-automated experience. Our research found you can hurt your brand by withholding the option for one-to-one human interaction. More than one in three EMEA respondents (37%) fall into this category, so we must allow for human-AI balance. 

    A separate study by IPA Research shows almost three in four consumers want to know when dealing with AI. The AI-human combo is tempting, but we must walk a tricky line to translate it into a delightful customer experience. Automate where appropriate, allow for interaction with human agents when requested, and be open about the choice with your customers. Tell them if they are conversing with a bot and tell them about any data used in the process.

    AI for all

    We have all been consumers, so the journey is easy to visualise. We can visualise the bad examples because we have been through them and the good ones, even if we have not encountered them yet. Virtual agents are the gatekeepers. They point us to the right products, answer common questions, and facilitate many workflows. But that is just the beginning. Any business you can imagine in any industry you have ever heard of can reap bountiful boons from AI when it is introduced to its customer experience—predictive maintenance, automatic contract creation, advanced analytics, and more.

    Across the region, we frequently hear of the advancements in the FSI sector brought about by AI. System access can be automated, especially as FSI human agents commonly access some systems only once a month. Virtual assistants can guide them, leading to fewer tickets raised with the helpdesk and a lower burden on the admin team. Financial institutions enjoy significantly streamlined operations, with issues resolved before they occur.

    AI and its subsidiaries—like natural-language processing, robotic process automation (RPA), and advanced analytics—are generalised enough to find homes in almost any business use case. However, solutions will vary with those use cases, so organisations should explicitly establish what problem is being solved and then select the right AI to solve it rather than being dazzled by a specific technology and adopting it for novelty’s sake. Pick the right partner and draw up a plan that makes sense to the business, its ambitions, its regulatory obligations, and its ESG and ethical visions. 

    The future is yours

    Any strategy should start with data. What data is available internally will dictate the limits of use cases. Your AI partner can then guide you in ensuring your data is accurate, accessible, and conforms to ethical contours—by being free of bias. They can ensure you are taking a step to reduce complexity rather than adding more of it. And they can advise on cybersecurity provisions that reduce risk. Through collaboration with your technology partner, you will have laid the foundation for all the items on the regional consumer’s wish list—speed, accuracy, security, choice, individualisation, and a dozen things today’s shoppers have yet to ask for. 

    Holistic, connected systems that futureproof your enterprise while delighting the customers of today and the employees that serve them—with the right vision and will, this can be yours. 


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