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Extreme Customer Expectations Have Gone Global

SAN FRANCISCO – October 15, 2014 – Lithium Technologies today released data from a global survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Lithium Technologies, capturing the views of over 6,100 online adults in the United States, Great Britain, Australia, France, and Germany – shedding light on how the Internet is rapidly changing customer expectations and challenging companies to keep up.

“We wanted to gauge how digital business has changed the ways consumers interact with brands, and explore how those behaviors differ across geographical and cultural borders,” said Rob Tarkoff, President and CEO of Lithium. “We’re living in an age of extreme expectations. Our survey provides insights that brands can use to improve their customer approaches to stay relevant among increasingly sophisticated and demanding consumers.”

Respondents were asked a wide array of questions regarding their online actions, behaviors, and attitudes, uncovering unique insights into what they truly want from their online experiences andwhat they expect from the brands with which they do business. The survey results show how the Internet has empowered consumers with troves of useful information, more service options, and new engagement vehicles. This has created digitally savvy consumers who have new expectations for companies--and each other.

However, when looking at the data from a global standpoint, the story is a bit more nuanced. The expectations of an American consumer, for example, are not always in line with those of a French consumer. Nor should they be. In fact, it’s the differences among the global populations that truly stand out – signifying a potential need for companies with a global footprint to shy away from one-size-fits-all digital strategy where they do business.

Some key survey insights include:

Online research is the norm among consumers globally before making big purchases

  • A majority of online consumers visit a mean average of around 3 sites before making high-ticket purchases like jewelry, kitchen appliances, a new car, etc.
  • French adults do the most online research, visiting an average of 3.52 sites pre-purchase
  • American adults do the least online research, visiting an average of 2.3 sites pre-purchase
  • In most of the countries surveyed, younger consumers (aged 18-44) tend to visit more sites than those aged 45 and older
  • There is a clear trend towards “research before purchase” in favor of “impulse purchasing”

A majority of consumers will only call a toll-free number for customer service as the last resort

  • Around two-thirds of American, British, and Australian (67%, 67%, 64%) adults agree that picking up the phone to contact customer service is a last resort
  • Nearly three-quarters (73%) of French adults share the same sentiment
  • German adults seem to disagree – with a surprising 46% that consider picking up the phone to contact customer service to be a last resort
  • In all countries surveyed, younger consumers (aged 18-44) are consistently much less compelled to pick up the phone to contact customer service for help of any sort
  • Consumers want online sites to provide all the information they need to answer their questions, troubleshoot issues, or learn more about specific products and services

Consumers go online to praise AND complain

  • Relatively small percentages of American, French, and German (39%, 34%, 27%) adults say they post online reviews to complain about a product or service rather than to praise it – showing that they prefer creating online reviews when they’ve had a positive experience
  • Surprisingly, only about half of British and Australian (50%, 46%) adults feel the same way
  • Younger consumers (aged 18-44) tend to be more likely to post online reviews to complain about products or services than shopped aged 45 and older
  • There may be some cultural differences at play that could potentially indicate consumer predispositions towards writing online reviews (whether it be to complain or to praise)

Positive “word of mouth” still proves to be the most influential form of marketing

  • Around three-quarters of American, British, and French (73%, 76%, 72%) adults say they will not buy something that does not have positive online reviews
  • Around two-thirds of German and Australian (62%, 68%) adults agree
  • A staggering 85% of British adults aged 25-34 will not buy something without positive reviews
  • Consumers are increasingly relying on positive online reviews to influence purchase decisions

Consumers heavily rely on recommendations from family and friends on purchase decisions

  • More than two-thirds of American, British, French, and Australian (68%, 69%, 67%, 67%) adults say they are more receptive to recommendations on what to buy from family and friends online compared to online advertising
  • A staggering 78% of German adults agree
  • In all countries surveyed, over 70% of younger consumers (aged 18-34) on average are more receptive to the recommendations of friends and family vs. online advertising

Consumers want “instant gratification” from online customer service

  • About two-thirds of American, British, and French (66%, 67%, 66%) adults expect a same-day response when going online to seek help from a company or service provider to troubleshoot a product malfunction or service issue
  • Nearly three-fourths of German and Australian (72% for both) adults agree
  • American, French, and Australian adults are the most impatient – with just over 40% expecting a response within an hour!
  • As information is becoming more readily available to consumers via online sites, the time threshold for which they require their queries to be addressed – in cases when they cannot find answers on their own – is decreasing significantly, revealing a constant need for “instant gratification” (as the norm)

As good as…

  • Just over half of British and Australian adults (51%, 53%) would give up good sex for a month, in favor of good Internet service
  • Conversely, just over half (52%) of American adults say, if given the choice, they would first give up good Internet service for a month vs. good sex
  • French and German adults (64%, 65%) were more clearly in favor of giving up good Internet service for a month vs. good sex, if forced to choose
  • Not surprising, in all countries surveyed, men proved to be the more randy of the sexes, with well over half – and as much as 70% of German men – being more inclined to give up good Internet service for a month vs. good sex. Clearly, there are still certain things in life that technology just simply cannot replace.

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the United States between April 24 and 28, 2014 among 2,130 adults aged 18 and older and online within Great Britain among 1,006 adults, France among 1,014 adults, Germany among 1021 adults and Australia among 1,015 adults between May 7 and 13, 2014 by Harris Poll on behalf of Lithium Technologies via its Quick Query omnibus product. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

About Lithium Technologies

Lithium's software helps companies reinvent how they connect with their customers, Lithium works with more than 300 of the world's best brands— including AT&T, Best Buy, Indosat, Sephora, Skype and Telstra — to respond on social networks and to build trusted content on a community they own. The 100% SaaS-based Lithium Social Customer Experience™ platform enables brands to build and engage vibrant customer communities to drive sales, reduce service costs, accelerate innovation and grow brand advocacy. For more information, visit lithium.com, or connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and our own community. Lithium is privately held with corporate headquarters in San Francisco and offices across Europe, Asia and Australia.

The Lithium® logo is a registered Service Mark of Lithium Technologies. All trademarks and product names are the property of their respective owners.

Lithium Media Contacts
Eddie McGraw, Corporate Headquarters & Global
eddie.mcgraw@lithium.com
+1 (650) 430-1978
Katrina Estrella, Corporate Headquarters & Global