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Consumers Are Turned Off by Retail Experiences—and They’re Voting With Their Wallets

Relationships between brands and consumers are delicate, requiring constant nurturing on the brand side. But once disrupted, the tenuous connection could be lost forever.

The vast majority (82 percent) of consumers have been disappointed or upset by an experience with a brand, and more than three quarters (78 percent) were unsatisfied with customer service, according to a newly released study from Oracle, featuring expertise from Jeanne Bliss, customer experience expert.

The analysts found that once a customer’s trust and satisfaction are compromised, they tend to take decisive action. More than a third (34 percent) of the survey’s respondents said they had resolved never to shop with a brand again after just one bad experience.

“True customer experience today is not a one-size-fits-all model and as this study shows, brands are increasingly having to operate in a world where customer understanding is at a premium and there is virtually no tolerance for mistakes,” said Rob Tarkoff, executive vice president and general manager of Oracle CX Cloud.

And consumers aren’t just protecting their own wallets—most respondents (88 percent) also copped to sharing their feelings of disappointment with others. While over a third (35 percent) of unsatisfied shoppers reached out to customer service for help resolving issues, the majority (59 percent) aired their grievances to friends and family instead.

When that happens, it can spell bad news for brands. Consumers are most likely to view friends and family as the most trusted sources for shopping recommendations, at 77 percent and 75 percent respectively.

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So what comprises a good experience? For many shoppers, it has to do with thoughtful, personalized service. They also feel that brands should allow them to return products for free (66 percent), and that they should receive a refund when products and services miss the mark (64 percent).

Most consumers have grown cynical in their expectations from brands, though. Only 15 percent believe that their product tastes and service preferences will be taken into account by merchants.

Despite those anemic hopes, the majority of consumers (68 percent) still firmly believes that a tailored, personalized experience is important—and they’re willing to pay for it.

Almost half of surveyed millennials (47 percent) and 41 percent of all consumers are willing to pay up to 20 percent more for a better customer experience, which could explain the rise of luxury-without-the-middleman-markup DTC brands from Naadam and Away to M.Gemi and Untuckit.

Young consumers are also willing to provide information about themselves as a tradeoff for improved services. The majority (64 percent) of Gen Z and millennial shoppers are willing to disclose personal details with the intent of spurring more personalized, tailored results. Gen X and Baby Boomer shoppers are slightly more reticent to hand over information, but not much. Half of each group said they would be willing, if it meant they’d have a better consumer experience.

Shoppers are also more likely to purchase goods from a company that offers new and unique methods of trying out its products or services, with 42 percent of respondents and 56 percent of Gen Z and millennials admitting that marketing played a large role in their decision-making process.

“As this study shows, consumers are attracted to brands that go the extra mile to deliver personalized experiences…. The key takeaway here is that one size doesn’t fit all and if you invest in customer experience, your customers will invest in you,” said Bliss.