Consumers Worldwide Seek Same Tech Experience

Smartphone usage driving shift to more seamless, personal interactions, says First Data

ATLANTA -- Consumers worldwide expect strikingly similar mobile and technology-powered experiences from large and small businesses as well as financial institutions, and their expectations are fueled by skyrocketing smartphone usage, according to a global study released by First Data.

The goal of the First Data 2013 Global Universal Commerce Consumer Tracker Study is to provide insights into evolving consumer awareness, usage, attitudes and behaviors in traditional in-person and web-based shopping, payments, banking and money management. It conducted an online survey in 10 markets (Brazil, China, Germany, India, Mexico, the Middle Easti, Poland, Singapore, United Kingdom and the United States) with nearly 4,000 consumers who had a bank account and either a debit or credit card.

The study reveals that consumers seek three consistent, defining features in their experience:

  • Seamlessness and control.
  • Tailored and personalized experiences.
  • A direct connection to other consumers and information through social media and shared online content.

Seamlessness and Control

The ability to connect related activities and move among multiple channels, both online and off and from device to device, can result in an experience that is both simpler and more intuitive when compared to previous payments and financial services experiences. Globally, consumers are interested in the ways that technology can eliminate complexity and merge a fragmented series of transactions into a seamless whole.

  • Globally, more than half of the respondents said they wanted a seamless experience. Consumers in Brazil, China, India and the Middle East are most interested in the concept of seamlessness.
  • 71% expect real-time access to their financial accounts (rating this 8, 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale), allowing them to make decisions wherever they happen to be. In the United States, 76% indicated interest in real-time access, representing one of the highest levels of expectations among the countries in the study.
  • Nearly half of consumers would stop using a technology immediately if it was not intuitive, easy and straightforward.

Tailored, Personalized Experiences

Because consumers know there is a vast amount of personal data available, they expect the businesses they interact with to know them. According to the study, consumers demand a tailored experience that uses the information businesses have about them to their benefit.

  • Nearly half globally want businesses to get better at targeting ads and offers to them.
  • 58% expect their bank to do a better job of considering their individual circumstances.

Social and Sharing

Technology has changed how communication between businesses and consumers functions: a shift from top-down to peer-to-peer, and even bottom-up. Because of social media and user-generated online content, consumers' span of influence has greatly increased in recent years.

  • Half of the global consumers surveyed post reviews online. Those numbers climb to 74% in India and 60% in Germany.
  • More than one half consult social media before making a purchase; 80% of Chinese and Indian consumers surveyed did so, the highest among all markets surveyed.
  • Just about one half say they prefer working with companies that are smart about using social media and technology.

"When we talk about evolving consumer expectations, what we're really talking about is an expectation of higher levels of service and a drive toward simplicity, with the consumer at the center of it all," said Larry Drury, chief marketing officer for First Data. "Much of this change in expectations is driven by the proliferation of smartphones, which have fundamentally altered how consumers around the world go about their daily lives. Understanding the impact this has on consumer behavior has profound implications for doing business today."

In addition to the online survey, researchers also conducted qualitative in-depth in-home interviews, followed by two weeks of online discussion and activities, with a second group of participants who were over 18 and had a relationship with a financial institution. The research builds on two previous waves of research conducted in the United States in 2012, providing an ongoing look at how consumer attitudes and behaviors are rapidly changing.