What is customer perception?
Customer perception is how customers feel about your product and brand. In a highly competitive world, where differentiating your product or service through objective, functional attributes are becoming increasingly difficult, marketers are focusing their efforts on customer perception, a topic of high interest that stands behind some of the greatest marcom campaigns of the past years, in all industries, both B2B and B2C.
Why is customer perception important?
Businesses care about customer perception because it directly impacts their bottom line. A swing in customer opinion may not destroy your business, but it will almost certainly lead to lost revenue, market share, and reputation. Say a customer becomes so frustrated with your brand that they decide to end their subscription with your business. You might think it’s a small loss—just a single subscription—but that churn represents much more value. That buyer might have gone for an upsell or cross-sell, or they may have remained a loyal customer and told their friends to buy your product.
Once you realize how much impact a single customer can have on your bottom line, their perception of your company will seem like anything but a small matter.
Value alignment: If customers perceive your business as having strong values that align with their own, they’re far more likely to purchase from you. A 2020 consumer culture report found that 71% of consumers prefer buying from brands that align with their values.
Trust signals: A positive customer perception can help develop trust. If you’re seen as a trustworthy business (i.e., you do what you say you will), customers are more likely to “engage with, buy from, advocate for, and defend you” according to Edelman’s 2020 Trust Barometer Report.
Gerry Wisniewski, Managing Director at Edelman, also says that “trusted companies are much more resilient in the face of a crisis or risk,” which is exceptionally important in today’s market.
Customer perceptions affect your brand’s reputation
As a matter of fact, a SurveyMonkey report shows that 58% more people pay attention to a brand’s message if they have been trusting it for a long time.
Customer perception plays an important role, from understanding the customers to communications and advertising, their buying decisions, their loyalty, the extent to which they recommend a brand and, even more, their advocacy efforts.
A Deloitte study research, published in May 2019, mentioned that repetitive customers refer to brands with which they have a buying history the same way they would their friends and family, using words like “love”, “adore”, “happy”.
Companies like Apple, Guerlain, Kenzo and many more have, thus, become more than mere suppliers of lifestyle products and garments, as consumers have started to offer them human attributes and see them as partners, friends, helpers, curators etc.
Customer perception enriches the brand value and brings more possibilities for business
In this process, as consumer perception developed on several levels, their emotional expectations grew, as well, leading to a point where we rely on brands to develop fun, engaging customer experiences, to create and deliver content, to come up with new technologies that make our lives better and even get involved in social matters and in shaping our environments.
According to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report, 67% of respondents from 8 markets globally agree with the statement “A good reputation may get me to try a product, but I will soon stop buying it unless I manage to trust the company behind the product,”, while only 1 of 3 people can actually say that they really trust the brand they buy.
So, if we come back to the customer perception definition, we agree that trust is an important element of how people assess brands, even more so if we take into account that it has a great deal of influence, i.e. 31%- 37% in the decision-making process of big purchases, as reported by SurveyMonkey.
The majority of business opportunities is generated from customer experience. In the luxury sector, consumers are committed to the brand instead of the price or usability. Costs to find a substitute are reduced greatly. Nowadays, no matter their budgets and criteria, consumers have more options than ever before. Advancement in technology makes it easier for goods and services to be found and at the same time, reduces greatly the costs to switch from one brand to another with minimum efforts and costs, as soon as the customer is unsatisfied or has a negative perception.
Factors that influence customer perception
- Customer reviews
Ninety-three per cent of customers read online reviews before purchasing. That means your online reviews can have a big impact on how prospective customers see your brand. Positive reviews are obviously great, but taking the time to respond to negative reviews can also improve how customers see your brand. Caring and empathetic responses show that even when things go wrong (as they often do), your business will be there for the customer.
It’s likely not a big surprise that the way you showcase your brand through marketing has a big impact on how customers perceive you.
Your website, advertisements, and social media posts can all play a role in developing your public image. That’s why it’s important to be consistent across all company-owned media. Know what you want your customer perception to be, and then come up with messaging around it.
- Company values
As mentioned above, customers want to do business with companies that have similar values to their own. Having public company values that you adhere to heavily influences your customers’ perception of your brand. For example, Patagonia is known for their support of the environment, and its customers appreciate that about them. When Patagonia received a $10 million dollar tax cut, they donated the entire amount to combat climate change, acting in line with their company values.
- Customer support quality
How you support your customers speaks volumes about what you think about them. Great customer support shows that you care and that you invest in the customer experience. Poor customer service, on the other hand, suggests that you either don’t care or aren’t able to provide great support. Neither of these improves customers’ perceptions of your company.
What influences consumer perception?
- Presentation of the brand and weirdly, its clientele
Presentation of a brand, ranging from the logo, UI, packaging to the lighting of physical stores creates an initial image for potential customers. This is the reason why companies invest heavily in the design and as a consequence the appearance of their company and services, considering that those visuals impact greatly consumer perception.
Demographics of clients using products of certain brands impact the consumer perceptions of those brands too. This is particularly true for the luxury business, as consumers of this industry link tightly the brand image to their own identity; Therefore, buyers very much help convey the brand message in this case. This explains why high luxury brands are so selective on their customers.
- Customer experiences: interaction with the brand before/ during/ after the purchase
This is perhaps the most important factor that influences customer perception.
The days when consumers were looking for products and services are long gone. Now everyone is in search of a consistent, remarkable experience, that is worth reliving and sharing on social networks.
It’s not just about those sneakers, that lipstick or the watch, it’s about the interaction each of us has with brands across different channels.
From a futuristic website that responds to the customer’s desires, to delivering target content that enhances that experience or to the in-store media and personalized services, everything needs to be carefully crafted for your public, in order to create a customer perception from which you may benefit.
- Partnerships, influencers, social media and online communities enabling customer reviews.
Nowadays, brands are not responsible just for themselves and their actions, as they are often held accountable for what their collaborators and employees do. When it comes to consumer perception, the way your company’s partners and influencers behave, their values and statements, as well as their socio-political views reflect on everything you do.
This is why intense research and strict guidelines should be applied to ensure that the people with whom you work share your values and respect your customers’ cultural, social and political views.
- Marketing and commercial activities
Marketing and commercial activities are meant to attract, engage and motivate consumers in brand-sponsored interaction and experiences that will drive actions from them.
Also known as “brand activations”, these tactics have a place in different points of the consumer’s journey, from discovering the product, to building positive customer perception, as well as encouraging recommendations.