Gaps Persist Between Consumer Expectations, Company Actions, Study Finds

The security and privacy of their personal data are top concerns for consumers, says a new study from FleishmanHillard. In surveys of more than 10,000 consumers in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, China and Brazil, less than half (45 percent) of respondents said they’re willing to let companies collect their personal information in exchange for more convenience.

FleishmanHillard’s “2021 Authenticity Gap” study (PDF here) examines the actions that brands must take to meet consumer expectations. For survey respondents, other top issues include access to affordable, quality health care and education; stopping violence against women; closing income and wage gaps; and protecting freedom of speech.

Among the study’s other findings:

  • Sixty-four percent of consumers surveyed said that, for a company to have more credibility than its competitors, it must talk about its behavior and its impact on society and the environment, not just about the customer benefits it offers.
  • Still, nearly half (47 percent) of consumer perceptions about a company are shaped by the customer benefits it provides, the surveys found. Of the countries studied, the United States was the only one where customer benefits account for more than half of consumer expectations.
  • To a lesser extent, consumer perceptions are shaped by a company’s impact on society (32 percent) and by the behavior of its management (21 percent). Consumers expect company managers to act ethically and responsibly; to deliver consistent, stable performance; and to provide frequent, credible communication.
  • Sixty-five percent of consumers surveyed expect CEOs to speak up on issues that have a significant impact on society, even when those issues are not directly related to the business.
  • Seventy-three percent said CEOs must support and influence environmental issues, while 65 percent said CEOs should influence health policy.
  • Seventy-two percent of respondents said CEOs must demonstrate commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. But when asked about “issues informed consumers expect companies to act on,” just 33 percent cited “advocating for diversity, equality and inclusion in society.”

According to the study, it’s “crucial that brands and companies don’t make assumptions about their target audiences.”

[Illustration credit: jozefmicic]

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