The new digital-first world has changed the norms of commerce, work, and everyday life, prompting customers and brands to re-establish how they connect.

This is the message from the fifth edition of Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer report that shares insights from nearly 17 000 consumers and business buyers across 29 counties, including 652 from South Africa on the new digital-first customer engagement landscape.

As customers continue to shift their preferred experiences with brands to online channels, brands must re-imagine digital-first experiences that engage customers in a way that is flexible, thoughtful, and provides a personal touch.

Key insights of this year’s State of the Connected Customer report include:

* A trust-based economy has emerged. As customers navigate a rapidly changing world, questions of trust, values, and integrity are increasingly impacting their relationships with companies. Ninety five percent South African respondents believe trust becomes more important in times of change.

* Digital acceleration is sparking demand for personalisation at Scale. Customer engagement is decidedly digital-first, but brands are under pressure to merge online and offline interactions into a personalised experience as in-person interaction re-emerges. Eighty nine percent of South African respondents have purchased products in new ways since 2020.

* New realities are testing brand loyalties. As priorities and behaviours shift, established brand loyalties are undergoing tests of strength. Seventy one percent of South African respondents have switched brands at least once in the past year.

“In times of change, make customers’ needs and expectations your corporate north star,” notes Brian Solis, Salesforce global innovation evangelist. “By understanding which each individual customer — whether they be a consumer or a business buyer — needs, companies can earn, build, and maintain the ultimate currency of customer engagement: trust.”