Six in 10 customers (61%) have switched brands at least once in the last year, according to a new report from global leader in CRM, Salesforce, in partnership with the Australian Retailers Association (ARA).

The State of the Connected Customer Report analyses how, and to what extent, customer expectations and behaviours have shifted amid the pandemic and the new digital-first customer engagement landscape.

The research found 42% of customers have switched brands in the last year seeking out better customer service, with 51% stating that it feels like sales, service, and marketing departments don’t share information with one another. It reveals brands must stitch together online and offline customer interactions, with 79% of respondents more loyal to companies that provide consistent interactions across an organisation.

In Australia and New Zealand, the overwhelming majority of customers (90%) believe trust in companies becomes more important in times of change, however 71% lose that trust when there are inconsistencies across multiple touch points in an organisation. Further, 48% lose trust when they receive communications from brands that don’t match their interests.

Customers are increasingly shifting their preferred experiences with brands to online channels. In the next three years customers expect to use more augmented reality (50%), video appointments (55%), virtual experiences (53%), and social media to shop (50%). In addition, 57% of customers say they’re open to businesses using artificial intelligence to improve their experiences.

Salesforce area vice president for retail and consumer goods, Jo Gaines said the report shows customers are reassessing established brand loyalties as their priorities and behaviours shift.

“At a time when it’s never been easier for customers to switch brands and loyalty proves elusive, retailers need to focus on creating great experiences across digital and physical and appreciate their customers recency and history with their brand,” she said.

“While customers have a decidedly digital-first mindset now more than ever, they expect retailers to know them, understand them and provide a humanised, thoughtful and personal touch from providing personalised offers to recommendations based on their previous purchases. Those retailers who don’t create these experiences run the risk of damaging hard-won relationships.”

Commenting on the report ARA CEO, Paul Zahra said, “Customers are more impatient than ever. If they don’t have a positive experience when they enter your store or go on your website, they’re very quick to move on and search out rival brands and products.”

“This research is an important reminder for businesses on the importance of knowing your customers – what products they like, the communication channels they prefer and the personalised offers that work best.”