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The Great Divide

Connecting brands to the real needs of today’s consumer

Consumers’ priorities are misunderstood. The Alliance Data Analytics & Insights Institute studied consumers’ perceptions of over 30 different marketing and communications needs, with three clear themes emerging around simplicity, personalization and control. While these themes are not new, there are important gaps developing between what consumers find valuable, and how brands are solving for those challenges.

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Today’s consumers have much higher expectations of brands across the retail experience, including communications. And while many expectations are table stakes, like great experiences in store and online, there are unique generational and vertical implications.

The GreatDivide

  • The Gaps

  • In

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Consumers rated simplicity–related needs among the most important...but brands are under-delivering, with about half of consumers saying brands are not meeting their expectations. Consumers' top-three unmet needs are:

1. Simple, straightforward, easy-to-understand content

2. Easier-to-find contact information online or within the mobile app

3. Making it easier to tell if the consumer qualifies for a sale, discount, or promotion

Pop quiz

Which two generations gave brands the lowest scores in how they deliver simple, straightforward communications?

While simple, straightforward communications were important to all generations, Gen Z and Gen X consumers were least likely to rate retailers’ execution well.


One of brands’ biggest opportunities is in making communications clearer and easier to understand, especially in promotional content. Test streamlined messaging against existing content to optimize.

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Consumers don’t value all aspects of personalization. Even with advances in data and technology, consumers are not impressed with how brands are using data, like past purchases or browsing history, to inform content and make product recommendations.


Communications that refer to the consumer by name are critically important.

Only 31% of consumers felt name personalization was important.

Consumers want to see all of a retailer's promotions and discounts, not just those that would apply to them.

77% of consumers want sales, discounts, and promotions tailored to their wants and needs.

Because consumers can shop online, it is OK to promote products not available at their local store.

75% of consumers want products featured in communications to be available in their local store.


Consumers want more relevant messages, and they expect brands to strategically use their data to provide promotions on the items they want to purchase.

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Consumers’ desire for control was the biggest gap between what they want and what brands are delivering. Marketers believe control-related needs are of low importance to consumers, presenting a big opportunity to improve the experience.


Consumers are actively seeking more control over their inboxes and experiences. Brands should offer simple tools and options that make consumers feel more empowered.

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Technology can drive satisfaction. Seven in ten of consumers surveyed have tried a new retail technology offering. And most of these consumers report that the experience exceeded or greatly exceeded their expectations.

Retail offerings: Adoption vs. satisfaction

  • 70%
  • Buy online, pick up in store
  • Mobile payments (e.g., Apple Pay)
  • Virtual reality

Customer adoption

Greatly exceeding customer expectations

Clearing the adoption hurdle

With such high satisfaction ratings, the key for marketers will be to focus on the capabilities driving the most value for their consumers. Understanding and then removing barriers to adoption will help drive consumer engagement.


Not all innovations add value to the consumer experience. Across all generations, consumers favor technology solutions that save time and make shopping easier and more convenient.

Bridge the divide

Keeping a laser focus on consumers’ needs is essential for brands communicating with the consumer today and planning for tomorrow.

The innovations and technology solutions winning consumers’ hearts and minds (and wallets) are those adding meaningful value to the brand experience.

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