Most digital leaders agree that despite the many challenges brought by COVID-19, one positive effect of the pandemic has been the acceleration of their companies’ digital transformations. In order for the rest of 2021 and the upcoming year 2022 to represent a period of robust recovery, as many are hoping, we need to find the means to make these digitization efforts more mature and to improve customer experience so that it responds to the expectations and dynamics of a constantly evolving market.
Although there are many trends influencing customer experience, I’ve decided to focus on just five—those that are the most likely to stimulate growth and support business activities as well as the corresponding key performance indicators (KPI).
In 2020–2021, companies were looking to maintain connections with their customers while reducing direct physical contact. Although most customers are now used to online ordering, home pick-ups and contactless transactions, companies are confronted with the fact that customer experience doesn’t always meet expectations. There is still a lot of friction in the customer journey, and consumers’ concerns are not being handled effectively.
If companies want to emerge as winners in the new normal of contactless CX, digital experience needs to be constantly optimized. This means being able to consider the entire customer journey and the many variables that affect it, as well as reacting quickly as trends, regulations, and other aspects evolve.
Consumers aren’t easily fooled by customer-centric rhetoric and other seductive slogans. They expect the companies they do business with to demonstrate their engagement, day in and day out. While 2020 was hard for everyone, customers react favourably to companies that respond to their needs with empathy and understanding.
The last two years have been marked by external sources of stress beyond our control, and companies have felt the effects of this stress in a very direct way. The learning curve was likely frustrating for Baby Boomers and older generations when it came time to buy groceries or basic necessities online through unfamiliar e-commerce channels. This aspect only added to the anxiety they were already experiencing. Customer experience is no longer just about making things more practical, but involves going out and meeting people where they live while offering them value and relevance—and by demonstrating genuine empathy towards them.
Customers are increasingly using multiple platforms to interact with companies, though mobile platforms remain the favourite. During the pandemic, some of these interactions were transferred to office computers and tablets, since people had to remain at home, but analysts predict that mobile will continue to be the top choice.
CX optimization for omnichannel requires a clear strategy and nuanced approach. For example, you need to ensure that information isn’t hidden, that the journey to check-out is fast, that the selection of delivery options is simple, and that visitors can efficiently complete the task they set out to accomplish. To create frictionless experiences, you must ensure that each channel offers the best customer experience, and this even includes creating cohesion amongst all channels with fluid transitions in the customer journey. This means focusing on each channel’s strong points while guaranteeing a cohesive experience.
The increasing adoption of digital channels to offer efficient customer experiences continues to evolve. Even before the pandemic, over 80 percent of purchases either started or ended online, even if, in between, customers visited a physical store. But since the pandemic hit, websites have gradually evolved to not only provide information, but actively engage customers to generate revenue. With greater emphasis on social distancing and consumer preferences for contactless transactions, digital channels have had to quickly adapt and continuously improve.
Companies have also had to face new demographic data and find ways to approach visitors who were not as familiar with digital channels enabling online purchases. Baby Boomers, for example, prefer experiences that are attractive and easy to navigate, thereby facilitating their transactions. As industries begin to reopen, the role of digital CX will continue to evolve by offering new value propositions to customers and their ever-increasing expectations.
Creating ever-improving customer experiences is a difficult, complex task. Digital leaders are considering more and more sophisticated technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to help them reach their growth objectives and key performance indicators. Major investments are being made in the optimization of customer experience, with data playing an increasingly important role.
Early adopters of integrating data into the marketing approach benefited from exponential growth despite the difficult economic climate. This can be explained by the fact that being equipped with a data strategy is very effective when it comes to dealing with situations of unprecedented complexity and when managing a large number of variables simultaneously.
As explained by my colleague Moulaye Traore, Principal Director, Analytics and Data Science, in his recent article, the role of data in marketing is to answer questions that are fundamental to the success of a company’s activities, such as:
“The first and most critical step is defining your data strategy. This strategy can cover the acquisition of first-party data, advertising data, competitive data, etc. The data strategy ensures that your data are supporting your business objectives (the only path to ensure that your data become a business asset). A successful data strategy should show that the data will bring value to the business.” – Moulaye Traore, Principal Director, Analytics and Data Science at Adviso.
Thus, data strategy is perfectly adapted to respond to customer experience optimization needs while identifying and offering customers the best possible experiences. An additional advantage is the ability to tackle primary and secondary measurements at the same time, which enables digital managers to really get creative and innovative with their optimization ideas while ensuring they can draw up reports on all the performance indicators that really matter to them.
There’s no doubt that the coming winter and the year 2022 will bring a whole new set of challenges. We’re not out of the woods yet when it comes to the pandemic, which is likely to affect CX trends for some time to come.
Agile companies with good strategies for keeping up with changes as they arise are more likely to emerge as leaders. By listening to the voice of the customer (VoC) and constantly looking to improve customer experience, companies can continue to grow despite the pandemic and the changing dynamics of the market. Those who don’t focus on optimizing customer experience face real competitive threats. They will see a portion of their customer base switch to the competition, who offer a customer experience that is more persuasive.