What will customer experience programmes prioritise in 2022?by
We look at some of the key trends influencing businesses today and how they will shape customer experience strategies in 2022.
2021 has been a year of disruption and transformation… But yet more could be on the horizon!
Let’s take a look at some of the trends that will be definining the coming 12 months, and deduce what that means will be some of the priorities for customer experience programmes in 2022.
Perfecting hybrid experiences
An increasing number of consumers view their world as exclusively digital, while even those that were reluctant to use digital have become more comfortable with it since the pandemic began.
Forrester senior analyst Anjali Lai, notes: “Since the start of Covid-19, 49% of UK and over 60% of US online adults started making online transactions for the first time; 35% of UK and 44% of US consumers upgraded their in-home technology. Even consumers who were once considered to be digital holdouts anticipate continuing the online behaviors they picked up during the pandemic.”
As a result, more consumers have higher expectations that digital experiences work well.
“Although consumers are generally willing to forgive companies struggling with pandemic-related disruptions, they also expect companies to double down on building a successful and sustainable digital customer experience. Around six in 10 US and UK consumers believe that companies should have figured out how to handle pandemic-related disruption by now; six in 10 US and UK consumers also expect companies to have marshaled their digital resources to prepare a better response in the event that the country is plunged into another public health emergency.”
But while focusing on providing a great digital experience is important, the next challenge for organisations is to ensure that they can provide the best integrated physical and digital experience - a hybrid experience that capitalises on the benefits of both.
Research from Deloitte found that 75% of global executives said they will invest more in delivering hybrid experiences over the next 12 months, with many executives looking to hybrid to increase personalisation (43%), innovation (43%), customer connection (40%) and inclusion (38%).
Deloitte concludes that organisations are elevating their hybrid experiences by expanding choices, integrating feedback, and investing in the technological infrastructure that can bring these design principles to life. And, importantly, brands are utilising the principles of human-centered design to make their physical and digital experiences as agile and flexible as consumers have come to expect.
Alex De Capitani, head of US enterprise operations, Newgen Software, says: “With the rise of digital experiences and shifting customer expectations, the future focus of CX leaders will be on delivering differentiation and personalisation rather than commoditisation and over-automation of customer experiences. Customer experiences which are supported by technology as a partner will help organisations offer differentiated customer value. In comparison, organisations that use technology as a mere list of features will only commoditise customer experience and bring no value to customers.
“CX's future will be a personalised experience by finding the right mix of digital and human interactions. Over-automating to deliver a completely digital experience, like using a chatbot at every-stage of digital customer interaction to solve customer issues, will not deliver the best-in-class CX. Instead, using automation to cut short the route to valued human interaction is the way forward.”
Rethinking the in-store experience
Bricks-and-mortar retailers have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic and even though stores have reopened and lockdowns eased (for the time being), customers are happier than ever to conduct their shopping online, eschewing in-store interactions.
So why does Amazon - the daddy of digital retail - have aggressive plans to launch 260 convenience stores across the UK?
Well, it’s all part of the reinvention of retail, with supermarkets betting that checkoutless stores will capitalise on the customers’ appetite for frictionless experiences and encourage shoppers back to the High Street.
Tesco’s GetGo store in High Holborn, London, is the first of the UK's incumbent supermarket chains to test the checkout-free experience with its new ‘GetGo’ system, allowing customers to collect whichever groceries they like and walk straight out of the store, without having to pay a cashier, scan the items, or use a self-service till.
The system works via the Tesco app, which is linked to the customer’s payment card. Shoppers simply scan their app on arrival at the store; a combination of cameras and weight sensors are then used to detect the items that customers have collected and the payment is taken shortly after leaving the store.
Retailers must look to offer the speed and convenience of online shopping for customers in physical stores or fall behind customer expectations.
Tesco is not alone in its plans to move into checkout-free. Morrisons is currently testing a similar system in its Bradford head office, and Aldi has announced that it is trialling a checkout-free store in Greenwich, London.
And then there’s Amazon. It’s currently a minor player in the grocery business in the UK, but having already opened six of its “just walk out” Amazon Fresh stores across London, adn successfully launched 25 stores across Seattle, Chicago, New York, and San Francisco, it is now said to be ready to step things up considerably over the next three years, with up to 260 convenience stores planned.
Vasco Portugal, CEO and co-founder of Sensei, notes: “Consumers are increasingly searching for frictionless shopping experiences, and today's news of Amazon’s checkoutless expansion strategy illustrates this growing demand. This is something we are progressively seeing more of across the UK and Europe, with the battle for customers on the horizon after a turbulent 18 months of COVID restrictions. Retailers must now look to offer the speed and convenience of online shopping for customers in physical stores (something that autonomous retail lends itself to) or fall behind customer expectations.”
“For UK and EU retailers to match Amazon’s ever-growing presence in such markets, they will need to bring the online shopping behaviour to in-person experiences. This doesn’t necessarily mean executives must succumb to the external pressures of this takeover attempt. Retailers must be progressive in their thinking and strategic in their actions. Capitalising on existing brick and mortar locations to include online best practices such as frictionless shopping will strategically position their company not as one we knew, but one we want to get to know.”
“Amazon may be rallying a war cry with this announcement but now is not the time for retailers to back out, rather, they must hold their ground by stepping into the new without forgetting the familiar.”
Rethinking the data experience
One of the biggest paradoxes in customer experience is that consumers crave personalised/tailored experiences, but have concerns about sharing their data to enable this. Things have really come to a head in recent years as concerns about privacy, data and how information about purchase preferences and browsing habits are being used have soared, inevitably leading to a tightening of regulations.
Many web browsers and tech companies are now disabling third-party cookies, and although Google has postponed the “cookiepocalypse” to 2023, organisations are now facing up to a cookie-less future where it is harder to effectively engage with customers.
David Blaseby, managing partner at MullenLowe Profero, says: “In a world of GDPR and the approaching cookieless world, a fair value exchange and the trust that a brand won't misuse a person's data will be critical. Otherwise, consumers will simply leverage all the tools at their disposal (including Apple's IOS 15 random email generator) to disengage. Worse still, brand loyalty will dissipate, and they will swiftly shift to use another brand instead. Consumers must be treated with respect, and they will reward that by coming back.”
Echoing this, research by Wunderman Thompson found that nearly 50% of consumers feel that brands that respect consumers’ privacy will have a competitive advantage while 35% will only use brands that share where and how data is collected and give consumers control.
In a world of GDPR and the approaching cookieless world, a fair value exchange and the trust that a brand won't misuse a person's data will be critical.
However, on the flip side of this, Blaseby also warns that consumers expect brands to tailor digital experiences to their needs and wants and would not tolerate brands that didn't understand them.
“Consumers expect brands to keep up with the latest tech and have grown used to digital experiences tailored to their wants and needs. Our recent report: Ecommerce in the aftermath, identified that UK brands risk losing up to £12bn in UK online sales from poor digital experiences. It found that 24% of consumers were frustrated with a brand that didn't seem to understand them. Nearly a quarter of them (23%) also said that they preferred brands that use their data to create a more meaningful, relevant experience over brands that don't ask for personal data at all.”
This puts organisations in a position where they must pivot towards using first-party data, and sure enough in Deloitte's "Global Marketing Trends Executive Survey" reveal that 61% of high-growth companies are shifting to a first-party data strategy.
And according to Forrester principal analysts Joana de Quintanilha and Maxie Schmidt this could have implications for customer experience leaders.
“Data deprecation will force companies to collect more data directly from customers to offer individualised experiences in 2022, creating the need for privacy or consent journeys designed with the customer in mind. While 37% of global security decision-makers consider privacy to be a competitive differentiator, at least one-quarter of global consumers use privacy and security tools to prevent firms from tracking their online activity.
“As a result, Forrester predicts that CX leaders at 20% of European companies and 10% of US firms will turn their attention to privacy and consent journeys. CX pros at firms looking to reduce reliance on third-party data should work with their firm’s marketing, IT, and security and risk teams to carefully design and measure journeys based on compliance standards that vary by industry, business type, and individual customer. In the spirit of “you can’t manage what you don’t measure,” these firms should include privacy-related KPIs and metrics in their CX measurement programmes to monitor journey performance.”
Rethinking the employee experience
More than ever, businesses understand the importance of a positive customer experience in order to maintain brand loyalty. Often, this experience is contingent on skilled, friendly and empathetic staff. So the Great Resignation is a serious threat to the customer experience.
Sue Duris, founding principal of M4 Communications, warns: "Poor cultures suffer the most from the Great Resignation. Retention will be low. Customers will not have any consistency in their experience, which would result in customer distrust, and customers will leave. Revenues would drop, costs would rise. Worse, because of poor customer and employee feedback, it would be doubtful that companies could be able to attract the employees and customers they would need to grow. All in all, company survival would be at risk."
Andrew Traba, head of product - customer engagement analytics, at NICE, adds: "With the pandemic upending labour market dynamics leading Americans to early retirements, career changes and what’s currently known as the Great Resignation, brands must evolve in order to hold on to workers in the face of an acute labour shortage.
Duris predicts that it will become more important than ever to align culture with employee experience and customer experience to drive growth.
"One thing that I have found about company cultures, those that have poor cultures - i.e. exec management doesn’t care about the culture, they put profits above people; there are too many silos that prevent alignment across the organisation; there are a lot of gaps in the employee journey which prevents employees from having a satisfying work experience; have low employee morale, etc. - result in employees being solely money motivated and will do the bare minimum to get that money. Retention is low in these companies. These are the companies that will suffer the most as a result of the Great Resignation.
"Those companies that have healthy cultures - i.e. that promote the employee experience; care about employee feedback and will take action on it; and drive employee engagement - will transcend the Great Resignation. This is where understanding the employee journey, producing and adjusting employee journey maps to optimise the employee journey; understanding that the employee experience starts well before candidate sourcing; has a structured employee onboarding programme ; and take a predictive and proactive approach to employee development will drive employee retention, loyalty and advocacy. As a result, instead of profits over people, people drive profits."
Neil Davey was previously the editor of MyCustomer from 2007 until May 2023. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 20 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management.
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