When it comes to innovation in the field of customer experience, are societal changes and pressures defining the role for technology, or is the pace of technological change shaping consumer behaviour?
Exceptional customer experience continues to be the Holy Grail for organisations in 2019, with customer demand for personalisation, simplicity and immediacy showing no sign of ceasing.
Both society and technology are driving innovation, but which is leading and which is adapting to follow? Are societal changes and pressures defining the role for technology, or is the pace of technological change shaping consumer behaviour? One thing is sure; expectations around customer experience continue to grow. Let’s take look at some of the forces that are currently driving CX innovation. Cause or effect? You decide.
For most Millennials and Gen Z, immediacy is everything. Instant gratification can be a game changer or a deal breaker on the journey from discovery to purchase to loyalty. As a result, we are seeing an explosion in brands that can deliver almost immediately.
The fintech sector and “neo banks” are leading the charge in enabling an almost instant onboarding experience. The number of steps to start using a new app, set up an account and get you switched is both minimal and pretty seamless. The combination of a personalised approach with careful wording and appropriate guidance, supported by 24 hour chat, make these disruptors clear winners in the customer experience battle. They are setting a new baseline for others to follow in 2019.
The need for speed
Delivering on the desire for immediacy requires one thing above all others, speed. Technology comes into its own here as AI helps brands interpret data and act on it in a matter of seconds. Experience leaders are now integrating their content, data and campaign platforms so that they talk to each other, and baking in intelligent systems to allow them to interpret online actions and respond to them in real time. It means that online browsing is far more easily curated, increasing relevance and catalysing the journey to purchase.
The fintech sector and “neo banks” are leading the charge in enabling an almost instant onboarding experience.
AI and machine learning will help to speed up the delivery of experiences. In ecommerce terms, this is critical to prevent consumers, with expectations of instant gratification, from slipping through the net before they check out.
AI is making its mark across the marketing mix and is pervading our homes with the explosion of smart speakers that are now available. Voice is a growing CX must-have. According to Comscore, 50% of searches will be voice by 2020 and already, a third of Google searches are via voice. However, 2019 will be an important year in establishing the role for voice in commerce. Whilst it delivers on informing consumers at the research stage, it can be difficult for them to visualise the end product and most brands have yet to successfully find their own distinctive "voice". Ironically, it's voice itself that has been most successful in establishing a persona with "Alexa", "Hey, Google" and "Siri", quite literally becoming household names.
Clever brand owners will be working to establish a voice presence and identity to help close the loop in the customer journey. Brands will have to take their content into this new dimension and make it personal and relevant. Meanwhile, they need to collaborate with the tech giants to work out how best to manage things like product recommendation, without it feeling intrusive and creepy in the personal environment of the home.
Purpose and environmental awareness
In a Global Web Index survey in the US and UK, more than 50% of digital consumers stated that environmental awareness impacted their purchase decisions. Brands are quickly waking up to this and changing the way that they manufacture, export and promote goods. And consumers are responding by changing their browse, purchase and engagement habits to focus more on brands that deliver on this.
In a Global Web Index survey in the US and UK, more than 50% of digital consumers stated that environmental awareness impacted their purchase decisions.
Purpose builds a bridge between consumer and product and more and more often is embedded at the core of the brand experience. Dove don’t sell soap, they sell a healthy relationship with beauty and positive self-esteem. Nike don’t just sell trainers and sporting equipment, they sell inspiration by the bucket load. These are driving their experiences, technology is enabling them and consumers are responding.
New ways of working
For organisations to meet these high expectations, an investment in technology is usually the starting point. However, businesses are learning that delivering a personalised, or, at the very least, customised service, at scale and at speed, requires a cultural and mindset shift, with the introduction of new processes, new people and new roles. Data scientists, experience managers and journey managers are now in high demand, to name a few.
Traditional businesses are learning new tricks from disruptors such as Airbnb, Spotify and Uber, where platform lies at the heart of the business. It’s in these businesses that we see the culture of software development proliferate so that the entire business is working agile and new products and features are on a bi-weekly launch cycle. It’s at the end of the rainbow where agile process meets agile mentality that innovation magic happens.
Privacy and trust
In a post-GDPR world, savvy consumers are far less likely to give up their data and brands will have to up the ante on the value exchange if they are to deliver truly relevant content. Will we see a rebirth of the loyalty schemes that drove the first data gold rush? Certainly by rewarding customers with relevant and inspiring content, offers and rewards, brands may see customers gradually consenting to handing over more data as the relationship deepens - but only on their own terms.
One technology that is certain to play a major part in the rebuilding of trust in society (and in future loyalty schemes) is Blockchain. 2018 saw its reputation tarnished with the hype (and fall) of cryptocurrencies but could 2019 be the year that it proves itself as a marketing tool? As an irrefutable source of truth, Blockchain has the potential to disrupt marketing and advertising more than any other technology. As a decentralised database, it potentially holds the key to solving many of the identity and privacy issues that preceding technology has created.
In today’s experience economy, the customer experience is the brand. There’s no doubt that both society and technology are converging on brands, forcing innovation in customer engagement. But is it society that is driving the expectation for customer experience, with technology as an enabler? Or is it the other way round? Actually, I’m not sure it really matters but one thing is certain, experience makers need to make sure that they are riding this wave of innovation.