Pandemic paving the way for the omni-digital customer: B2B and B2C must prepare
Recent months have seen a huge rise in expectations for digital-only customer experiences - and the trend seems likely to continue.
The continued uncertainty around COVID-19 is making digital-first experiences near-essential in most business sectors.
Ofcom stats reveal that UK adults now spend over a quarter of their entire day online.
In the retail sector, this has translated into a rapid transition to ecommerce as the leading preference for shopping.
As an example – pre-COVID online sales as a proportion of all retailing had already reached a record high of 22.3% by March 2020, according to the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Yet by May 2020, ONS estimates the proportion spent online increased to 33.4%. Even as stores have reopened their doors, the reliance on ecommerce shopping remains constant and is unlikely to dip any time soon.
Expectations around digital extend far beyond the transactional, however. For instance –preference for digital customer service and support channels has increased exponentially since lockdown measures were put in place around the globe.
According to ContactBabel research, 51% of contact centres have reported huge increase in email use since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, with 47% reporting increases in webchats and 37% reporting an increase in social media use.
Zendesk research shows that WhatsApp use has risen by 148% since late February — the highest of any channel for contacting customer service.
And even in areas such as onboarding, expectations are now for the entire experience to be digital.
According to a new study of the banking sector by Encompass Corporation and Censuswide, 73% of B2B customers expect to be able to conduct their entire onboarding journey with a new bank online.
Interestingly, more than 56% of those surveyed said their bank had already noticeably improved all aspects of its digital services since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, including online consultations and transactions.
And in B2C, most customers state they are entirely digital with certain types of organisation, leading to speculation that the pandemic is giving rise to truly ‘omni-digital’ customers – those that expect to be able to conduct their entire journey with a business online.
In a byline for Retail Customer Experience, Julien Rio, who has tracked the shift to omni-digital for many years, explains why businesses will continue to focus on their digital experiences, even as physical bricks and mortar businesses reopen:
“Omni-digital customers expect a smooth experience: what counts for them is to be able to use the channel they prefer to find a solution to their problem. Companies need to be able to offer a uniformed quality service across all of their touch points.
“Omni-digital involves a strong aspect of connectivity that constitutes a major stake for companies regarding the variety of touch points they offer to their customers and users. Moreover, digital tools such as interactions platforms, CRMs, statistics tools, call platforms, process managing etc have become crucial to customer care departments. The essential circulation of information is now possible thanks to the interconnectivity of all these tools.”
Conversely, customer experience consultant Michael Hinshaw says the demand for omni-digital should not mean cutting customers off from being able to tap into a business’s human expertise, as and when it is required:
“In general, customers tend to prefer digital channels as a first point of interaction — until, of course, they don’t.
“When customers need to talk to someone, they need to talk to someone now. And when they do, that someone had better know who they are, what they’re trying to accomplish and what their prior experiences were.”
Chris is Editor of MyCustomer. He is a practiced editor, having worked as a copywriter for creative agency, Stranger Collective from 2009 to 2011 and subsequently as a journalist covering technology, marketing and customer service from 2011-2014 as editor of Business Cloud News. He joined MyCustomer in 2014.