Customer experience is a continuously evolving entity, with trends fading in and out in yearly cycles influenced by the changes in technology, industry, and innovation. The current trends will fade out in a couple of years, evolving into newer versions that fit with the customer needs of the time.
So here are ten emerging trends I think will influence the customer experience in the next few years:
In the retail industry especially, we are currently mastering personalisation within customer experience, building trust between the customer and brand by providing a personalised experience in exchanged for a smattering of their data and some brand loyalty. Many brands are learning when their customers’ birthdays are, putting together recommended products, services, and personalised offers, however, this is really all it extends to - hyper-personalisation is the next step on the evolution of this trend.
For hyper-personalisation to work, brands must truly understand their customers on an individual level rather than just on a minimally data-based one. Through real-time data gathering of the customer journey and experience, brands can deliver tailor-made situational offerings to suit the customer’s need in the moment.
2. AI and Automation of CX Processes
Automation is critical to delivering a consistent customer experience through optimisation and streamlining normal processes. Automated customer experiences are used in many departments, and in marketing and sales predominantly in processes like targeted advertising and post-sales communications, but automation processes at the moment are still dependent on human assistance.
AI-based techniques such as machine learning and natural-language processing can push things along a bit more so we can get to a place where those processes won’t need much human managing, and aid researchers and businesses to analyse customer sentiment and feedback at a scale we haven’t been able to attain thus far.
3. Immersive Experiences
The customer experience touchpoints we’re all familiar with are mostly digital in nature (social media, email, online ads, etc.) or physical like in a store or through the post. The most immersive touchpoint for customers are what we get within the physical stores, with more brands focussing more on the instant digital experiences that allow them to communicate with us more frequently and easily.
However, more immersive experiences are making their way into customer experience. Augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed reality, and multi-sensory experiences are being experimented with more and more within the customer experience – technology is the catalyst of this future CX transformation.
4. IoT Devices
The Internet of Things provides an increasing number of customer experience opportunities each day. With the advent of smartphones, 3-5G, and social media, the IoT has become one of the main providers of customer experience touchpoints since the mid-2000s.
But the IoT has a lot more to offer than what we’re taking advantage of at the moment. There are very few cases of proximity marketing (where customers receive communications when close to the physical brand store), and smart technology integration so in the retail industry experiences such as virtual fitting rooms and connected shelves can further enhance the customer experience.
5. Voice Assistants
Voice Assistants have become the newest addition to the Internet of Things, but I believe that the opportunities we have access to through it’s capabilities and growing popularity mean it should be considered as a separate point. In 2019, about 32% of consumers own a smart speaker and 44% have access to a relevant voice assistant daily.
Smart speakers form a valuable communication opportunity, not just between the brand and the consumer, but between the consumer and the brand too. Not only does a speaker provide a channel for marketing communications, but it’s also a gateway to the entire buyer’s journey and sales funnel too.
6. Data Transparency
With so many points of contact, data has never been more accessible. But this also lends itself to data scandals like Cambridge Analytica and Facebook, through which consumers are starting to realise the value of their own data to the organisations using it to retune their experiences.
Transparency is going to be one of the more important customer experiences for brands – if brands can’t get consumer to trust them with their data, they’ll also lose any loyalty that they earned before the scandal. If consumers have a trustworthy experience with a brand, they’ll keep them in mind for any repeat experiences over the brands who misuse their data.
7. UX and Market Research
In one of the last global market research conferences this year, the merging of market research and user experience was discussed at length. User experience at the moment is typically partnered with product and service design, but partnering UX with market research will mean that any gaps that the individual disciplines miss will be covered.
Market research is used to find the truth of consumers, while UX is here to craft the best experience for customers and move them smoothly throughout all touchpoints. The two teams working together provides a powerful combination that will allow the customers themselves to power future customer experiences themselves.
8. Brand Connections and Community
Building connections in amongst a brand’s customer community brings the customers closer to the brand and each other in one fell swoop. Isagenix is a brilliant example of this, a health and wellbeing firm building a tight community out of its advocates and customers through an online research community, while empowering them by allowing the advocate-participants to develop their products and services.
Empowering customers through community allows brands and customers to come closer together, build a culture. But it takes a lot of effort to build a community such as this, which means that a lot of brands still haven’t taken up this opportunity.
9. Real-time Communication
When we have a problem, who doesn’t want it fixed as soon as possible? And who wouldn’t pass up the chance for instant interactions with those who can fix it instantly? Real-time communications with brands will become a chance for organisations to prove themselves in the face of adversity.
With the amount of communication channels, we have so far: social media, customer support services, chatbots, etc. brands do currently have the chance to experiment with real-time communications and assistance, but we still don’t have the resources to make it a complete reality.
10. CX as a Reflection of Company Culture
Real-time communications, a brand community, and the creation of the right customer experiences will go a long way to endear a brand to it’s customers. The customer experience is all consumers have to go on when they decide if they like a brand or not.
The customer experience currently, is the face of the brand, but soon the customer experience will be far more: it will be a reflection of the brand’s culture, beliefs, and future.