10 Digital CX Trends to Watch Out For in 2021
If you’re involved in anything digital, two facts are undeniable. The first is that the quality of customer experience (CX) is becoming more important by the day. Companies that provide poor CX will see poor rates of customer retention. The second fact is that digital is becoming more and more important to CX, and how your organization provides products, information, etc. via digital channels is now a crucial part of your strategy.
Digital marketing strategies for small businesses have more budget restraints than those of larger organizations, so it’s essential to get things right. To try and make things easier, we look at the big ten CX trends in 2021 that you should consider.
1. The Omnichannel Journey
It wasn’t that long ago when most customers had a single touchpoint between themselves and your business. Now, those touchpoints have multiplied, and customers expect that their experience at each and every touchpoint remains seamless and of the highest quality. If you haven’t moved to providing an omnichannel experience yet, then you should do it soon.
Omnichannel provision is something that has always been coming, but has been hastened by the COVID pandemic. The need for digital wallets, QR codes, touchless transactions, and more has been a challenge to both retailers and customers alike. Now that omnichannel has arrived, it’s here to stay. And, if adopted properly, it benefits businesses and consumers.
Done correctly, good omnichannel CX provision allows you to:
- Map journeys. By knowing how the customer interacts with you, you’re able to design a customer experience that delivers at every touchpoint and on every channel.
- Design better strategies. Your customer service strategy needs to provide great customer experiences. That strategy should deliver the same experience across all your channels.
- Optimize preferred channels. While you want to deliver a cohesive experience across all your channels, you also want to know what channels your customers prefer so you can be more active there and interact with them in real time.
- Provide consistency. No matter what channels your customers are using, you want them to have the same experience.
2. Artificial Intelligence
AI and machine learning are already being used extensively, and this will continue to grow through 2021 and beyond. The increasing use of chatbots and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) will not only streamline end-users’ ability to access self-service options, it will also free up your human agents to deal with more complex problems and inquiries.
Chatbots can now handle far more complicated queries than a few years ago. They can interact with customers and direct them to multiple resources such as FAQ sections, knowledge bases, training tutorials/webinars, etc. Chatbots can also offer a 24/7 service, which means they are a highly cost-effective solution for smaller businesses or startups.
Chatbots can also provide a valuable resource for sales calls, filtering inquiries to the correct team or department. But while acknowledging their usefulness, it should be emphasized that they should be used to enhance your human support services rather than replace them. Used properly, chatbots can optimize the customer experience.
A few years ago, long waits for replies or answers were annoying and expected at the same time. With the advent of so many automated services, that has mostly become a thing of the past. It is worth noting that 40 percent of customers now prefer self-service and that 70 percent of customers expect some level of self-service on a company’s website.
Self-service is an area of your business model that needs investment to support your business as a whole. When customers are not satisfied with any aspect of their customer journey, they simply vote with their virtual feet and find a company that meets their expectations.
So what things in particular should you focus on?
- Create an extensive FAQ section and knowledge base that can deal with most low- to mid-level problems and inquiries.
- Provide easy-to-access (and understand) tutorials in the form of videos, webinars, and how-to guides that help customers with technical products and services.
- Create processes where it’s simple for customers to carry out routine tasks such as make repeat orders, process refunds, make returns, etc.
4. Habit Loops
We humans are often creatures of habit. Once we find something we like, we return to it again and again. And that can apply in CX, too, with what we call a ‘habit loop.’ These loops contain three components:
Our ‘addiction’ to things like social media is one example of this, but it can also be extended to our interactions with customers. Their cue is seeing a post or ad from you, the routine is deciding to make a purchase, and the reward is the item or service they buy. Habit loops can help keep customers engaged in your digital process.
An increasing part of the customer-business relationship is the customer’s desire to know more about your brand or business, and not just your products. They want to know that you practice what you preach, and they also want to know the ‘how’ of what you do. It’s no longer a case of ‘picking something from a shelf’ — today’s customers want greater immersion.
Businesses are now offering insights into that ‘how.’ Many are utilizing video and mobile to give customers behind-the-scenes glimpses of operations, letting buyers meet the people behind the products. Creating a connection with the customer is going to become a bigger part of the whole customer experience over 2021, and implementing it at multiple touchpoints is key.
6. Meetings and Events
Businesses are increasingly looking to new solutions, such as the best VoIP solutions to boost communication. With much of the world in lockdown, and people increasingly working remotely as a digital workforce, there’s been a massive shift to holding virtual meetings via video conferencing software. But while those are business-centric factors, you can also extend the ideas to your CX strategy.
When you cannot physically meet customers, why not look to video instead? Video streaming is a great tool for involving customers in training or promotional events, no matter where they’re located. It allows them to more feel part of the whole CX process. And with good screensharing options, or the ability to take a screenshot on a PC, any sort of information can be shared with all participants.
The first thing most of the general public thinks of when they hear streaming is something like Netflix. But streaming can be about more than top movies and TV shows. With the move to online shopping, live and interactive streaming can play a central role in your business model and overall CX strategy. This is not a new idea; just an evolution from the shopping channel concept we used to see on cable and satellite TV.
Live streaming of retail channels offers the closest online alternative to physical stores. And the fact that customers are able to interact enhances the experience for them. Streaming also allows you to host special events such as product launches, taking them away from the exclusivity of physical events and making the customer feel more involved.
8. Mobile Access
Something not driven by the pandemic, but rather by continuing advances in technology, is mobile connectivity. People are spending more and more time on their mobile devices; up to around 3.5 hours per day in the UK. That time is spent doing everything from communicating to shopping or watching entertainment via a streaming service.
In the past, accessing the web via a mobile device could often be frustrating, as it seemed the experience was always less than via a desktop or laptop. Companies can no longer afford to relegate mobile access to a second class service, as customers will simply migrate to a business that provides first class. Ensuring responsive design is crucial and two factors stand out:
- Loading speed: 47 percent of users expect a page to load in less than two seconds and 40 percent will leave if it takes more than three seconds.
- Compatibility: People don’t only use multiple devices, but also multiple browsers. CX hinges on your ability to ensure that your site is optimized to perform at the same quality across different devices and browsers. That’s also why adaptive bitrate streaming is crucial when it comes to any video assets.
Optimizing mobile access is important for your website conversions, so make sure that people can access and use your site effectively.
Personalizing the customer journey used to be an added bonus, and a surprise that we welcomed. But now, it’s a common expectation. As many as 80 percent of customers would choose a company offering a personalized journey over one that doesn’t. And that covers every area of interaction, from marketing emails to targeted ads.
The key to a good personalized journey is data. Collecting that data, and the analysis of it, is the first step to providing personalized experiences to all your customers. That data needs to cover everything from basic details, such as name and location, to more involved data such as online behavior, buying patterns, etc.
It’s also important to note that you must have adequate resources to deliver a personalized experience, including any needed technology and time. While later stages of the process may be automated, those initial stages are going to need a lot of human input. Many companies are hesitant to adopt new platforms due to potential costs, so consider IPaaS (integration platform as a service) as a solution.
10. Predictive Analytics
It’s crucial to optimize the online ordering experience. Part of that experience very much depends on how well you predict customer behavior and buying patterns. With so many choices out there, potential customers may well choose to go elsewhere if you’re out of a particular item.
Utilizing good web applications for many of your processes can help streamline your workflow. And integrating a high level of predictive analytics into that workflow means you can identify both seasonal and non-seasonal patterns. Using efficient analysis can not only improve the experiences of your current customers, it can aid in acquiring new ones too.
Not all these trends will apply to your business model, but if you operate online, then many of them will. It’s not always a case of copying what your competitors are doing, but more about identifying how you can be the market leader and taking advantage of new opportunities.
Be prepared to adopt new ideas or to adapt to new ways of doing things. Most of these trends are already well established and growing quickly. But consider integrating new ideas such as incorporating streaming technology into your products and services. If the trends relevant to your business are not part of your current or future plans, you may find yourself straggling behind.
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About Sunny Dhami
Sunny Dhami is the Senior Director, EMEA Product Marketing & GTM for RingCentral. He has extensive marketing experience across SaaS, telecommunications, and technology sectors within companies such as Vodafone, Reed Elsevier, Calor Gas, and SapientNitro. Sunny has also written for websites such as Smallbizdaily.