If there’s one thing for certain, there’s always something new when it comes to the customer experience (CX). This year won’t be any different.
- Our top 10 CX trends for this year
- Trend 1: Predictive analytics
- Trend 2: Self-service solutions
- Trend 3: Omnichannel CX
- Trend 4: Customer Journey Analytics
- Trend 5: Anything-as-a-service
- Trend 6: Smart, agile, and intuitive tech
- Trend 7: Pull, not push
- Trend 8: The Internet of Senses
- Trend 9: Emotional design
- Trend 10: Immersive CX
- Adding value
Even last year, as we looked closely at the top 10 ongoing CX trends to focus on (that are very much still worth revisiting today), it was clear that the world of CX wasn’t going to stand still. And for any business developing digital solutions that wants to fully optimize its customers’ experience and build ongoing loyalty and trust, staying on top of these trends (old and new) is vital, especially to stay ahead of the competition.
Just give that a moment’s thought. Last year, there were around 334 million companies worldwide. In the US alone, there are an average of 4.4 million new businesses every year, and globally, 252,000 websites are created every single day. Then consider the thousands of apps released every month, and the ever-increasing number of digital products finding their way into homes and businesses. They’re all looking to secure their own customers and that means trying to take some of yours.
But if you’re giving your customers a great, personalized, and increasingly, immersive experience, they’re far more likely to stick around and even act as your brand ambassadors.
The word ‘immersion’ completely encapsulates what’s happening with CX. Customers want everything, everywhere, and all at the same time. The overall experience with your solution, brand, and community is increasingly important. As digital solutions become more connected and offer a range of VR, AR, and metaverse-level engagement, this will only rise.
“What then is set to take CX immersion even further in the next year and beyond? We take a look at another 10 exciting trends that will keep CX evolving, while giving you the insights you need to truly optimize your digital solution and the experience it delivers.”
Georg Hansbauer, CEO & Co-Founder, Testbirds
Our top 10 CX trends for this year
Trend 1: Predictive analytics
The future of CX is about quickly and comprehensively anticipating customer needs and behavior. As the amount of data collected explodes, analytics will be vital.
Trend 2: Self-service
People want more control and they hate waiting. New technologies and automated customer services (such as chatbots) are set to empower customers.
Trend 3: Omnichannel Customer Experience
Quickly becoming a must-have, omnichannel CX is all about ensuring users can seamlessly and frictionlessly contact and learn about you via virtually any channel.
Trend 4: Customer journey analytics
Knowing if the customer experience is truly good means looking at it from awareness to acquisition, adoption, and beyond. When a single moment can ruin it, every step has to be checked.
Trend 5: Anything-as-a-service
From memberships to subscriptions, and more, as-a-service extends the customer relationship and ensures valuable data is consistently collected.
Trend 6: Smart, agile, and intuitive tech
From flexible front- and back-end tech stacks to technology that delivers real-time engagement and understands what customers want, smart tech is the future of CX.
Trend 7: Pull, not push
The days of sending out a single advert that ‘pushes’ information to the customer are ending. Today, it’s all about the content you provide, the personalization, and how you build trust and loyalty.
Trend 8: The Internet of Senses
Technology is revolutionizing CX, and customers will soon hear, see, and feel digital experiences, from touchscreens where you can feel buttons, to digitally-enhanced taste, and more.
Trend 9: Emotional design
In addition to being usable, functional, and reliable, products must increasingly create an emotional response that results in a positive and memorable experience.
Trend 10: Immersive CX
Customers today want it all, now, at their convenience, and on their preferred channel(s). This is driving the trend toward natural, fluid, and convenient experiences.
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Trend 1: Predictive analytics
On average, each person on earth produces 1.7MB of data per second. Not per minute, hour, or even a day. Every single second. That’s a lot of data. By 2025, it’s estimated that 181 exabytes of data will be ‘created, captured, copied, and consumed worldwide’ each day.
That’s 181 followed by 18 zeros. Every day. It’s nearly too much to comprehend (putting it simply, a standard DVD is 4.7 gigabytes and one exabyte is equivalent to 1 billion gigabytes).
The question is, of all the customer data that you collect and store, how much of it is properly analyzed and, ultimately, acted on? Its potential to help create meaningful, relevant, and lasting experiences is too great to ignore. Data, alongside predictive analytics (ideally utilizing artificial intelligence and machine learning), will be essential to improve your CX and create a competitive advantage.
Whether collected through your social media channels, e-commerce sites, within apps, emails, or data collected from wearables and Internet of Things devices, this highly specific, accurate, unbiased, and personal data can hold the secrets to what your customers prefer, dislike, want, and expect (even before they know it themselves).
And the good thing is, the majority of customers are happy to provide that information, especially if it benefits them. With predictive analytics, you can (as noted by IBM), ‘assess historical data, discover patterns, observe trends, and use that information to predict future trends’.
This will be vital for any organization wanting to better anticipate customer needs and provide a great experience that keeps customers happy, loyal, and always coming back for more.
Trend 2: Self-service solutions
With ever more interconnected services and customers increasingly comfortable using a wide range of technologies, it’s clear that they want more control, particularly when it comes to self-service. This was highlighted in a Harvard Business Review article, which showed that ‘Across industries, fully 81% of all customers attempt to take care of matters themselves before reaching out to a live representative.’
For anyone wanting to boost their customer’s experience, this will mean looking closely at a range of self-service options, from an Interactive Voice Response solution, well-thought-out and tested instructions, FAQs, chatbots, and a range of other similar technologies.
AI-powered chatbots, in particular, are proving to be an excellent solution to deliver 24/7 service to help ensure customers can solve their issues with minimal friction.
What is important, however, is to ensure your self-service solutions can provide a seamless service experience across multiple devices, especially smartphones, as quickly as possible.
According to a Freshworks study, which analyzed 107 million support interactions, speed was the ‘most important factor to improve customer satisfaction’. Anything that can help reduce time to resolution will boost CX.
Including personalization. By analyzing customer data captured across one or more channels, it is possible for automated self-service to directly and proactively use highly relevant information to address the customer, including their name, what they’ve been searching for, and more.
Such self-service tools are also essential when it comes to supporting customers across an omnichannel environment.
Trend 3: Omnichannel CX
Being able to reach customers in a frictionless way that is most beneficial and meaningful to them, at every touchpoint and in real-time, is vital for a positive customer experience. An omnichannel approach lets you do so in an integrated way, where every individual channel is closely connected to all others (online and offline), providing the same consistent experience, story, and message.
On an experience level, this means being far more aware of what each customer is doing with you, knowing they’re receiving the same unified message, and being better able to support them at every step. It also makes for a more engaged customer.
Research by Omnisend showed that when using three or more channels in an automated workflow earned an 18.96% engagement rate, while their single-channel counterparts earned only 5.4%. Additionally, purchase frequency was 250% higher on omnichannel than single channel, and retention rates were 90% higher.
These are clear signs that an omnichannel approach provides the flexible and unified experience today’s consumers want. It also enables you to efficiently collect accurate data from multiple points, more effectively meet customer expectations, and reduce friction along the entire customer journey.
Trend 4: Customer Journey Analytics
Providing a consistent and high-quality experience means deeply understanding what each customer is doing with your business, how they’re interacting with you, what’s impacting their journey, and what they feel about it along the way. But how to effectively do this when every customer journey is unique?
Achieving a truly frictionless journey is by no means easy, but by utilizing appropriate customer journey analytics, you can quickly gather actionable insights about customer behavior and how your product is used in real-world conditions – at every touchpoint. This helps ensure you can improve the overall experience by making decisions based on facts, not assumptions or guesses.
Typically utilizing analytics techniques such as real-time analytics, predictive analytics, customer segmentation, and more, customer journey analytics lets you quickly see problems in real-time, better see how to resolve issues, and prioritize and make improvements.
And unlike traditional survey-based data gathering for customer insights (that rarely give you the full picture), customer journey analytics gives you far deeper, granular insights made over time into actual customer behavior at each stage of their journey and with every interaction they have with you. This is essential as more businesses use an omnichannel approach and need to know what negatively impacts CX (and business outcomes) across those channels.
Results can then be viewed within a wide variety of reports, including:
- Journey reports to visualize customer touchpoints across channels
- Attribution reports to focus on ‘successful’ customers and what contributed to their success
- Retention reports to analyze how long someone stays engaged with you after completing a task
- Cohort reports to see who performed an action at a specific time
All building a highly detailed and holistic picture of what customers do, over time and across channels.
Trend 5: Anything-as-a-service
Turning a one-and-done customer into a loyal, ongoing, and repeat customer has obvious advantages. But changing a product into a service can benefit businesses in other multiple ways. You can flexibly scale up and out faster, keep customers well after the point of purchase, more easily explore new service offerings, better handle economic downturns, and – in the sense of providing a great CX – provide better customer care.
Most commonly seen with Software-as-a-Service, anything-as-a-service (XaaS) models are expanding into virtually every industry and category.
There’s Hardware-as-a-Service (hardware installed on-site), Communications-as-a-Service (offering a wide range of telecom solutions), Security-as-a-Service (all forms of security, from anti-virus software to intrusion detection), and many more from authentication, analytics, database, containers, functions, desktops, platform, and infrastructure.
XaaS has limitless potential. And for customers, such subscription options are enticing. They can spread costs across time, have an agreed price from the start, experience no obsolescence, and enjoy contract flexibility and customizable service. Importantly, as noted in research from Acxiom, ‘64% of consumers aged between 25–34 agree brands offering their products as services deliver a better experience’.
Younger generations are definitely embracing XaaS models; as seen with the wide adoption of subscription services from food delivery, to streaming movies, TV, and music, the use of gaming platform/console subscriptions, and software ‘pay-as-you-go’ models. The days of owning a physical ‘thing’ are becoming numbered.
And this is seeing the customer become the focal point of value creation. Not only does as-a-service extend the customer relationship, but it also ensures that valuable data is consistently collected, and that means a better understanding of the customer and what can provide a positive CX.
Trend 6: Smart, agile, and intuitive tech
The biggest enabler of CX is technology. But even as technology becomes more intelligent and accessible, many organizations still utilize a siloed approach and/or don’t invest in the right technologies. In many ways, their focus is on improving what they already have rather than fully adapting to the changing demands of consumers.
This creates two distinct problems:
- Today’s linear consumers are evolving into ‘superfluid’ consumers who buy what they want, when they want, how they want (and even have their AI-assistant do it for them). If you don’t have the technology to quickly adapt and offer what they want ‘at that moment’, someone else will.
- It limits the coordination of CX initiatives and negatively impacts the ability of your business to fully understand your customers and provide truly personalized solutions. This will create points of friction and impact overall brand loyalty.
Those that excel at CX are embracing a more agile approach. In their strategies, in finding new routes to market, and in the use of smart technologies that enable them to better understand customers and deliver real-time engagement – including analytics, automation, artificial intelligence, customer experience platforms, self-service tools, and much more.
Trend 7: Pull, not push
It’s been estimated that the average person sees around 10,000 online adverts in a single day. This digital flood of (mostly advertising) content results in consumers being overwhelmed (if not very annoyed) and messaging being lost in the crowd. Even if it does find an audience, they’ll know it was pushed at them and it’ll be quickly dismissed, especially because it’s usually one-direction communication and unlikely to be personalized.
And that’s just digital messaging. Call centers (in particular) and offline advertising are constantly demanding that you buy something. Not a great CX.
As people become warier about what they see and hear, new and more subtle ways of interacting and engaging with customers are needed. Today, providing a positive CX is all about using relevant, well-planned, well-aimed, and well-timed content to ‘pull in’ your customers. While this doesn’t remove the need for push communication (requesting feedback, sending sensitive information, etc.), over the long haul, pull delivers more ongoing and two-sided communication.
In addition to creating a more positive CX, a pull strategy is ideal to:
- Build a stronger relationship with the customer
- Improve customer loyalty
- Promote brand recognition
- Boost social media activity (traffic and sharing)
- Lessen the need for expensive push advertising
While there is a need to balance pull and push, as customers demand more two-way communication, want more control over what they see and do with brands, and discover new ways to interact with a range of newer, smarter technologies, a pull strategy is better at encouraging people to find out more about your brand and product. Push to tell people you’re there, pull to get them interested in who you are and what you have that’ll improve their lives.
Trend 8: The Internet of Senses
The promise of 5G (and especially 6G with an expected data speed of 1Tbps) goes well beyond fast downloads and immediate 4K streaming. It will see technology interact with all senses, not just sight and sound. Such an Internet of Senses (IoS) is set to be a radical game-changer when it comes to the customer experience.
Today, there are already impressive advances in human-machine interactions that involve virtual reality, 6 Degrees of Freedom, and haptic feedback, but IoS will take this much further.
Introduced as a concept by Ericsson ConsumerLab in their extensive report on 10 Hot Consumer Trends 2030, IoS involves the blending of digital and physical worlds, where devices, sensors, actuators, volumetric video, and more, will engage all senses – our mind, smell, sight, taste, touch, and sound. We can control devices by thought, experience smells when in VR, taste a drink given to us in a game, hear video characters breathing, and even feel buttons on a screen (or without one).
IoS has real potential as technologies steadily advance and network capabilities become more robust. For consumers, moving away from physical experiences to a sensory experience-orientated world will create an extremely rich and memorable CX.
Trend 9: Emotional design
Everyone knows that a customer who has a good relationship, or emotional connection, to a product and/or brand will be a more loyal and recurring customer. If you’re not sure, ask an Apple devotee to replace their iPhone with another brand. While a product must be usable, functional, and reliable, the emotional aspect can’t be ignored.
Getting this right has traditionally meant considering various strategies, including the Hierarchy of Emotional Value, calculating the Net Emotional Value (a single number that represents the value you give to your customers), and measuring the customer’s loyalty and satisfaction with a Net Promoter Score (how likely they’ll recommend your product or service).
While all are valuable, they largely represent how customers feel about something ‘after’ it’s been developed. Emotional design is done at the start of a product’s development with the goal being to create a solution that delivers a more emotionally engaging and positive experience. Specifically, is the product aesthetically pleasing and does it perform well?
For emotional design to be effective, it must address three levels of cognitive response:
- Visceral – their first impression (that looks great!)
- Behavioral – their subconscious evaluation of your product’s performance and usability (looks like it’s easy to use)
- Reflective – their conscious appraisal of its performance and benefits (that was value for money)
Emotional design can include the use of methodologies, such as Kansei engineering/marketing, which focuses on the senses and perceptions of a customer and how they like a product, to even utilizing cognitive psychology to gain a greater understanding of human behavior by examining multiple mental processes (including how we solve problems, regulate emotions, and form social interactions). It will also take extensive user research and highly robust data analytics (potentially powered by artificial intelligence).
But getting it right means creating a positive emotional engagement that ensures customers keep using your product and are happy to tell others about it.
Trend 10: Immersive CX
As recent research from Zendesk shows; when it comes to staying competitive, immersive experiences are a key differentiator. 61% of customers are excited about experiences that are natural, convenient, and fluid, while 70% spend more on businesses that offer fluid, personalized, and seamless experiences.
That means your chatbot must mimic a real human being extremely closely. That communication is both engaging and seamless – if they start a conversion on one channel, they can easily continue it when switching to another.
Everything should make things easier for the customer and deliver a positive, pleasant experience. Consider how an augmented-reality app, such as IKEA Place, made life easier for people wanting to purchase furniture online by letting them see a true-to-scale 3D model of it in their own homes.
This, ultimately, is the true power of immersive CX. It lets customers deeply engage with your brand while curating their own experiences. The more immersive, personalized, and frictionless you can make the experience, the better. For customers and your bottom line.
As we noted previously, “the customer journey and customer experience will become more tightly connected as businesses become more customer-centric. But it will take people-power at every stage to make it a competitive advantage and one that delivers an experience that customers will love.”
This is still very much true, if not more so.
It’s the human element that is truly pushing CX forward; in how the CX is developed and tested, and in what it gives customers. New technologies, business models, and a customer-first approach are rapidly changing how businesses interact and engage with their customers. This is vital. Customers today want more control, better customization options, and highly personalized service. Not providing it can be a significant deal breaker.
By actively striving to make CX a core part of your business and your culture – while looking for new and innovative ways to improve on it – you can add value to your customers, reduce churn, attract new customers, and fend off the competition.
That’s an experience worth immersing yourself in.