Up to 86% of online shoppers are now willing to pay higher prices as long as they receive a highly personalised and satisfying customer experience.
The global pandemic has changed consumer behaviour and CX expectations to such an extent that businesses will have to continue turning consumer satisfaction into ‘customer obsession’ in order to leverage sales and secure brand loyalty throughout 2022 and beyond. Nicolas Hammer, co-founder and CEO of Critizr Connections, states that “customer-centric digital advancement and CX agility will be vital for businesses to flourish in the future; more than ever, consumers will require close, personal relationships with brands that nurture trust.”
Those brands that respond quickly and succinctly to customer needs and expectations, especially over digital platforms, will be the winners in 2022. Research by McKinsey and Company cites that, importantly, businesses are aware of this — with 88% of 15,000+ survey respondents expecting to launch and/or enhance digital initiatives in coming years.
The report states that customers (some having to work from home or self-isolate) are increasingly looking for an emotional connection with brands, as opposed to making a ‘cold’ straightforward transaction. This ‘human touch’ aspect of CX will be enhanced by businesses training and empowering employees to be highly customer-focused. Customers are also increasingly demanding rapid responses to questions and enquiries online, which has seen higher utilisation of live chat and chatbot platforms to provide immediate and highly personalised feedback. Ian Golding, global customer experience specialist at Global Experience Consultancy, affirms that not only have businesses already adopted more empathy with customers throughout 2020 and 2021 but in 2022 consumers will see more ‘human experiences created by digital technology’. Emerging AI applications (linked to extremely comprehensive data mining and analysis) will deliver targeted experiences to predict the ideal CX journey, and chatbots will become far more ‘intelligent’ as they offer more personalised responses alongside sentiment and context analysis.
Incorporating digital applications into traditional in-store environments is another CX trend we are likely to see in 2022, as a recent article by Forbes — ‘The 5 Biggest Customer Experience (CX) Trends in 2022’ — explains. One application we may start to see becoming a reality in 2022 will be voice assistants in offline retail. For example, in a supermarket, we might ask Alexa to tell us where to find the products we need in the aisles in front of us. McDonald’s is likely to start rolling out voice recognition at its drive-through terminals this year.
Finely tuned customer experiences will also be enhanced by businesses that collect, analyse and suitably cleanse data in order to offer ‘hyper-personalised’ customer interaction. Netflix, for example, estimates that some 80% of customers’ viewing choices are a result of recommendations based on videos they have previously watched, with only 20% choosing to conduct their own search on the site.
James Shanahan, CMO of Feefo, says: “Data plays a crucial part in reviews and customer experience platforms. I would encourage every brand to start thinking about how to leverage data that their clients are or could be sharing with them.”
A number of the CX experts in the report suggested that data-led AI and hyper-personalised experiences will be key to success in 2022 and beyond.
Nike has succeeded in offering unique one-to-one personalised experiences via its ‘Nike By You’ service, allowing customers to personalise their own trainers — an experience that instils both personal satisfaction and a greater sense of ownership. As John Lamphiere, RP EMEA and APAC of ActiveCampaign, predicts: “We will see more companies going a step further to delight customers in 2022 and create super fans.” Customers can expect more hyper-personalisation in the future, as data gathering, analysis and cleansing become more sophisticated. A careful balance must be struck, however, between the sophisticated utilisation of data for personalisation and the importance of data security and customer privacy.
For a seamless and engaging customer experience, effective omnichannel marketing has never been so crucial. Research by Super Office has revealed customers are increasingly using multiple channels to help with decision making, so consistency of brand attributes and messaging across online, email, app, social media, SMS, in-store colleagues and call centres will improve CX by providing a streamlined customer journey and enabling ease of transition between channels.
Many consumers are becoming increasingly discerning over issues such as sustainability, socio-politics and environmental responsibility. Customers are also carrying out more research, with 97% paying particular attention to online reviews — whether positive or negative. According to psychologist Wendy Dignan: “Customers are aware of the emergence of fake or overly-positive reviews, so also pay attention to those that are more negative – the key for customers is how a company acts to alleviate any problems.“
In 2022, we are highly likely to see brands competing primarily on customer experience, as they realise that people will pay more for great experiences. Another major factor is that personalised experiences include building trust, and when customers trust a business they are much more likely to share their data — and most importantly purchase from them.