“Well, how did I get here?” – David Byrne
It’s been over a century since the words were first uttered, “the customer is always right.” Now, while I’m sure there are a few bartenders or flight attendants who would beg to differ, those words have actually never been truer – especially in ecommerce.
As is true with many aspects of the current state of the world, aka “the new normal,” COVID-19 is the driving force behind massive jump to digital. I’m sure you’ve heard this all before, but let’s have a quick chronological refresher:
- With the pandemic came lockdowns.
- With the lockdowns came the rise of the digital shopper.
- With more digital shoppers came the acceleration of digital transformations for organizations to accommodate the influx.
- With the rise in ecommerce came the inevitable shift towards and focus on the consumer and customer experience.
And here we are, well over 2 years into the pandemic and essentially living in a digital-first world. However, there’s so much more to it. We need a deep dive, here – a look at the accompanying trends customers have experienced digitally over the past 12+ months, current customer experience trends in 2022, and more importantly, what that could mean for future trends.
“I came in like a wrecking ball” – Miley Cyrus
It’s mid-March 2020, and the world has started to shut down. Suddenly, supermarkets are bare, streets are empty, restaurants are closed, and everyone has inexplicably hoarded toilet paper. Normal life as we once knew it is gone. In its place, however, came a lot of time spent at home. Games were invented, families bonded, and Netflix’s Tiger King, represented just how bizarre life had become. An incomprehensible amount of time was spent online for entertainment, interpersonal communication, and of course, an incomprehensible amount of time shopping.
The lucky few organizations who were already fully digitized clearly had the upper hand…but even they had their struggles (yes, even Amazon). The rest, however, were forced to rapidly accelerate their digital transformations to meet this tsunami of new online customers. And while “tsunami” might seem hyperbolic, a buy more online than they did before the pandemic – which climbed to 52% in the United States.
So, now that the customers are there and the companies are racing to keep up, the next logical task is keeping these new eyes on their sites for countless visits to come. Enter: CX.
“Here we are now. Entertain us.” – Kurt Cobain
By 2021, many organizations had completed their digital transformations and were ready to meet the masses. Best in class organizations, however, were armed with something more: A carefully crafted customer experience that galvanizes brand loyalty while drawing in new consumers. But what does that look like, and what does that entail?
Of the myriad buzzwords floating around the corporate world in 2022, “omnichannel” is, presumptively, close to the most talked about. If you have an SEO expert at your organization, they’ll likely corroborate this. Or, if you Google “omnichannel,” you’ll find well over 66 million results. Either way, the omnichannel experience has become canon for an organization’s success in this digital-first world. Some consumers enjoy using their laptop or phone. Some want an in-person experience. Others might turn to BOPIS, or have looked for an RFID experience. The point is, as exemplified by research from GlobeNewswire, 50% of online shoppers are looking for the shopping experiences that best suit them.
By now you’re probably wondering about this same scenario but in a B2B setting, and the results aren’t so much different as they are refined. This is where a hybrid approach comes into play, as brands should look for a mix in their live events to ensure everyone feels simultaneously safe and engaged. Flexibility is the name of the game, here.
Lastly – and this one is obviously open to interpretation – it’s worth mentioning experimentation. Try new approaches. Develop new channels. Fail as many times as your ego can handle. But just know, when that one golden lightbulb illuminates above your head and your organization subsequently reaps the benefits, it will all have been worth it.
With all of that being said and all of this effort into the present, what do future customer experience trends look like?
“I’ve seen the future and it will be…” – Prince
It can be nearly impossible to predict a future based on a tumultuous, amorphous present. Omnichannel and hybrid approaches are great for now, but how do we approach the years to come? Moreover, as consumers grow accustomed to this trend of new experiences (77% of which say their experience with brands has changed for the better, as reported recently by Acquia), the time is now for you, for marketing experts, for anyone in your company who wants to make CX as personalized and accessible as possible. As Gartner’s Digital Commerce Survey of CMOs shows, 86% reported that “digital commerce will be the most important route to market over the next two years.”
What happens over these next two years, however, is up to you.
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