Blake Morgan Senior Contributor CMO Network
For the past seven years, I’ve written annual predictions about customer experience for Forbes. Customer experience has evolved beyond anything any of us could have seen back then, and thanks to Covid-19, every company today needs to be two things; an experience company and a technology company.
We thought Covid-19 would wrap up by the end of 2021, but now with omicron, who knows when life will return to normal. We hope it will, but have to be prepared for anything. Digital is no longer an option, it’s critical to any business’ survival, no matter the size, or if you are B2C, B2B, or B2B2C. You’re now all just B2H.
As we head into 2022, brands face a tipping point with changed customers and expectations. 50% of global consumers say the pandemic caused them to rethink their purpose and re-evaluate what’s important in life. Nearly everything about how we live, work and shop is different than it was two years ago.
It’s never been more critical to understand what’s coming down the pipeline to create an effective customer experience.
Here are five customer experience trends to look for in 2022:
1. Ecommerce Booms and Evolves—Customers Are Buying More Through WhatsApp and Other Channels
E-commerce has seen tremendous growth over the last few years and is expected to account for 23.6% of all retail sales by 2025, compared to 11.0% in 2019. That trend is now expanding to other digital channels.
Digital shopping allows customers to browse and purchase items from the social apps they already use. WhatsApps rolled out features that make it easier for customers to shop, including chatting with brands, getting personalized recommendations before making a purchase and receiving automatic responses to their queries. Instagram and Pinterest have also expanded their features so that users don’t just look at images but can actually buy items.
2. Instant Gratification—Online Customers Want A Response Within 5 Minutes or Less
Modern customers want what they want, and they want it now. Speed and convenience matter to customers more than ever, and brands that deliver instant gratification have a huge competitive advantage.
Instant gratification takes various forms across all industries, from urban grocers offering 15-minute delivery to real estate websites using AI for nearly instant listings and banking apps transferring money between users and accounts in seconds. Even micro-moments of instant gratification improve the customer experience by proactively answering questions and offering fast service and value without sacrificing quality. Customer expect a response from a company within five minutes or less according to Forrester.
3. Earth Talk—Customers Want To Know Environmental Impact Of What They’re Buying
Globally, 91% of consumers expect companies to be socially and environmentally responsible. But it’s no longer enough for brands to claim to be sustainable—they must be transparent with their efforts and progress. Vague sustainability claims act as a deterrent for customers.
Fashion brand Rebecca Minkoff uses an AI-powered transparency tool that shows exactly how much water and material it takes to make each item compared to similar products. Retailers like Amazon and Sephora allow customers to sort products that are climate pledge friendly or made with clean materials, making it easier to support responsible brands.
4. Experience Economy Booms—Moving Beyond Products to Services
Shopping is no longer just about products. Modern retailers are expanding to offer creative services that enrich customers’ lives, build community and showcase their products in new ways. It’s now about providing services and experiences to put the products to use.
A growing number of retailers are offering educational events, such as cooking classes at Sur La Table or Williams Sonoma and gardening classes at Home Depot and Lowe’s. Costco has long offered experiences from vacation bookings to home improvement services in addition to its traditional products. Taking a page from Costco’s book, REI recently expanded its services category to help customers book outdoor activities to use the gear they purchased from the store. Customers at the Nike Rise concept store use technology to find the perfect shoes and then test them out at exclusive events and fitness classes. In 2022, more retailers will create experiences and environments where customers are increasingly doing the activity of the thing the business is selling. Such as REI, the company is just getting folks outdoors and to #OptOutside - which doesn’t seem related to selling hiking shoes, but is.
5. Bots Help Staffing Shortages—Robots Taking Over Human Tasks
Widespread staffing shortages and supply chain issues show no sign of slowing down. The lack of human employees has moved businesses towards robotic technology. Through the first nine months of 2021, North American companies ordered a record 29,000 robots, many of which perform front-line tasks traditionally done by humans.
Restaurant chain White Castle uses Flippy, a French fry robot that works alongside its hamburger robot to keep food fresh for customers. McDonald’s is partnering with IBM to develop and test an AI-powered voice system in its drive-thrus.
Customer experience is more crucial in 2022 than ever before. These trends highlight changing customer demands and expectations and how brands can tailor their strategies to create loyal, engaged customers.
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.