Predictions: 10 Customer experience trends for 2020

CMO asks the experts about the customer experience trends heading towards marketers in 2020

These days, most marketers recognise customer experience (CX) is vital for a healthy, profitable brand. But while most marketers want to offer good CX, how best to go about it seems to be the sticking point.

“With consumers increasingly demanding companies become more transparent about data usage, marketers are being forced to develop improved creative marketing and content experiences," IAB Australia CEO, Gai le Roy, said.

"In 2020, this will advance considerably and we expect to see a new breed of companies that seamlessly deliver marketing, content and commerce experiences direct to consumers which will change people’s expectations of both product and marketing activities." 

CMO asks the experts about the customer experience trends heading at marketers in 2020.

1. NPS is superseded

Net Promoter Score (NPS) has been around for a while and is widely used as a customer satisfaction and experience marker. However, for Radaro co-founder and managing director, Brenton Gill, the problem with NPS is that the information is generally only captured from a highly engaged consumer.

“The intention of NPS has been to identify issues with brand loyalty and customer satisfaction, to gain legitimate feedback and to respectively improve upon this. However, it has become evident loyalty and satisfaction aren’t necessarily synonymous,"  he said. "With these assessments in mind, it’s possible to use customer satisfaction scores to improve sales and build on loyalty. But it’s vital to start at the frontline in order to do this.

“This has elicited a culture of ‘voice of customer’ ratings, which ultimately provide an overall satisfaction score without inconveniencing those rating the service."

As a result, Gill found NPS quickly losing its relevance as the primary indicator of customer satisfaction. "With the tides veering towards CX-centric evaluations, the necessity for ‘voice of customer’ review systems is simply dampening the demand for NPS," he said. 

According to Gill, the future of customer experience reporting seems to be set on a five-point scale. "Consumers are reluctant to assess an organisation as a whole and are more drawn to individual experience reviews, such as rating their encounter with the delivery of a specific item, or judging the performance of their chauffeur from bedroom to boardroom when late for work," he claimed. 

“Assessing isolated customer experiences, rather than requesting a vague overview of an organisation, is increasingly important as we put more weight on CX and its relation to brand advocacy." 

Managing partner at The Leading Edge, Lee Naylor, also said companies in 2020 will increasingly seek to understand more than just the digital/UX metrics as being CX, or just delving into pain points.

“Instead, they’ll look to build experiences that are the best versions of their brand and incorporate softer, more qualitative metrics,” he said. 

2. Dark patterns threat

In the drive to move the needle on CX, some marketers may be driven to dark patterns, or a pattern of behaviour prescribed to deliberately trick a consumer. According to Forrester, a quarter of companies will use dark patterns to drive consumer-hostile behaviours, and a recent Princeton study found over 10 per cent of top shopping sites use dark patterns.

“The adoption rate for dark patterns will surge for all commerce sites as CX and design professionals who feel increased pressure to optimise conversion rates try to copy the success of dark patterns in areas like mobile gaming," Forrester stated in a recent 2020 predictions report. "What’s more, social media platforms will increasingly employ dark patterns in an effort to win the fight for fragmented consumer attention, which will drive negative mental health implications for consumers."  

In response, the analyst firm sees technology companies offering even more 'digital diet' tools and 'deception blockers'.

"Expect more legislation like the proposed Detour and Smarts Acts, as well as a 16-point plan from the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office, that attempt to prevent the use of dark patterns,” Forrester said. 

3. We like big bots 

Forrester has also identified 2020 as the year of the bot, with 35 per cent of firms planning to invest in agent-facing bots to improve customer service.

“To move the needle on CX, CX professionals will focus on improving service experiences that drive loyalty, like interactions with customer service reps. CX pros will collaborate with IT and operations teams to simplify experience delivery by deploying 'agent whisperer' technologies that help employees find task-critical information,” Forrester stated.

But for Isentia head of insights NZ, Ngaire Crawford, 2020 is an important year for how customers respond to digital humans in the customer service experience.

“As companies start to move from chatbots to what should feel like a more authentic human interaction, it will be interesting to watch how audiences respond to them, and the impact this might have on how customers actually define and value a good customer experience,” she said. 

4. More human experiences

Of course, while digital technologies make it easier to navigate through busy lives, they can erode human connection, Deloitte pointed out.

“When digital connections - personal and - lack a human touch, people can feel isolated, underrepresented and unfulfilled. The rapid pace of digital change is adding to a build up of these unintended consequences, or experience debt," the consulting group said.

"To pay down this experience debt, organisations and their ecosystems should focus on elevating the human experience by aligning customers, the workforce, and partners to a common purpose.”

Forrester said consumers’ urge to restore meaning will create group-level digital personalisation. 

“Consumers’ intensifying desire to connect with others aligned with their identity will drive them into private social media groups anchored around specific values. This is digitally enabled group personalisation, where digital tools no longer make people feel like an undifferentiated mass,” Forrester said.

Founder of The Company We Keep, Nigel Ruffell, also highlighted sensory experiences getting closer to reality as part of the modern marketing approach.

"The outdoors can be brought inside, for example, with night sky ceilings, real plants, natural materials, like wooden beams and trellises. Elements that you can touch, hear and smell," he said. “The aim is to transport people from their everyday life and make them part of the world that you are trying to create. This ties in with the most important part - storytelling. People should be taken in by what the event means and why it’s there, and should feel an emotional response to the experience.” 

5. Brand purpose in the spotlight

Increasingly, consumers are demanding the brands they support in turn support social causes close to their hearts. This is being driven by the millennial consumer, but is not limited to this segment.

According to Forrester, a quarter of global firms will lose over 1 per cent of revenue by responding poorly to a social issue. And as the ranks of values-based consumers (VBCs) grow, they will wield more power to reward brands that take firm stands on controversial social issues and punish those that don’t.

As a consequence, companies in 2020 will be paying careful attention to authenticity, both in the values they choose to express and how they express them.

"CMOs will rally around customer value. To establish a successful ecosystem, CMOs will thread the needle between employee experience, customer experience, brand purpose, creative, and technology, imbuing all these crucial areas with customer obsession,” Forrester said.

Deloitte agreed, stating a clear purpose can be critical for organisations. “Businesses are using purpose to create deeper connections with consumers, doing more for the communities in which they work, attract and retain talent, and achieve greater results and impact in the process. Companies with high levels of purpose outperform the market by 5–7 per cent per year,” the consulting giant stated.

Landor's 2020 Report positioned sustainability no longer as a selling point, but a necessity in the New Year. The brand agency said businesses that fail to recognise this face an unforgiving public.

"For many businesses and sectors, this risk stretches to their licence to operate. From fast fashion retailers rethinking their business model, to bottled water companies reimagining the water bottle, many industries are reinventing in order to avoid extinction," the report stated.

"We are moving from the era of thought leadership to ‘do leadership’, where storytelling becomes ‘story doing’. Brands that fail to do, face becoming irrelevant. Consumers care about principles and say they will change their purchasing behaviour based on how a business acts."

Up next: Our next 5 customer experience predictions in 2020

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6. Consumer participation

Alongside this, Deloitte has found nearly 75 per cent of consumers expect two-way relationships with organisations they do business with, making it a priority for brands in 2020.

“Increased customer interaction can build competitive advantage and develop a stronger relationship with the brand. Technology provides new opportunities for consumers, citizens and communities to engage directly in shaping, influencing, building and co-creating the overall brand,” the firm stated. 

Forrester also saw consumers evolving from recipients of a brand experience to participants in it. 

“Forward-looking CMOs will recognise customers don’t merely want to be served but want to be part of the service; consumers will view brands as vehicles to participate in a larger cause,” the analyst firm said. 

7. Tackling trust

Trust is even more vital as brand move into a consumer-led competitive landscape, and is another many see as key to customer experience success in 2020.

“Customers, regulators, and the media expect brands to be open, honest, and consistent across all aspects of their -from products and promotions to workforce culture and partner relationships. In an era of connected technology and big data analytics, companies should create a structure that systematically builds trust by protecting what stakeholders value most, customer data and privacy,” Deloitte said.

8. Curating on the buyer's terms

As Tealium chief marketing officer, Heidi Bullock, points out, CX has been tricky to execute because marketers have been overwhelmed by the proliferation of channels and technology, plus mountains of data.

“In 2020, marketers will continue to strive towards the goal of a meaningful experience for buyers. A great experience is more than just a great product – it is how customers are communicated with and how the company engages them," she commented. 

“Personalisation alone won’t cut it, rather, it is curating the right experience for the buyer on their terms. Companies that can execute on that vision will outperform their peers. To support that and deliver the right types of experiences, organisations are looking to customer data platforms [CDPs] to help with this challenge,” she said.

2020 is an opportunity for businesses to deliver broader, more personalised, customer experiences through digital transformation than ever before, said Commvault APAC senior director of WW Alliances, Craig Bastow.

“For CMOs and marketers, the increasing amount of information available from back-office operational processes must be used for optimisation of front-office modernisation and direct customer experience generation," he said. 

“Marketers will need to design a different digital journey for users, mapping the multiple – often previously disparate – data points available from different elements of historic customer engagement, to meet the expectations of front-office modernisation. Technologies and data analytics are keys to this shift, providing more useful and greater personalised interactions and insights.”   

9. Embracing AI to better harness data

And it's artificial intelligence (AI) that's going to drive this innovation. MaritzCX APAC managing director, David Blakers, expected brands to deepen their use of AI and machine learning technologies as the customer experience market evolves from measurement to action, and from predictive to prescriptive.

“It will be more AI solutions like natural language processing [NLP], text analytics and computer vision to help brands easily access data sources, unlock insights and trigger faster actions to improve loyalty and drive business growth," he said. 

F5 Networks A/NZ head of marketing, Jade Meara, said AI-powered solutions will be a crucial part of the ‘intelligent’ marketing stack.

“We will continue to see marketing programs become more data-driven than ever before in 2020," she commented. "While it’s important for marketers to secure adequate budgets and execute to plan quarter-on-quarter, it’s more important to be aligned to business strategy and customer experience by using the right tools to drive ‘intelligent engagement’; that is, targeting the correct personas with the most relevant message at the most opportune time.

“The key to a successful marketing campaign in 2020 is ensuring greater customer engagement and an overall seamless experience backed by data.”

EZ Texting CMO, Matt Reid, highlighted text to landline as a newer offering in the text marketing space.

“In 2020, AI is going to help these businesses automatically respond on behalf of a business to routine questions such as store hours, any ongoing promotions, and so on. This technology is better than a chatbot since it meets you where you are, on your phone, giving you all the answers you want and need," he claimed. 

Datorama CMO and head of marketing cloud at Salesforce, Leah Pope, said we've seen the pendulum swing back and forth between short-term, hyper optimisation and long-term brand building.

“Customer experience and fostering one-to-one engagement is the key to telling the holistic story of a brand and ensuring that it resonates," she said. "At the same time, marketers have more data than ever before available to them to inform their decision making process. In order to succeed, marketers need to achieve a holistic view of what’s happening with their data across ecommerce, social, programmatic, and more to make smarter, data-driven decisions to achieve a balance between growth and brand building at scale.”

10. Simplicity and relevance 

Because what's become evident is consumers will actively discard messaging that is complicated or not relevant to them. Now more than ever, it’s right time, right place, right consumer that marketers must drive towards.

RelationEdge country manager A/NZ, Paul Milinkovic, said relevance to the customer through the engagement process will continue to drive brand loyalty in 2020.

“If marketers successfully engage with their prospects and customers through relevant, personalised material, those prospects will convert to customers more quickly and will become brand loyal in the process which is every marketer’s dream," he said. 

Orchard director of product and experience design, Kim Verbrugghe, said CX will become increasingly more important.

“CX agencies who have been ‘winging’ it, will need to go back to basics when they realise that not all increases in customer satisfaction result in ROI. Though maybe they’ll get away with it for now, a stronger scrutiny on ROI forecasting will need to happen if we want CX to stay the golden child for a while longer.

“We’ll see CX being injected into brand and product more and more, even across other naturally confusing industries like insurance, striving for simplicity above everything else. And that’s how brands will win the battle for attention.” 

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