Customer experience (CX) defines a customer’s journey with a company, including both direct and indirect touchpoints. Businesses that place the emotional needs of the buyer persona at the forefront of the customer experience strategy fosters great relationships. Forrester reports that customer experience is a high priority for about 75% of global business and technology professionals and their organizations. However, finding ways to increase customer engagement and brand loyalty can be a challenge. Here are seven customer experience trends that can help business leaders elevate their companies and improve their CX strategies.
Trend 1: Sustainability for customer satisfaction
A new generation of consumers creates a need for new approaches to customer relationships. While sustainability is a growing value aligned to business, the way companies approach customer-centric sustainability efforts ought to be different for their younger consumers.
A brand needs to implement sustainability as part of its identity to better connect with this new age of consumers. Gen Z and Millennial customers are 27% more likely to purchase from a company than older generations, if they believe that the brand cares about its impact on people and the planet. Even better, if the company’s product or solution is higher quality because of sustainable contributors, the brand might exceed customer expectations.
Reformation is a trendy clothing company that uses their commitment to sustainability as part of their business strategy. Unlike most e-commerce sites, Reformation has a dedicated navigation for customers to explore their sustainability efforts. The section headline of the site is their tagline, “being naked is the #1 most sustainable option. We’re #2.” Along with punchy marketing, the brand details exactly how they’re providing sustainable products. They site their production process, material sourcing information, product care information, and even their sustainability reports. By providing transparency and communicating their mission, Reformation has become known for their commitment to social good among the younger generations.
Trend 2: Omnichannel CX: Meeting customers where they are
A customer interaction with a business often goes through multiple touchpoints before that customer decides to engage with the brand. By implementing an omnichannel CX strategy, companies can expedite this process through interacting with their customer base in different places like social media apps, streaming platforms, e-commerce sites and more.
It is important to understand customer behaviors on various channels. For example, brand recognition on a podcast episode is great for awareness, but how many times do you click out of a podcast to purchase something? It may not be the channel for driving the digital customer experience; however, it might be one touchpoint in the customer journey. Adjust messaging to best fit different platforms and adapt marketing strategies to create a seamless omnichannel experience for your customers.
A company that has a consistent omnichannel strategy is Disney. Along with a memorable logo and the slogan “The most magical place on earth,” Disney keeps the spirit of its brand alive across the various platforms they serve. The founder, Walt Disney, wanted to create a seamless experience for customers that emphasizes the themes of family, fun, and entertainment throughout all messaging.
Today, this strategy is visible in the My Disney Experience tool, which places the control in the hands of the customer to create their dream Disney trip. Keeping in mind a customer-centric omnichannel strategy, Disney considers each interaction that a child might have with the brand when positioning their messaging. This includes movies, TV ads, in-store costumes, and in-person character experiences.
Trend 3: Investing in a valuable loyalty program
The name states the benefit itself, loyalty programs reward customers for their continued business, but they are also shown to increase customer retention. 79% of customers are more likely to do business with a company because of their loyalty program. Many businesses are even personalizing their programs, adding a hierarchy of loyalty status, to highlight their most loyal customers. Given the correlation between customer retention and customer loyalty, it is important that companies have a proactive approach to improving on their loyalty program benefits.
Beauty retail giant Sephora is known for their Beauty Insider Program. Free to join, this program recognizes shoppers into tiers based on their annual store spending—Insiders, VIB, and Rouge. Each tier rewards shoppers for their spending by equating points amount to a given dollar, for example Insiders get one point for every dollar spent. Along with a free birthday gift, all members get access to free, trial-sized products. As you move up the tiers more rewards are given spanning from early access to new product launches, higher discounts, additional birthday perks, makeup training classes, and even complimentary full-sized products.
Trend 4: Prioritizing customer accessibility to information
Customers want to have control over their interactions with a company. AI-powered chatbots allow customers unlimited access to information via messaging. Also, optimizing search on webpages makes for an easier digital customer experience. Businesses should provide more of these self-service options for their customer experience—like booking appointments, order tracking, and customer support bots. Allowing your customer base access to this information gives them the functions to control their customer journey. Access to more information allows your customers to feel trusted, which is the foundation Airbnb build their business on.
For many reasons—building trust, including customers in decision making, and creating a belonging culture—Airbnb has great customer loyalty. The company connects strangers renting their properties with people looking to stay in different locations across the world. This model sounds like it can invite disaster; however, by providing a trusted 24/7 customer support program, Airbnb upholds their customer experience. The company uses an omnichannel experience, through providing bots, live agents, social media messaging, in-app messaging, and 24/7 phone and email support. Additionally, the Airbnb Help Center includes a plethora of resources at the customer’s disposal. They can choose their tailored experience, whether they’re a guest, host, experience host, or travel admin. Along with optimized search, the help center includes blogs, FAQs, contact information, and topic level organization.
Trend 5: Personalized experiences using data and generative AI
As stated, emotional connection with customers is a foundational element of customer experience. Using data, companies can implement hyper-personalization into their CX strategy. Enterprises can collect predictive analytics from customer relationship management (CRM) systems to better personalize experiences. CRM systems provide 360-degree customer data—from sales, marketing, and other functions—that can inform features like product recommendations, virtual cart reminders, SMS stock alerts, and even greeting customers by name when shopping online.
How can businesses differentiate their personalization efforts to better connect with their customers? Improving the hyper-personalization of customer experience was identified as a top use case by 42% of AI decision-makers. Through technology like generative AI, companies can better identify trends in individual’s behavior and create personalized experiences. AI is not a new territory for eBay. The company has been using the technology to create better experiences for both sellers and shoppers.
Along with their personalized shopping assistant, Shop Bot, eBay announced the release of a generative AI powered listing tool for sellers. The new tool, which is identified by eBay as a new “magical listing experience,” can extract information pictures provided by the seller to create descriptions and optimize the selling experience. Another example of how this tool works is that a seller can give their item a title and use generative AI to get recommended categories and other information that describes the item. Overall creating a more streamlined listing process for eBay sellers.
Trend 6: Understanding new technologies
Just as artificial intelligence can help with hyper-personalization, it can also help businesses to develop new experiential marketing strategies that better connect with customer expectations. IBV reported that 78% of global executives have an approach to scale generative AI into customer and employee experiences. Through creating memorable experiences, businesses can develop a more emotional connection to customers. Even exploring and understanding new technologies like virtual and augmented reality might help businesses create an immersive experience for their customers.
One example of this is IKEA teaming up with Apple’s iOS 11 and ARkit to launch IKEA Place to equip their customers to be better interior designers. The app allows for furniture to be placed virtually in their residence via AR technology through their iPhone. According to IKEA the accuracy is at 98%, this allows customers to picture their products in their personal space before purchasing and eliminates the need to travel to a store location.
Trend 7: Ensuring data privacy for customers
Customers are willing to share personal information, especially knowing it can provide real-time solutions and hyper-personalization. In fact, 50% of customers are willing to share personal information to help create a tailored customer experience. These metrics can create advancements to relationships, products, and service experiences with a business. However, customers want to know how their data will be used and they want to trust that the company can protect their personal information against data breaches. It is important for companies to share usage and privacy intentions with clear messaging so users can better understand how their data is benefiting their customer journey.
Customer experience as a competitive advantage
A customer’s needs vary depending on the individual, and generative AI can support businesses in pleasing as many customers as possible through hyper-personalization. A proactive company implements a modern CX strategy accompanied by new technologies. IBM has been helping enterprises apply trusted AI in this space for more than a decade. Generative AI has further potential to significantly transform customer and field service with the ability to generate more human-like, conversational responses. IBM Consulting puts customer experience strategy at the center of your business, helping you deliver consistent and intelligent customer care with conversational AI.
IBM watsonx™ Assistant is a market-leading, conversational artificial intelligence platform designed to help you overcome the friction of traditional support and deliver exceptional experiences. IBM watsonx™ and IBM Consulting’s deep expertise in customer journey mapping, design, platform implementation, and data and AI can help you harness best-in-class technologies to implement transformation across the customer lifecycle.