The start of the new decade has been challenging to say the least. The stress, anxiety, and uncertainty of events in 2020 have forced a heavy and transformative hand on many industries and business functions, not to mention the customer experience space.
During the pandemic, customer experience focused retailers that manage the customer journey all over the world were asked to do more with less, while growing numbers of customers had more questions than ever. Strapped for time and resources, customer centric teams have had little choice but to adapt, transform, re-evaluate previous working procedures, and reimagine what a satisfied customer experience looks like.
Luckily most have risen to the challenge. As we move further into 2021 with a degree of both trepidation and hope, here are five areas to keep your eye on in the customer experience space this year.
Insight driven strategies and actions
The first key area of focus for the retention of good customer experiences is the development of insight driven strategies and actions. Connected enterprises harness data analytics to generate actionable insights. They are also equipped to develop a real-time, multi-dimensional view of their customers, allowing them to shape meaningful and effective customer strategies and a personalised approach to executing them. Using more analytic insights to make integrated customer experience focused decisions in 2021 will be crucial.
Responsive operations and omnichannel retail experiences
Digital-first retail enterprises know they must have the right operational practices and supply chain operations in place if they are to execute on the promises made to customers. Being able to operate with the efficiency and agility to fulfil customer requests against steadily evolving customer expectations, in a consistent and profitable way, is going to be paramount for success in 2021.
For example, one way for retailers to stay ahead of the game and gain a competitive edge is by listening to the technology demands of their consumers. Today’s consumers expect an efficient, omnichannel shopping experience. In fact, a recent report from Coles Group revealed that omnichannel customers – those that shop both in-store and online – spent on average 2.1 times more with the company than those who shop through only one channel. Thus, retailers need to get serious about implementing omnichannel processes to operations, and, now more than ever, it is vital that they work to make sure these omnichannel divisions are meeting the requirements of the customers that are using them.
Retailers have the ability to architect, engineer, enable and operate intelligent digital services, technologies and platforms to deliver on customer promises in an agile, cost-effective and scalable manner. This flexible and agile technology approach, however, flows in two directions. This year, it is expected that more organisations will develop secure, scalable, and cost-effective solutions that not only support customer experience goals, but also support, enable and empower their employees and partners too.
The online space will remain king
The pandemic has certainly amplified and accelerated the move towards eCommerce. With most businesses closing their physical doors (at least temporarily) during the global pandemic, consumers were forced to shift online, resulting in a boom in online orders and an explosion of net new customers amongst the +65-age group who had historically been least likely to shop online or order for delivery.
The use of chatbots and social media has also become pivotal over the past year. With more consumers expected to use social media platforms, webchat, messenger apps and SMS chat as their main means of communicating with brands, retailers and their customer experience teams need to have the correct tools in place to manage this shift in 2021.
Trust and ethics score big
While trust underpins the commercial pulse between customers and brands, integrity and trust are intrinsically linked. Integrity is how the organisation thinks and behaves, and trust is the outcome gained as a result.
During lockdown, consumers have become more aware of environmental and sustainability issues surrounding brands and corporate bodies. They are questioning more about how brands behave when it comes to the environment and how they recognise their social obligation to customers and employees. In fact, some of Manhattan Associates’ recent research discovered that over 67% of Australian consumers are influenced by sustainability issues when shopping. The pandemic has significantly altered consumer behaviour over the last 12 months and these shifts have in turn produced knock-on effects to the ways that organisations have had to pivot and operate in 2021.
As customer experience takes on an increasingly vital role for retailers and brands in 2021, having agile and scalable technology and tools in place across the organisation will go a long way to helping teams manage these long-term changes and challenges. While there is no silver bullet for achieving a customer experience nirvana in 2021, the organisations that employ technology to connect remote team members, provide customer experience teams with the freedom to move between channels, and collate the weight of consumer data into one place, will be best placed to deliver a more efficient, personalised, and connected omnichannel customer experience this year.