You’ve heard it again and again: the customer is in control of the shopping journey, and only those retailers that provide memorable and meaningful experiences will win long-term loyalty.
While this is a widely accepted truth, the reality is that only a handful of brands are fulfilling this promise. We all know the biggest names driving this change: Amazon.com, Spotify, Uber, Netflix.
These brands have risen the bar — not only in the B-to-C sense, but B-to-B as well. They each disrupted the disruptors.
So, what needs to be on brand agendas to gain customer experience (CX) ground in 2020?
Where We Are Now
In the past year, we’ve (finally) arrived at a place where almost all organizations fundamentally understand that they're competing point blank on the experience they deliver. Despite the groundswell of interest and investment in CX over the years, this is only a recent development (albeit one that's quickly gaining speed).
Now that this is a reality, brands are tasked with keeping up with continuous innovation and improvements of the aforementioned CX leaders. One area of particular focus for brand leaders is on-demand CX. Recent data found that live chat has the highest consumer satisfaction rate among all other channels, proving that brands are committed to using the advanced technology that customers love, like artificial intelligence via chatbots, to respond to customers contextually and in the moment.
Retailers have also made significant progress in delivering valuable omnichannel experiences. Eighty percent of customers use their mobile phone in brick-and-mortar stores, which alone illustrates the importance of a sound omnichannel marketing strategy.
Take Starbucks as an example. First, customers get a free rewards card that can be used whenever they make a purchase. But unlike traditional customer loyalty programs, Starbucks has made it possible for customers to check and reload their card via phone, website, in-store or app. Any change to the card or customer profile gets updated across all channels, in real time.
What Does the CX of 2020 Look Like?
We’ve come a long way, that’s for sure. But when it comes to CX, the question will always be: What comes next?
Here are a couple of my predictions:
- Use of augmented reality (AR) to take CX to the next level: AR gives brands the unique capability to provide new experiences combining the physical world with virtual elements to interact three-dimensionally with consumers. This is a deeply immersive experience that consumers will increasingly take advantage of in the coming year. AR at its best will enrich the relationship between consumer and brand — before, during and after a sale.
- Stores without digital assistants will fall behind: Screens are getting smarter. With cameras embedded and smart technologies like Mirror becoming mainstream, a huge opportunity is opening for retailers. The ability to turn signage into smart assistants who can show you what a new outfit will look like without you having to even put it on will take retail experiences to the next level. The potential applications for this smart technology will apply across many different segments and provide new ways to create enticing experiences for customers while also potentially reducing costs and increasing sales. Watch for smart screens to come to a retailer near you in 2020.
- "Instant" becomes even faster: Consumers today are spoiled. We can order a product from our couch and have it delivered to our door same-day. In 2020, the evolution of traditional retail stores as fulfillment centers, gig worker delivery options, and maybe even drones will allow brands to close the delivery gap to a matter of hours. These advancements will also make brand returns drastically easier.
Business is Defined by CX
In 2020, we’ll see the customer and brand become closer than ever before. With instant feedback, immersive experiences and constant communication becoming the standard, there's a lot of opportunity for brands to strengthen customer relationships.
As we begin 2020, it couldn’t be more clear: a customer’s experience with a brand is what defines a business. Brands must make that experience count.
Jason Rose is chief marketing officer of SAP Customer Experience, the market leader in enterprise application software.
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