5 Commerce Trends That Will Define Customer Experience in 2021
2020 was a year like no other. The pandemic upended traditional in-store shopping habits and redirected consumers online like never before. This surge brought unprecedented growth to the e-commerce forecast, with U.S. consumers predicted to increase their spend by 18 percent.
While this shows staggering growth in a space with steady momentum already, it also demonstrates how shoppers are quick to adapt and pivot amidst a disruption. And if consumers can change their behavior with little notice, then retailers and brands must keep up or risk losing business. In fact, it was the most nimble and creative organizations that were able to deliver safe, seamless and contactless experiences. Therefore, it's not surprising that those organizations saw the most success in 2020.
What will help organizations sustain their success in 2021? A strategic road map dedicated to an optimized customer experience. Here are five trends that we’ll likely see emerge from those efforts:
One of the biggest trends to come out of 2020 is the emphasis on safety and health. Shoppers aren't as interested with in-store browsing because they're trying to keep personal interactions at a minimum: 77 percent of consumers expect to increase their use of touchless technologies to avoid interactions that require physical contact. This trend of buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS); reserve online, pick up in-store (ROPIS); as well as other curbside pickup options will only continue to increase in 2021. However, retailers will need to ensure the shopping experience is still personalized, seamless and engaging to keep customers coming back. And as retailers focus on the customer experience, the employee experience will be equally as important.
Digitized Customer Service
With so much disruption and uncertainty in 2020, it makes sense that customers were more likely to seek out service representatives with questions about product inventory, payment issues, and order or delivery status. According to a survey by Kustomer, 79 percent of customer service organizations report being significantly impacted by the global pandemic. In 2021, digital commerce will remain an important channel with heavy customer experience influence. Therefore, there needs to be significant investment in customer service staffing and technology to field support requests.
Virtual Voice Assistants
Voice technology continues to make significant advances across several industries — most notably in the world of commerce. New artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities and technology will have the opportunity to merge with existing chat functionality, further propelling retailers’ conversational strategy. While voice assistants can create engaging customer experiences by building a seamless and accessible path to purchase, it also has the ability to house a lot of valuable customer data. In 2021, expect an investment in voice commerce as recommendations and new profile features become more popular.
Personalized Shopping Journeys
As brands strive to understand evolving customer journeys and create personalized customer experiences, they're attempting to get to know their customers in new and largely unprecedented ways. While this has been a constantly developing trend over the last few years, 2021 will likely prove to be a tipping point. According to ZDNet, 52 percent of customers expect offers to always be personalized. Retailers’ efforts to aggregate relevant data points and build experiences that are tailored to individual consumers will see an increase in engagement and customer loyalty.
A unified customer experience is often the product of a strong omnichannel strategy. This approach includes multiple digital channels that work together cohesively to support the consumer no matter where they browse and shop — from a laptop or tablet to a mobile device or brick-and-mortar store. In 2021, the ability to sell both online and offline is promised to be a differentiator as more people will rely on digital methods to complete purchases. According to a Nielsen survey, omnichannel shopping increased by 50 percent in 2020, with nearly half leading to e-commerce purchases. This strong trend will continue to influence retailers’ embrace of omnichannel in 2021 as well.
As pandemic-related shopping behavior continues to affect commerce trends and retailers begin to execute against their 2021 road maps, keep these five important predictions in mind. They will have substantial sway against customer experience competencies by finding new ways for retailers and brands to connect with their customers — wherever they may be.
Jennifer Conklin is vice president, unified commerce sector lead at Capgemini, a global leader in consulting, technology services and digital transformation.