Brands competing primarily on customer experience
Forget trying to undercut competitors' prices; providing a superior customer experience is swiftly becoming the priority for brands attempting to differentiate themselves from their competition. Brands are laser-focused on customer experience right now, partly because they know people will pay more for great experiences. Another major factor is that they understand that experience includes building trust, and when we trust businesses, we are much more likely to be willing to share our data with them. Technology creates countless ways to create and deliver these experiences. They could come in the form of a good customer service delivery, an on-target experiential marketing connection, or simply discovering that your products and services are a good fit for their lives. Research has found that as little as one bad interaction with a company is enough to stop many of us from giving them our custom ever again. As society transitions to a service-driven economy where the lifetime value of customers is of primary importance, 2022 will see increasing investment in technologies designed to improve our experiences and earn our trust.
Smarter products and services
Thanks to the IoT and wearables revolution, devices we carry and interact with are increasingly capable of collecting data from us and the world we live in. In fact, Gartner estimates that by 2022, the value of the global wearables market will hit $81.5 billion. The additional free time many of us are enjoying thanks to switching to remote and from-home working is a driver of this, as well as an increasing interest in personal health.
Experience-focused businesses are quickly becoming adept at taking this data and using it to improve the richness and usefulness of our interactions with them. New smart materials that are being developed will allow the creation of smart clothing that powers itself, can be washed in a regular machine, and can pass many different types of data through to apps on your phone or watch to give you insights into your health. It’s also expected that we will see the first fruits of Google’s acquisition of health tracker manufacturer Fitbit, potentially leading to increased innovation in the smartwatch space. In 2022, many companies that are focused on improving experience will do so by developing products that use data to better integrate themselves into our lives, providing us with more valuable insights and richer user journeys.
Automation in customer service
The level and quality of service that customers receive from companies is a key feature of the experience it provides. Contact centers play a big role in this – if customers know they will spend a long time "on hold," be passed between multiple departments, or end up speaking to poorly trained advisors who can’t help them solve their problems, they are unlikely to rate their experiences with that company highly. Automated call handling systems were initially introduced to tackle some of these issues but unfortunately didn’t always have the desired effect, as callers experienced increasing frustration while navigating menus or interacting with hit-and-miss voice recognition systems.
Businesses are counting on their ability to augment these systems with AI – customer service chatbots employing natural language processing (NLP), for example – to alleviate these issues. This should mean chatbots that get increasingly better at understanding our input and predicting the response we require. One application we may start to see becoming a reality in 2022 will be voice assistants in offline retail -for example, in a supermarket, we might ask Alexa to tell us where to find the products we need in the aisles. McDonald's is likely to start rolling out voice recognition at its drive-through terminals this year. And sentiment analytics will increasingly be used to understand the content of written and spoken communications and more efficiently route it to the people or machines that will provide the best solution.
Increasing levels of personalization are going to be a very strong trend this year, with brands getting to grips with the idea of using technology to develop closer and more personalized relationships with their customers at scale. Personalized email headers and subject lines, for example, are known to improve click-through rates, but that’s only the beginning. One hot topic in personalization over the next year will be the opportunities to identify and act on "micro-moments" – selling opportunities that can be open for just seconds but can be highly profitable to brands that understand how to identify and pounce on them at scale. These micro-moments can open up when a customer heads online with an intent to make a purchase or just to find out information on a subject such as what tool they need to do a job. In 2022, brands will be investing heavily in ways to recognize and leverage these moments, finding the right time to send a personalized offer that will help solve whatever problem is facing the potential customer at that time. This is about being able to reach the right customer at the right time – a cutting-edge marketing challenge but one that's increasingly solvable thanks to the technology solutions at our fingertips today.