Even after 20 months of the pandemic, the way businesses interact with their customers continues to evolve and change. Many of the trends that emerged out of necessity at the start of lockdown, such as a wholesale shift to digital, are now well-worn features of businesses’ approach to customer experience. Yet many of the trends that are building on this digital baseline could have been written 10 years ago – this is customer experience 2.0, but many of its key attributes will already be familiar to those watching this space.
Jen Bailin is CRO, SAP Customer Experience
As we move into 2022, it’s vital that businesses grasp the urgency of these changes. Black Friday 2021 encapsulated just how times are changing – for the first time in history, online spending over the shopping holiday actually decreased. While SAP Commerce Cloud customer orders over Black Friday actually grew by 110%, this overall dip suggests that consumers are shifting to making relevant purchases in these periods rather than motivated by mass markdowns.
On top of these shifting customer expectations, businesses of all sizes are having to manage the backdrop of supply chain disruption, staff shortages, rising inflation, and pandemic anxiety means truly understanding what customers want can sometimes be seen as a secondary concern. Actually, the opposite is true, as in periods of disruption and uncertainty, the need to understand customer expectations becomes all the more urgent.
With a commerce solution powering 481% growth in Gross Merchandise Volume on Black Friday and Cyber Monday alone - and having grown our CX business 600% since 2013 - SAP is well placed to help businesses win the hearts and minds of customers in the shadow of wider macro trends.
As we head into the new year, here are five key trends around customer experience that businesses need to grasp in the CX space in 2022:
1. Tap into integrated data to build trust and transparency
Trust really is the key to winning returning customers. In the current environment, businesses need to be wary of making promises that they can’t keep as faith in a brand is quickly burned, and rarely rebuilt. There’s a fine line between drawing in customers with appealing offers and next-day delivery, and being sure they can fulfill these commitments.
This can be a challenge, particularly given the current context of global supply chain disruption. It’s therefore important that marketers can tap into integrated data that connects and gives them visibility into other adjacent functions like sales, fulfillment and logistics. SAP customers generate 87% of the world’s global commerce, and we’re able to weave identity and access into all touchpoints of these businesses – helping to link up the backend to front end of their operations. As such, we are uniquely placed to give marketers the tools and real time insights to show their end users factors such as availability and speed of shipping. Building trust in the end-to-end experience requires both a top-level and granular view of all these different factors.
We’ve also been investing in evolving the core of Customer Service to cloud native technology, which will further integrate the CX function for forward thinking business and will offer agents a best-in-class user experience.
2. Understand that resiliency = customer experience
Even companies that are aggressively re-examining their business model tend to overlook the importance of a customer service strategy as a key element of resilience.
Whether businesses are thinking about gaining share, pursuing new opportunities, or getting out in front of future disruptions, it’s important to keep in mind that customers also are struggling to adapt to uncertainty. In these times of intense and unrelenting change, customers are seeking reassurance just as much as management and shareholders.
Customers want to know that they’re still important, and that they can expect the same quality of products and services that they received before the pandemic. At the same time, customers provide an invaluable source of feedback about the changes that a company is making – and how such changes are impacting customer experience and perception.
3. Personalise engagements across channels
Providing a personalised experience to customers, whether in store or on your website, is a critical part of CX. It’s the difference between giving shoppers an enjoyable, convenient experience that truly makes them feel valued – and not. Personalisation is, of course, subjective. For some, a 40% offer on a hot ticket item online is what they are after. Others might just want the speed of next day delivery for a last minute birthday gift for a loved one.
Delivering on this personalisation requires data, insights and capacity. It’s about understanding what the customer likes, based on trends from their purchasing history, and offering them something that suits their profile and buying habits.
4. Supercharge your mobile strategy
With mobile shopping expected to account for £19.8bn in sales over the Christmas period, it’s clear that placing mobile at the heart of your omnichannel strategy is vital for any business looking to thrive in 2022.
As we move into the New Year, it’s important that businesses think about mobile holistically. Making your website mobile first is a good initial step, but have you considered texting promotions to customers? Have you made use of NFCs (Near Field Communications) to alert customers to coupons that are available for items they are looking at?
Smartphones are a powerful tool in customers’ hands, but they are an equally effective asset for brands to engage customers with and build a lifelong relationship. Over the festive period and into the New Year, consider how your business can make the most of idle thumbs with a strategy that really appeals to consumers.
5. Customer loyalty is still king
Despite what some people will tell you, loyalty is still an integral part of customer experience. Yes, it might be hard to visualise that over Black Friday where shoppers flock to the brands that are discounting the most, but it definitely plays out in wider retail trends.
So how to show loyalty? You can do this in countless ways. Reward customers for making a return purchase. Is there a seasonal outfit they bought last year that you can selectively discount for them on an updated model this year? Equally, you might want to do a promotion on bundling multiple items in their cart.
The concept is simple. Show customers that you are rewarding them for coming back to you, and they will reciprocate in droves.
With the next few months looking to be distinctly uncertain for businesses, it’s more important than ever that brands put customer experience strategies front and centre. The number of companies that are focusing on CX for a competitive advantage continues to increase, and that’s no coincidence. By understanding the value of Customer Experience and taking advantage of these emerging trends, businesses can bake resiliency into their operations, and will have the ability to reap the benefits of happy and returning customers over the January sales period and beyond.
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