2021 is going to be a transformative year in lots of ways but none more so compared to the business-consumer relationship. How these two entities connect and interact is undergoing a massive overhaul. Most significantly, the communication now flows both ways. The days of the one-way monologue, at the customer, are over. Instead, there must be a real-time, two-way dialogue with the client.
Consumers come with an abundance of channels at their disposal and may effortlessly communicate with brands – or about brands — like never before. As such, they have more treatments for how brands communicate and communicate with them. They're empowered, and this changes how businesses approach their customer experience. So, in the spirit from the New Year, here are my top five customer experience predictions and trends for 2021.
1. Brands learn what it means to be conversational
The challenge for brands would be that the model for communicating is shifting. It's moved away from one where individuals adjust to computers and apps, to one in which the computer must listen, learn, interpret and ultimately anticipate the person's demands and deliver the desired outcome. Based on Forrester Research, purchase of artificial intelligence (AI) is anticipated to triple in 2021. The new conversations will optimize natural language interaction by both text and voice with digital systems powered by artificial intelligence. Chatbots will end up less assistants and more advisers. We've moved from pure transaction-based customer relationships. Now, we're within the chronilogical age of the interactive customer relationship — those built with time, according to meaningful two-way communication from a logo and the consumer.
The premise of the conversation is going to be central to customer experience success in 2021. Customer interactions is going to be centered on engaging interactions that drive value for businesses and customers.
2. Brands get text-savvy
If messaging is the new channel for customer communication, brands need to learn the lingo for connecting with consumers inside a meaningful way. Consider it: Data has become the No. 1 utilization of our smartphones, surpassing telephony. Optimizing this channel extends past the premise of the items tone a brandname uses to engage with users or maybe emojis align with their brand, and extremely zeroes in on mobile messaging best practices. Messaging may be the No.1 communication way of individuals to talk to each other.
Here's a newsflash: Clients are people, too! If brands can't replicate exactly the same peer-to-peer messaging experience — i.e. short, to-the-point exchanges that respect the consumer's time — then they likely miss the chance to strengthen and take advantage of the interaction. Vibes recently released The Transactional Messaging Consumer Report, which indicated that 70% of consumers prefer service-based messages be delivered to their mobile phone. On top of that, messaging boasts a 99% open rate. To meet customers in the place where they would like to conduct business, brands must develop strategies that deliver transactional messages that induce real value across channels instantly.
3. “Silver-surfers” re-emerge as key target demographic
Just about every brand has its own sights focused on connecting with millennials. This comes as little surprise — the millennial generation is a massive demographic. They're growing quickly into their peak consumption years. But amid all of the fanfare around millennials, it's important to not forget the buying power and can of the old consumer. Go ahead and take seniors for example; even though they're no more the biggest U.S. demographic, they still represent a huge chunk of the U.S. population — a lot more than 74.9 million people, actually (the millennial human population is only a touch larger at 75.9 million). But what's interesting about the baby boomers is they have the disposable income to invest on what they want — something many millennials can't do, because of the the cost of living. Based on a recent article in BloombergTechnology, millennials will spend more than $200 billion annually starting in this season and $10 trillion during their lifetimes. However the spending power of seniors is anticipated to become higher, with estimates at $15 trillion worldwide by the end of 2021.
And the baby boomer population has a huge potential for development in the mobile sector. While they might not have grown up as digital natives, they're making up for lost ground and taking advantage of their cellular devices and technology more than ever before. This means brands have to pay special attention to ensuring their digital and mobile strategies align using the needs of seasoned consumers, along with millennials.
4. Big data gets bigger
Remember the large buzz about big data? I'm predicting that big data will get even bigger in 2021! We've been furiously collecting raw data and information but haven't yet optimized for better business results that has been enhanced customer interactions. We've reached the stage where it's time to place the massive amounts and wide types of data to operate. We'll make use of the combined power IoT, a cloud environment and sensors serving up data, enhancing the variety, volume and velocity of knowledge — both structured and unstructured — to more evenly distribute the availability. According to Statista, in 2021 the global consumer internet traffic in web, email, instant messaging along with other data traffic use, excluding file-sharing, is projected to achieve 11,061 petabytes per month.
In the past, we've largely forecast and designed according to historical data; we've expansive access to vast amounts of data instantly that can be used inside a predictive way. For large enterprises, swimming in a sea of aggregates and hiding behind the law of large numbers where you can't see the tree for the forest is no longer a smart strategy. Furthermore customers demand personalization, but understanding and leveraging more discrete segmentation can improve processes, product development, service design and delivery strategies that increase profitability for the company.
5. To the basics
Predictions pieces always supply new exciting technologies for companies to consider advantage of. But, merely keeping up with the pace of global change and technology advances has me overwhelmed for a lot of. This is why I think we'll begin to see companies opting to spend some of their limited resources and time toward refocusing on the fundamentals. In the end, technology for technology's sake is never advisable. And getting the best foundation in position is a prerequisite towards the introduction of new technology. Much of what's lauded as the next big thing is usually not prepared for prime-time — particularly in highly regulated environments. Virtual the truth is one example you think of. Some time in the future, I'm sure we'll see immersive customer experiences within the mainstream, but, for now, what you want may be something as simple as introducing a pilot program or creating an innovation lab for testing, adding messaging like a communication channel or fixing broken processes before you automate them. Or even the solution might be as complex as designing a solution to connect all those disparate systems.
So, for many companies, especially those incumbents in industries which have traditionally lagged in innovation (like insurance, healthcare and telecoms) and that face disruption, 2021 may also be about exploiting core competencies, mastering the fundamentals and making the incremental improvements which will simplify customer experiences in ways that may quickly scale.
Taking action is the key to 2021 success
Although it is impossible to know the future, it's clear that doing things the way in which we've always done them or past decision-making practices can't simply be retrofitted and instructed to solve for any completely new group of problems. Within this increasingly dynamic, fiercely competitive business world, we all face new leadership challenges that cut across industries and markets. I believe they affect all of us both personally as consumers and professionally as businesses. For me personally, the key to success around managing these new challenges is to anticipate them to the reality that their inherent complexity is minimized or mitigated.
Sounds simple, but it's not. This means getting in front of the curve and not just being a thought-leader, but a do-er. Having a bias to action is much more critical now than ever before. Those who taking action immediately will increase their chance of growth, success and survival — those who anticipate and act will thrive.