How to Optimize the Customer Experience Successfully in 2021
While the majority of sectors were impacted negatively by the pandemic in 2020, e-commerce volumes increased significantly. This continues to be one of the leading trends for 2021. Most business leaders are focused this year on expanding and optimizing their digital channels. It is estimated that digital transformation efforts accelerated by 5 to 10 years in just a few months. E-commerce competition increased too, as traditional businesses embraced the online world.
Along with the growth of online activities came increased customer expectations. New digital customers who were just learning to navigate e-commerce sites are now looking for better experiences with less friction. Established web customers are now seeking speed, convenience and increasingly personalized options. For example, as one company innovates and offers more convenient shipping, curbside pickup or better bundles, customers expect the same from competitors. Companies are constantly having to adapt their digital experiences to try and meet changing customer expectations. This is setting up a breaking point between the need for more agility and speed while wrestling with growing complexity and time to execute.
How are companies responding to increased customer expectations?
Most companies are responding by simply multiplying what they are already doing to try and engage different types of audiences. They’re adding to the number of landing pages on their websites. They’re creating micro funnels in an attempt to target specific audiences. They’re spending more on pay per click (PPC) campaigns and search engine optimization (SEO) to hopefully attract visitors to their website while battling the ever changing algorithms used by Google, Amazon and Facebook.
Traditional customer engagement channels may no longer be relevant with the major switch to digital. The marketing channels that remain are becoming increasingly expensive with diminishing returns. Websites have more traffic and, in an effort to improve conversions, companies are targeting micro elements of their digital experience and spending a great deal of time and money testing different ideas. The problem is all of these small actions don’t always result in success because the answers they’re generating rarely keep up with the pace of change. Digital leaders are under a great deal of pressure to deliver on growth targets. This is made more challenging because it’s difficult to gauge if all of the customer experience optimization efforts on a micro level are actually translating to achieving macro company key performance indicators (KPIs).
What are the benefits of focusing on digital channels to improve customer experience?
With the acceleration of digital transformation in 2020, many retailers have realized that it’s creating efficiencies that can make a significant impact on the bottom line. Digital enables companies to scale their customer experience efforts in a way they couldn’t do in-store. Industry statistics show that companies that have targeted digital channels are experiencing much faster growth. They are also benefiting from higher efficiencies in acquiring customers and a 40 to 60% reduction in their cost of sale. They are achieving this by focusing on omni-channel CX, leveraging data to target specific audiences, and empowering customers with self-service options. Much of this is being achieved through automation and leveraging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI). AI can sort through the data that is gleaned from customer interactions and is uniquely capable of delivering actionable insights quickly.
Key customer experience trends dominating 2021
With the pandemic still shaping current lifestyles, retailers have had to meet expectations for contactless shopping and delivery. This includes providing flexible options and understanding concerns that customers may have regarding safety.
This trend has also demanded that companies show empathy and understanding towards customers. For example: Some retailers recognized the challenges parents have experienced working from home while home schooling. They responded with offerings such as ready-made meal packs that help make it easier to have healthy home-cooked meals. Another great example is how many fitness companies enhanced their apps to respond to the desire of their customers for more human connections and online group training sessions.
Customers are engaging with brands across multiple channels, highlighting the need for omni-channel optimization. Mobile is still the preferred digital device, but regardless of the channel, customers now expect a consistent digital experience on all devices.
These trends highlight that customer experience should not just be a good intention or nice-sounding idea. If implemented correctly and continuously optimized, it has the ability to drive significant business growth. Ning Gao, the former head of personalization and optimization at Verizon, managed to increase digital growth by 370% in 18 months through focused efforts to provide highly relevant customer experiences in real time. This is possible for all e-commerce companies when leveraging advanced technologies such as AI.
Why is AI a key driver for CX optimization success?
Today companies are dealing with vast volumes of dynamic data and expectations. They’re having to implement multiple strategies and target different audiences with relevant offerings. AI has the ability to dynamically and automatically scale optimizations and generate insights quickly. It gives companies a competitive advantage by significantly speeding up the process of finding the most effective customer experiences that deliver against business goals. But it doesn’t stop there. In the medium and long term, AI arms companies with the information they need in order to move quickly and respond to changing customer and marketplace dynamics. AI helps companies to evolve their offerings and optimize customer experiences in line with changing customer expectations. The e-commerce world has become increasingly complex and competitive, the ability to be nimble and adaptive is a distinct advantage.