Customer Experience Trends 2020: what’s out, what’s in, and what’s next

The biggest CX trends taking us into 2021.
The biggest CX trends taking us into 2021.

The needs of the modern customer are constantly changing. Brands know this and are always on the hunt for new and better ways to engage with buyers. But the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated that evolution, forcing most businesses to radically rework their CX campaigns to meet customer expectations. 

Here’s what you need to know about the direction digital CX is heading in, and how your company can adapt. But first, let’s look at which trends are on their way out.

CX trends falling out of favor

Trends come and go. As companies rethink their CX strategies, old ways of doing things fall out of fashion. Some trends may be modified to accommodate customers, while others might be completely disregarded. Some CX trends on the chopping block include:

  • Intrusive advertisements: Companies are moving away from advertisements like popups and “spin-to-win” email opt-ins 
  • Ticketed customer support: There’s been a push away from tickets, in favor of shared inboxes that offer more personable customer service
  • Monitoring “Time on Page” rates Customers spending more time on a page isn’t necessarily a good thing, so companies are looking at ways to speed up the sales journey by removing unnecessary speedbumps along the way
  • Facebook ads as the main acquisition source: Several brands have pulled their Facebook advertisements because of disagreements with the company’s content policy

Source: New York Times

Facebook lost an estimated $7 billion in advertising revenue as a result of the boycott, hurting the company’s position as a leading global advertising platform. 

“This month we’ve seen some of the biggest companies in the world pull their spending until Facebook amends their hate speech policy,” said Kaitlin Maud, the founder of Current Forward. “Long-term I think we will see a new media mix and acquisition funnel emerge.”

CX trends on the rise: fulfilment

It’s no surprise that many CX trends focus on fulfillment and last-mile delivery. The “Amazonification” of retail continues to influence customer expectations, and brands must compete with same and next-day delivery

What about companies lacking logistical infrastructure to compete with Amazon? Overextending or making empty promises to customers is a recipe for disaster. 

“My major concern is brands struggling to keep up with fulfillment, and letting customer service lapse unintentionally as a result,” says The Unofficial Shopify Podcast host, Kurt Elster. “Investing in automation and self-service customer service tools now will pay dividends later.” 

Tools offering the services below can improve CX and make customers feel seen and appreciated:

  • Parcel tracking and end-to-end traceability
  • Automated shipping notifications
  • Personalized messaging

Shipping companies like FedEx have made it easier for brands to keep customers in the loop throughout the duration of the delivery process.

Source: FedEx

CX trends on the rise: personalization

Personalization and empathy are especially important during difficult times like these. Everyone is stressed, and customers want brands to be mindful of that.

For Alice Warren, the Director of CX, Thinx, Inc., using humans over bots is a no-brainer. “We have still seen customer friction when the customer realizes they are interacting with an automated system. This leads to poor customer experience and a poor impression of our brand.” While acknowledging that some companies have used bots successfully, Alice believes bots have limited use in CX if they’re deployed as a human substitute.

CX trends on the rise: proactive customer support

Companies should be more proactive with customer support by:

  • Including return labels in their shipments
  • Adding supplemental information like care and usage guides, FAQs, and other info that could help customers
  • Reaching out to customers who leave negative product reviews

One way brands are being proactive is by looking at their customer journey maps. Re-evaluating these maps weekly and quarterly helps them identify pain points and optimize each stage of the purchasing journey more effectively.

Advanced CX solutions like UserReplay also help brands be more proactive with their CX strategies. Using real-time alerts and machine learning technology, UserReplay helps brands:

  • Prioritize CX issues based on lost revenue
  • Estimate revenue based on cohort groups, user journeys, and landing pages
  • Address CX problems as quickly as possible with the help of smart, real-time alerts
  • Optimize their CX strategy through features like real-time search and performance reports

UserReplay is a scalable solution that enables brands to build personalized CX campaigns that enhance every step of the customer journey.

General shifts already happening: CX over price

One way the global pandemic has changed CX is by drawing the focus away from competitive prices. 

According to Dan Gingiss, the Chief Experience Officer at The Experience Maker, competing on price is a loser’s game. Companies compete with brands selling similar goods and services. The best arena for competition is CX. “Each experience can be unique,” says Dan. “It’s delivered by your human employees, which no one else has. So CX can become the ultimate competitive advantage.”

Here’s an example of how Carrot Fertility used empathy and the human element to enhance their CX campaign:

Source: MarTech Series

Dan’s point of view represents one of two emerging CX trends for managing customer expectations. These trends are:

  1. The All-Tech Approach: Adopting a CX campaign that relies solely on technology, without the need for personnel
  2. The Human in the Loop Method: Implementing tech solutions that make it easier for workers to enhance CX 

Technology has made it easier to automate various areas of the customer journey. However, many companies are moving away from the All-Tech Approach (especially during the COVID-19 pandemic) in favor of a human touch that can be more considerate and empathetic.  

Remember… CX is ongoing

Brands must recognize CX as an ongoing project rather than a once-off campaign. Even revamped CX projects must come with re-evaluation, and CX teams need year-round funding to plan and drive innovation. 

When asked about her key concern with the state of CX right now, Experience Investigators CEO, Jeannine Walters had this to say: “It concerns me when businesses treat CX as an experiment. Eliminating entire CX teams when the going gets tough is short-sighted. Your customers have an experience with your brand whether you design and measure it or not.”

Predictions: what’s ahead for CX in the next 6 months

According to the founder and managing director of the Visual Thinking Group, Karl McKeever, companies will shift the focus of their CX campaigns to safety. Karl believes the future of CX will likely be “hyperlocalism as shoppers shun cities for the safety of shopping close to home or online. Acceptance of ‘lower retail standards’ as the tradeoff for access to in-store shopping.” Some of these changes include:

  • Contactless shipping
  • Flexible delivery times
  • Brick-and-mortar layouts that minimize person-to-person contact

More customers are turning to e-commerce because of the COVID-19 pandemic, including first-time online shoppers. Companies must create a digital-first CX strategy to support consumers who’re shopping online out of necessity.

Source: Statista

Of course, the future of CX isn’t changing exclusively because of the global pandemic. Brands have been using CX as part of their de-facto marketing campaign for some time, and that’s expected to become more popular over the next six months. 

“As brands become more about their product and more about emotional connection and personalization,” said Eli Weiss, the Director of CX at OLIPOP, “I think CX will become an ever more proactive engaging role as torchbearers of the brand.” 

Source: Boston Consulting Group

There’s no denying that personalization sells. Boston Consulting Group found that shoppers are 110% more likely to buy more items when presented with a personalized shopping experience. This falls in line with a recent survey that found 86% of customers are happy to pay more if they receive better customer experience.

Top brands are looking to strengthen their relationships with loyal customers. So, expect to see more personalization.   

What’s next for CX?

Customer preferences are always changing. Similarly, brands are constantly looking at new ways to improve customer experiences. But when the COVID-19 pandemic happened, companies had to rework their tried-and-true CX methods. Staying current with the direction CX is heading requires companies to stay up to date with customer needs, while being empathetic and flexible during times of stress and uncertainty.   

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