It’s been a tumultuous year on many fronts, and as 2020 comes to a close, organizations remain hyper-focused on both supporting and embracing their customer experience. But in order to do this, they must change their view of the buying, selling, and servicing cycles. Brands should do away with viewing these processes as a set of linear disconnected events, and instead, begin thinking of the entire process as a true customer journey.

The customer journey is arguably more important than ever before, as customer expectations reached an all-time high in 2020. With organizations having increases access to data and improved capacity for technology, consumers now expect brands to anticipate their needs and use that information to create more personalized interactions. 67 percent of consumers say that their standards for good customer experiences are higher than ever, with many consumers now willing to pay more for better service, and in 2020, consumers care more about the experience than they do about price.

Moving into the new year, organizations don’t have much choice but to make customer experience (CX) a top priority. Before heading into 2021, it’s time to formulate your brand’s CX strategy. To help facilitate the process, we will discuss some of the trends to expect in 2021 as brands look to reshape the customer journey.

 

Reshaping The Customer Journey Means An Increased Focus On Providing Value

woman at desk with pen in hand typing on a laptop keyboard

The “v-word” is one that has been thrown around a lot recently in marketing circles. Value is a keyword that brands have been increasing their focus on in recent years, with many organizations beginning to realize that simply moving everything to digital doesn’t translate into value for either the business itself or for their customers. Why? Because value is created by removing friction and enhancing the true value of your customer service – not making everything self-service.

An increased focus on providing value changes everything, and in 2021, we will see more organizations conducting more user research to help enhance value and create more meaningful customer journeys.  Organizations will use these journeys to look closer at the people, processes, and tools that don’t provide value and aim to remove or modify them. Creating increased value will be the foundation of the customer journey in 2021 and beyond.

 

Online Creators Are Important Throughout The Customer Journey

Social media has grown far beyond its originally intended purpose of connecting people all over the world. Today, the ease of interacting with millions of social media users around the globe in a cost-effective manner has given rise to the creation of highly-engaging online content. These creators, known as ‘influencers’, come from diverse professional and personal backgrounds.

Social media has evolved into a place where consumers are now researching and discovering new products and services. And with influencers dominating the modern marketing world, it should come as no surprise that 30% of Gen-Z consumers discover brands through endorsements or recommendations from creators. This change in customer behavior has led to increased dwell time on social media, meaning that more and more consumers are spending more and more time on social platforms.

Increased dwell time, amongst a number of other factors, lends merit to the idea that influencers present a growing prominence and value in the customer journey. In 2020, the customer journey takes place predominantly online, as consumer behaviors adapt to the rise of digital and the economic changes induced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether we like it or not, online creators have a profound impact on the customer journey, and we expect that to only increase as we head into 2021.

 

The New Year Will Bring A Heightened Personalization Of The Customer Journey

Technology advances quickly, and it has given consumers unparalleled control of their brand interactions. Brands are no longer able to rely solely on their products and services to maintain their competitive edge. In 2021 and beyond, brands must also excel with accessibility, innovation, and overall customer experience. It has become essential in today’s eCommerce world for brands to create personalized experiences for consumers. Luckily, advancements in machine learning technology have made meeting these demands achievable.

RedPoint Global is a software company that develops marketing software for B2C companies, and according to CEO Dale Renner, the future of personalization means the end of inefficient practices. Gone are the days of printed receipts, and in their place will be digital options that will become the new norm. With improved accessibility to enhanced data and insights, brands will have a deeper understanding of the individual needs of consumers and be equipped to meet them.

 

Reshaping The Customer Journey Means Enhanced Omnichannel & Immersive Experiences

Omnichannel CX has become a bit of a buzzword in recent years. The term refers to a multi-channel approach towards serving consumers in a way that creates a cohesive, integrated customer experience regardless of how and where a customer reaches out.

It’s 2020, and technology is advancing at a rapid pace. With these advancements in technology, consumers have altered their behaviors accordingly. Gone are the days of consumers simply interacting from their desktops. Nowadays, we are using mobile devices like smartphones, tablets, and wearables to communicate with one another, so brands should look to set up an omnichannel experience that customers can access whenever, wherever.

Implementing omnichannel CX not only improves your brand’s integration and marketing efforts, but it also gives customers the ability to interact with your sales and support team on their preferred channels – like social media. Social media messaging applications like Instagram direct messages and Facebook Messenger will likely continue to see an increased focus in usage in 2021 revolving around functions that support omnichannel CX. Additionally, we predict that consumers will also soon be able to connect with brands in new and innovative ways, including appliances, TVs, and even automobiles.

In addition to this omnichannel approach, augmented reality (AR) has excited companies of all industries and verticals over the past couple of years. Bringing a product or service to life with an interactive experience enables brands to demonstrate their offerings in a fresh, innovative fashion.

Utilizing AR technology to make the customer journey more immersive will continue to grow in prominence in 2021. Enabling consumers to test out products from a real-life viewpoint before deciding on a purchase presents vast opportunity and value to both brands and customers alike. Everyone from beauty brands to home improvement companies are utilizing AR to help customers make more informed purchase decisions.

For example, L’Oréal has been experimenting with an AR service that allows shoppers to “try on” new makeup colors and looks since 2018. L’Oréal recently acquired AR and Artificial Intelligence entity, ModiFace, and later announced a long-term collaboration with Facebook to create new augmented reality experiences delivered directly through Facebook camera products.

 

Modern Customer Journeys Are Not Isolated Interactions

While the process of journey mapping is a popular way to gain an understanding of the end-to-end customer journey, it is not typically performed on an individual customer basis. Instead, it is typically done by persona. The growth of the internet and the advancement of digital tools have created a new way of looking at the customer journey through detailed analysis – customer journey analytics.

The shortest distance between two points may be a straight line, but the customer journey is often an adventure involving many twists and turns. As interactions become nonlinear, with consumers bouncing from channel to channel, journey analytics assist brands in connecting various datasets to recognizable journeys that reflect how customers actually navigate the business. This provides brands with a ‘panoramic view’ of sorts across channels, and also a depth of understanding of behavior within a specific channel as well.

The goal should be to identify pain points and develop actionable responses with an incredibly high degree of accuracy. The customer journey is not a collection of isolated events that are eventually strung together; it is a well-choreographed pathway from introduction to conversion.

 

Final Thoughts Heading Into 2021

This year has felt like a journey for many of us. A journey through uncharted waters, with a global pandemic seemingly throwing the entire world off of its axis. But as the economy reels in response to COVID-19 and begins to rebuild, the brands who prioritize the customer journey will be the one’s leading the pack in 2021. With 9 out of 10 businesses competing mainly on customer experience, it’s the companies that take customer experience the most serious that will cut through the noise and build a large, loyal customer base.

One thing is certain; in order to deliver a positive experience, you have to know your customers better than ever before. When you know your customers in and out, you can tailor the customer experience to their needs, crafting a journey that is sure to transform passersby into loyal customers.

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