Top customer experience trends | Bringing CX-y back

With only a dozen or so dated music references, we take a look at five customer experience (CX) trends we’re sure to see develop this year.

January 12, 2022
 Top customer experience trends | Bringing CX-y back

You’re bringing CX-y back (yeah!). Those other brands don’t know how to act. By staying ahead of the latest, greatest customer experience (CX) trends for 2022, you’ll be Justified in being ahead of the game.

Ain’t nobody loves your customers like you love them. And if these Justin Timberlake references from the 2000s don’t convince you otherwise, Cry Me a River.

Put it this way, when the former N-Sync star brought SexyBack in 2006, the world of customer experience was a very different place. Your business didn’t have an app – heck, the first iPhone hadn’t even launched! You weren’t spending money on Facebook Ads at the top of your funnel, and your website probably wasn’t your most profitable channel at the bottom. But 16 years and one pandemic later, that’s all been flipped on its head.

It goes to show, a lot can happen in a year, let alone a decade. Who knows what your brand will be doing to inspire great CX by the end of 2022? The decisions you make now will influence that – What Goes Around Comes Around – we’re sure you’ll agree it’s incredibly exciting!

Which brings us on to the top CX trends we’re likely to see this year.

Whether predictions are about technology, consumer habits or the wider global environment, these are never set in stone. However, there are some customer trends that have swelled to the point where they’ll almost certainly reach a crescendo in the coming months.

So let’s shake off the shackles of the past year, put away our crystal balls, shelve our JT references (for now) and take a look at five CX trends we’re sure to see develop in 2022.

1. Building on what’s worked during the pandemic

Let’s get it out of the way, because we know COVID-19 isn’t a fun topic for anyone. During the pandemic, businesses have had to make unplanned adjustments to accommodate government lockdown policies, health concerns and supply chain shortages.

Many services that relied primarily on face-to-face contact were left scrambling to go digital or risk closing up shop entirely. But to quote the late, great Marilyn Monroe:

“Within crisis are the seeds of opportunity.”

So, what are the opportunities? Well, for one, people have embraced a number of the changes that customer experiences have undergone as a result of the pandemic.

And in 2022, organizations will continue fine-tuning the services that struck a chord with consumers, building on what has worked and making this a more permanent part of the customer experience.

Curb-side pickups are particularly popular, with 62% of Americans now expecting retailers to provide this service. Businesses responded accordingly; 44% of the top 500 US retailers with stores were offering curb-side pick-up by August 2020 – up from just 7% the previous year.

Telehealth has also gained momentum. Nearly half (45%) of 18–45-year-olds prefer speaking to their doctor online rather than attending an in-person appointment. A similar amount also expects to continue using telehealth when the pandemic is over.

Put simply, contactless interactions may have started off as a health and safety necessity, but they’ve quickly become the preferred option for many people.

2. Taking personalization to the next level

Whether it’s a curb-side pick-up, an in-store interaction or a live chat online, people want to be treated as individuals.

A whopping 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with a brand that remembers them – their hobbies, their preferences, their purchasing history, their location.

What’s more, 42% are actively annoyed when a service lacks personalization. This is important because a single bad customer experience is enough to stop a third of consumers using a brand completely, pushing them towards competitors.

It’s a zero-sum game that many companies can’t afford to lose.

New research by Twilio shows that customers’ expectations also rose significantly during the pandemic. People wanted seamless, personalized experiences across all digital channels (see our next trend for more on that).

Did businesses deliver? They think they did. But consumers seem to disagree. While 85% of organizations believe they provide truly personalized experiences, just 60% of their customers said the same.

Brands will need to bridge this marketing personalization gap in 2022 and beyond if they want to remain competitive in a world where simply being the closest brick-and-mortar store isn’t quite the competitive advantage it used to be.

What is marketing personalization definition

3. Planning for future channels

We’ve talked a lot about the mass migration to digital channels during the pandemic. So it’ll come as little surprise that omnichannel customer experiences will be high on the agenda for brands in 2022.

More than ever before, people of all ages are switching from channel to channel and between devices when interacting with brands. Yet, many businesses are still playing catch-up on their omnichannel strategies.

Less than one in four companies say they are investing successfully in omnichannel personalization, for example, according to Twilio. The common culprits of legacy infrastructure and departmental silos were often to blame.

And it’s not just about personalization; there are other factors to consider, such as speed. A recent McKinsey survey found that almost half of omnichannel consumers would shop elsewhere if a company’s delivery times are too long, with 90% expecting free shipping within two to three days.

Meanwhile, bigger brands – such as Nike, Coca-Cola, and Facebook – are already exploring the opportunities available in the metaverse, which blends both physical and virtual customer experiences. In many ways, it’s an omnichannel all of its own.  

Coca-Cola recently auctioned a non-fungible token at a metaverse ‘event’ that sold for $575,000 (the proceeds went to Special Olympics International), while Nike is rumored to have plans to sell virtual sneakers.

So, while it’s still early days, 2022 could well be the year more brands dip their toes in the metaverse waters.

4. Giving customer experiences the human touch

Metaverse, non-fungible tokens, omnichannels – it’s all starting to sound a bit sci-fi.

The pandemic certainly accelerated many technology transformation projects, and we can expect digital channels to become more popular as companies offer more convenient options for consumers across web 3.0.

But what about that all-important human touch? The one customers say defines great CX?

Even before the pandemic, 59% of people thought businesses had lost the human element of customer experiences. More than eight in ten consumers wanted more, not less, human interactions in the future.

It’s possible the pandemic has only intensified this hunger for human connection. In countries where lockdowns were the norm, the media has since reported people flooding back to physical stores en-masse once the restrictions were lifted.

Will physical stores make a comeback after years of losing out to digital channels? Only time will tell. But it’s the human connection that matters – personal interactions. Whether they’re in the digital or physical worlds.

Organizations will therefore need to deliver the best of both worlds: the speed, accessibility, and convenience of online services, combined with a human touch that leaves a lasting impression. It’s a tricky balance, but entirely possible.

5. Bringing more personality to customer experiences

Humanizing customer experiences is one thing, but being able to maintain a brand’s unique personality throughout the customer journey is a different matter entirely.

Companies spend a lot of money on advertising that tries to form an emotional connection to customers. It stands to reason; if you like the cut of a brand’s jib, you’re more likely to give them your business. Research backs this up.

But the further you travel along the marketing funnel, the less distinct a brand’s personality often becomes. That’s because the people (or other personalities) which act as brand ambassadors in ads often don’t exist beyond a screen or billboard. They don’t usually interact with customers directly.

Most effective affective advertising and emotional resonance tactics

We say usually because, with the right approach, they can play a bigger part in consumer journeys.

Last year, we launched Digital Einstein with the help of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Greenlight Rights. Our ambition is to give a new generation of people the chance to learn more about the Nobel Prize-winning physicist and his work straight from the great man himself.

Einstein was a larger-than-life personality when he was alive, and we wanted to stay true to that in digital form.

The results speak for themselves. We saw huge improvements at every stage of the marketing funnel. Total web traffic increased 350% and inbound contacts more than doubled, while booked meetings jumped 270%.

Of course, you don’t need your own Einstein. Many brands have incredible personalities ready to deliver more interactive experiences, from founders to surprisingly profitable brand mascots.

Personality clearly matters, and we strongly believe this year will be the year when we see brands show more of it – and in a fun, interactive way, no less.