What’s Shaping Customer Experience in 2020?

Twenty years ago, the Pantone Colour Institute began a tradition that has become ubiquitous across the paint industry today – the Pantone Institute ‘colour of the year’. In equal part trend forecasting and marketing hyperbole, over the last two decades, the award has served to elevate a single colour to superstar status amongst consumers and brands for the coming year.

While the Pantone Institute created its own tradition, in the process influencing a generation of brands and consumers, most organisations are beholden to external factors such as shifting customer expectations and technological advances, when it comes to setting a course at the start of a new decade.

Below are four key trends to keep a close eye on as we look ahead to what might influence the customer experience space next year.

AR takes the stage…

Sure, it’s taken a while for AR to move beyond Pokémon GO, into real-life practical applications with genuine business ROI, but that might all be about to change in 2020! Toyota recently launched a new AR program that allows users to try out ten of their cars without even picking up the keys. It’s not just Toyota that is using this kind of AR feature though.

Companies such as Target and even Amazon have found that AR can not only enhance customer experience, it can also be particularly effective when it comes to minimising the number of returns from online shoppers, meaning retailers keep more of their sales because consumers more fully understand what they’re buying at the initial point of purchase.

Technology in this area is also catching up with brand expectations too, with companies like Microsoft delivering second generation augmented reality headsets and wearables that will soon make AR more immersive than ever before for retail customers, in-store employees and warehouse workers too.

Shopping is about to get #social…

As consumers, we can all recognise the benefits of a seamless online or in-store experience, and most of us will also be able to recognise the influence social media plays in many of our regular buying decisions too. It’s because of the increasing overlap between these two areas that in 2020 we can expect technologies like syte.ai and the term ‘social shopping’ to both gain a lot more reach and wide-spread traction.

Imagine taking a photo of a t-shirt you see someone wearing on the high-street or being able to click the purse that your favourite Instagrammer is holding in their latest post and then seamlessly purchase it.

Thanks to the developments of smarter, more easily integrated AI capabilities over the last 12 months and the eCommerce vision of platforms like Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook, social shopping is one step closer to becoming the norm for consumers all over the globe.

Digital self-service…

As consumers become increasingly comfortable with technology driving brand engagement retailers must evolve in kind. Stores today are far more than simply points of sale – they are points of fulfilment and service too.

Providing consistent positive shopping experiences across channels becomes more difficult as the sheer number of ways in which consumers interact with brands increase. Traditional approaches, like seeking in-person support or calling the contact centre, are now mixed with social media, texting, chatting, email, and (increasingly), virtual assistants like Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant.

Give customers a great experience and they’ll buy more, be more loyal, and share their experience with friends, but to remain relevant, retailers and merchants need to rethink their approach to delivering customer experiences, and digital self-service has a significant role to play.

Digital self-service allows consumers to inquire, adjust, and recast their experience on any device in real time, and while this approach benefits the customer, of course, it also benefits the retailer, being far more cost effective than traditional support channels.

With more consumers empowered by technology than ever before, brands who can embrace a consistent, end-to-end digital self-service model will certainly blossom in 2020.

Is it still all about the need for speed?

Today’s consumers don’t just want their products (and the information about them), more quickly than ever before, they often also want to understand the environmental impact of these purchases and the logistical processes used in delivering them too.

Yes, modern consumers want to be able to go to your website or app to compare prices, styles, delivery dates and recommendations, but increasingly this is not coming at the expense of, but in line with environmental awareness factors.

In 2020, the smartest retailers and brands will look to gather dispersed data sets from sources such as sentiment analysis on social media, IoT sensors in-stores and website AI/deep learning tools to make shopping experience as easy, personalised and sustainable as possible – be that product recommendations based on social media use, in app notifications from collected in-store data, or recommendations for greener delivery options.

Not even DeepMind (Alphabet’s AI research firm), can see into the future! However, you can be sure that come the end of 2020, if you’ve followed any of the points above, you will certainly have fostered a far more loyal, engaged and greener customer base – and what’s not to like about that?

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