Even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck the world in early 2020, business leaders were pushing to keep up with the explosive growth of touchpoints and technological advancements to navigate continuously rising customer expectations for brand experience. Now, digital transformation has reached a pivotal crossroads. From working to shopping to entertainment, digital interactions are now the primary or even the only way for everyone to go about their daily lives.
Today, Acquia published our third annual Global Customer Experience (CX) Trends Report to learn how customer behaviors and preferences are changing and how marketers should reshape their strategies to reach audiences. Our research proved that digital acceleration is sending shock waves across all industries and customers are demanding brands catch up quickly with this new digital reality. To help marketers gain the momentum to build valuable and long-lasting customer relationships, here are three essential CX lessons from our report.
1. Customer Experience Depends on Digital Convenience and Unified Data
As people grew more wary about attending events or visiting stores in person, they turned to digital channels to stay informed and maintain a sense of normalcy in their lives. Our report found that 40% of global consumers reported buying more online than they ever had before. Grocery stores and retailers experienced unparalleled spikes in online orders. Meanwhile, industries such as healthcare and higher education have had to revamp their business models to accommodate services like telemedicine and online learning.
Not only are customers spending more time online, they’re also engaging with more digital channels. Therefore, organizations are gathering more data on customer preferences and activities. Consumers expect brands to use this data in smart ways to provide frictionless experiences. That experience needs to feel consistent no matter if the customer is speaking with a support rep, looking for information on a company blog or interacting with your brand’s Twitter account. People are dealing with an overwhelming amount of emotional and financial stress and fear right now. It’s our responsibility as marketers not to add to that burden through disjointed messages or lagging website pages. Brands need reliable and fast-acting solutions that empower marketers to reach users sooner. Tools like marketing automation and chatbots can help brands amplify their messages and connect with customers in context.
Marketers also need a direct line of sight into their data so they can see how their customers’ behaviors are changing in real time and adjust their strategies to keep them engaged. When data is scattered between multiple systems without a central source of truth, it often leads to disjointed, repeated or confusing brand interactions. Those brands that aren’t making the most of this data to target and engage different segments of their audience will miss the mark and frustrate potential customers.
2. Customers Want Authenticity and Personalized Connections
Marketers are walking a difficult tightrope to keep customers informed without appearing insensitive. The best way to deliver a welcomed and authentic customer experience is through targeted and personalized communications that demonstrate a more intimate understanding of who each customer is. Brands that rose above the noise were those that offered meaningful messages that reflected both their brand values and their customers’ priorities.
Organizations like Eastern Bank leveraged personalized website content to offer critical resources to customers experiencing financial hardships. Employing personalization that remembers a customer’s interests or targets them with content specific to their location or previous activity makes it fast and convenient for them to get what they need. Something as simple as including dynamic content and recommendations in an email newsletter or sending customized SMS reminders to customers when they have an upcoming appointment goes a long way to build trust. According to our research, 41% of brands see more repeat purchases after launching personalization initiatives. Especially in a time when people are overwhelmed with dealing with so much change to their lifestyle, having brands recognize them and anticipate what they need leaves a much greater impact than a million “we’re all in this together” emails ever could.
3. Choose Technology That Turns Uncertainty Into New Opportunities
When marketers everywhere published their annual 2020 predictions pieces back in January, there was no way they could have anticipated the massive upset COVID-19 would bring. Practically overnight, executive plans had to be thrown out the window as organizations struggled to shift their strategies to accommodate the social, economic and personal challenges that came with worldwide business shutdowns, remote working and health and safety concerns. Prior to the pandemic, organizations saw digital transformation as a multi-year endeavor. However, now teams are being forced to speed up their plans and make digital their top focus to stay in touch with their audiences.
Our research found that more than half of marketers felt they should have moved more quickly to meet these changes. With so much at stake, brands can’t afford to waste time stuck in digital silos. Businesses need to invest in digital architecture that is open and flexible by design, so that they have the freedom to experiment and innovate. Forget the standard best practices and quarterly playbooks. Going forward, the best way for a business to stay competitive is through technology that can adapt and scale rapidly to support new solutions. Platforms that leverage open technology allow brands to future-proof their operations and readily embrace new devices or channels.
This year, we’ve learned that when faced with unexpected circumstances, people adapt and try to find a new way forward. With open technology, your digital transformation can be just as resilient. While it can be difficult to keep a positive outlook among such turbulent times, this year has given brands an opportunity to rethink their long-term strategies and establish new standards for customer experience for decades to come.
To get an in-depth look into all of our exclusive research, download Acquia’s Customer Experience Trends Report: Design Resilient Digital Experiences in Disruptive Times.