Brands do increasingly understand the meaning and value of customer experience (CX) when it comes to building meaningful and lasting connections. In fact, according to research by Metrigy, CX is the number one priority for companies increasing their technology spend during 2023, with 65 percent of companies planning to do so – by an average of 24 percent.
Just about any customer-facing technology can come under the label of “CX”, and making improvements is about streamlining tools, interfaces and platforms and reducing friction around giving customers what they want. In 2023, this will continue to include tools like websites, social media and chatbots but will increasingly take in emerging channels such as metaverse and augmented reality (AR).
There’s good reason that brands and businesses rank CX so highly in their priorities for the next year. PWC found that 73 percent of consumers rank CX as an important factor in their purchasing decisions – only “price” and “product quality” were ranked more highly. Additionally, respondents to the same survey said that speed, convenience, ease-of-use and friendly service are the most important elements of CX. So, it makes sense that tech-driven initiatives aimed at improving CX should focus on these keywords. With this in mind, here’s my rundown of what I believe will be the most significant trends in CX throughout 2023:
Immersive Experiences and the Metaverse
While nobody knows what the metaverse will look like in 10 years’ time, businesses are already putting the basic concepts to work, in order to connect with customers in new, more immersive ways.
Brands including Gucci, Clarks and Spotify have already staked their claim to land in the most popular of the emerging metaverse platforms – including video game worlds such as Roblox or Fortnite. Meanwhile, purpose-built metaverse platforms such as The Sandbox, Decentraland or Meta Horizons are proving increasingly popular with everyone from JP Morgan to Wendy’s and Fender.
The appeal is simple to understand – in 2023, consumers increasingly want their relationships and interactions with brands to be memorable and experiential. This means that brands that want to stay relevant must create customer journeys that are thoughtful, memorable experiences. Metaverse platforms are becoming one of the best ways of doing this. However, it also applies to offline commerce. In retail, for example, we can expect to see a continuation of the trend of outlets providing in-store experiences that customers will want to talk about with their friends, and share on social media. As perhaps the ultimate example of this, take a look at Florence’s Gucci Garden, where shoppers can explore a museum focused on the brand’s heritage and enjoy a meal cooked by a Michelin-starred chef. For those that can’t make it in person, a virtual tour is also available. This is the type of immersive crossover between real and virtual that we can expect to see from more brands as we move into 2023.
One popular way of creating great customer experience in 2023 will be to create products, goods and services that are personalized. Everyone loves something that’s unique to them – who doesn’t like to feel special? What’s new today is technology that enables businesses to carry out mass personalization at scale.
This goes beyond personalized marketing where we take for granted now that businesses will approach us with promotions and special offers that are specifically tailored to our interests.
Deloitte research has found that we’re willing to pay a 20 percent premium for products that are customized or personalized.
We also like to feel like we are involved in the process of designing and creating. This is why Nike and Adidas have launched “personalizable” sneakers that can be customized however we want them. And skincare brand Clinique offers personalized moisturisers and face creams that can be specifically tailored to customers’ skin. Going into 2023, we can expect to see more companies looking towards technology such as 3D printing in order to be able to create physical goods and products that are exclusive to us.
Conscious Customer Experience
Conscious consumerism has grown in popularity across all sectors as more of us choose to be driven by ecological, environmental or political considerations when we make buying decisions. This is reflected in CX, where businesses will offer the chance to make ethical decision as part of the buying experience.
As the proportion of cashless transactions continue to rise, we have become used to being given the choice of “rounding up” purchases by making a charitable donation when we tap or swipe. In the UK, micro-donation service Pennies has raised £25 million for charities so far by collecting over 150 million “small change transaction”.
It’s also becoming more common for retailers to offer customers the option of collecting their delivery from drop-off points, rather than having them delivered to their homes, in order to reduce the carbon emissions caused by “last mile” transportation. Offering customers ethical options like this creates experience by letting us know we are doing something positive for the planet or society as we engage in consumerist behavior.
Along with this, manufacturers and suppliers will increasingly make it simple for us to find information on how the products were made, and the materials that are used. Retailer Asket, for example, provides details on where every garment it sells was made, along with a breakdown of the costs involved for the raw materials, manufacturing, packaging and transport, and the CO2 emissions associated with the creation of each garment. This focus on enabling us to feel that we are making informed decisions will play a big part in the CX journey throughout 2023.
Authenticity – Keeping It Real
In 2023, businesses and brands know that they can create better, more valuable CX by ensuring that we trust them. This means providing open, honest answers to key questions we may have during our customer journey, wearing their values on their sleeve and, most importantly, sticking to them.
For example, anyone buying a bottle of Laphroaig whisky is entitled to a “lifetime lease” of a one-foot plot of land on the Hebridean isle of Islay where the distillery is located. Should they choose to make the journey there in person, they can even claim a dram in “ground rent.” Even if they don’t, then the experience gives the impression of building an “authentic” bond between the consumer, the product they have bought, and the environment where it is created.
Building authenticity into a brand’s CX means allowing the brand’s human qualities to shine through. This can be as simple as ensuring that customer service is honest about mistakes that are made, and quick to put right anything that goes wrong during the process. It also covers transparency in matters such as data protection (is it easy to find information about what is collected and what it’s used for – and is it communicated in language that makes it straightforward to understand?)
Even when, as is increasingly the case, a company’s processes are driven by technology, it can help to ensure an authentic customer experience by speaking openly and transparently about how that technology is used. Take Netflix, for example – it’s no secret that it’s recommendations that drive our viewing experience are powered by artificial intelligence and algorithms. The business has taken steps to ensure that this is visibly part of its DNA, by publishing information on the technical workings behind the scenes on its blogs and social media, and sponsoring competitions on platforms like Kaggle in order to break new grounds in the field of data science.
There are many facets when it comes to baking authenticity into corporate CX but it’s clearly an area in which businesses are enthusiastically investing as we head into 2023.