Every year I review the studies and the research of our digital lab, what I have learned from our clients and the conferences I have attended, the books and the many articles I have read during the year to try to bring out interesting trends and projections to share. What is interesting to note is that some of the predictions are deep-seated trends that are emerging year after year. I am delighted to share here with you my intuitions and projects on the major shifts that are likely to transform the client and the digital.
2020 has seen dramatic changes, both in the way customers do business and in what they expect from the businesses they work with on a regular basis. Not only does 2021 have the potential to show immense changes of its own, but it may also demonstrate the continuation of many trends that began in 2020.
1. The customer is smarter.
Customers have a good idea of what your business can accomplish for them and what they should expect from you. Many consumers have had more time on their hands to do research before making any purchases, including minor ones. Around 85% of consumers conduct online researched before deciding to buy, businesses who will thrive from here on out are those who invest in developing a strong Inbound Marketing strategy to gain a higher trust and credibility in competitive market while reducing expenses. As a business owner, that means you need to be prepared for consumers to do that research before coming to you -- and make sure that your business provides them with the information they need and with the rationale for choosing you over competitors.
2. Customers service is the #1 priority.
Customers expect your business to deliver high standards of service. You have known for years that in order to keep customers coming back to your business, you needed to be able to address any problems quickly and effectively. Now, customers are expecting even better service and even more convenience. Curbside and pickup options have become the standard across many businesses. Customers want to be able to shop online with your business or to have you standing by to help them when they need it. If you let your customer service fall through the cracks, you will quickly find that customers no longer want to work with your business.
In order to stay ahead of the curve, businesses will have to constantly conduct Competitive Intelligence studies as they are quickly going to become the norm and it is easier than ever before to miss them, be left behind and suffer from unexpected churn.
3. Companies and brands are finding new ways to reinvent their experience with technology.
Online Shopping, mobile apps connected directly to your business, pervasive use of Artificial Intelligence, increased attention to detail like delivering on consumer expectations. Today’s brands are looking for new ways to reinvent their experience with technology. 2020 has seen a surge in creativity and innovation that will likely continue and advance throughout 2021. Many companies and brands have learned how to offer more to their customers leveraging available technology, and customers are likely to continue to expect those innovations and additions.
4. Physical experiences will continue to expand into the virtual.
By 2025, 40% of physical-experiences businesses will improve their financial results and outperform their competitors by extending into paid virtual options.
Many performances, for example, have been made available through virtual “tickets” that allow views to stream that content directly to their homes. Escape rooms have gone virtual, and even allow friends and family members to come together and connect through an immersive online experience. These virtual experiences offer several advantages for businesses:
● From customers who might not have the time or the ability to attend an in-person event, to parents of small children or people who are separated by a long distance, can check out those virtual options from the comfort of their homes. This can help businesses reach a market they might not have been able to connect with in the past.
● Virtual tickets and experiences may be available at a lower price point than physical tickets. For example, an entire household could watch a virtual performance for the cost of one ticket. As a result, many venues will see increased sales to people who might not have the budget for the full in-person experience, but who do have the means to check it out online.
● Customers can check in from far-away geographic areas. This means that customers at businesses that usually rely on in-person visitors can expand their audience significantly.
5. Chatbot communication and augmented customer conversion will continue to grow.
As automation increases, many companies will choose to automate basic processes, from allowing chatbots to handle basic customer service tasks to connecting consumers to enhanced conversion options. You can send out specialized emails based on where consumers sit in the buyer’s journey or customize the digital context they are first exposed online based on their buying habits and usage patterns.
6. Personalization at a digital level is becoming more 1-to-1.
Businesses are taking advantage of the ability to personalize information directly to each consumer as never before. Thanks to the availability of digital customization tools, you can now provide each consumer with a much more individualized experience. Many consumers are finding that they not only appreciate these features, they are actually starting to expect them in dealing with the companies they chose for the most of their everyday tasks.
7. CRM and AI companies will over-digitize.
Customer automated experiences are quickly becoming the norm. In many of these circumstances, consumer no longer need to connect with a person in order to make purchases or deal with other tasks. This automated process cuts out much of the unnecessary superfluous interactions, and instead leaves room for a more streamlined and personalized customer interactions.
8. Work and shop from everywhere is the new normal.
In April 2020, around 66% of the US workforce was working from home. Many businesses discovered just how many tasks could be taken care of without workers needing to come into the physician environment. Even as businesses start looking toward a post-pandemic world, many of them are seriously considering the benefits of allowing workers to continue to work from home on at least a part-time basis. Allowing workers to work from home can:
● Widen your available job candidate pool since you’re less restricted by geography.
● Help employees maintain better work/life balance.
● Help cut costs in the workplace, since you can get away with fewer desks, less office space, and less equipment in the office itself.
● Arguably increase productivity as commute time – with the right incentive and control systems – turn into efficient work time.
Consumers also expect to be able to shop from anywhere. They have learned that it’s easy to connect with the businesses they patronize most often online, and they want to continue to be able to take care of their shopping no matter where they are.
9. Cybersecurity will become increasingly important.
As more activities and events go virtual, many businesses are focusing on the importance of cybersecurity. Your business needs a solid security system in place that will protect critical data and reduce the odds of a severe breach.
55% of enterprise executives plan to increase their cybersecurity budget by 51%.
10. CIOs will become CDOs.
By 2024, around 25% of traditional large-enterprise CIOs will be held accountable for digital business operation results. With this focus on digital, CIOs will effectively become CDOs.
11. Digital servicing is the new physical
In 2020, in addition to simulating as much as possible the physical world into the digital one, the most agile physical-experiences businesses will learn how to use the latest technologies to adapt to the constraints of the new physical world. For instance, thanks to new digital functions such as geolocation and mobile capabilities, they will be able to offer easy appointments scheduling, in-store navigation and purchase option or pick and collect solutions to avoid long queues outside or inside their stores. No physical place, restaurant, performance hall, hairdresser, etc. will be able to operate without offering customers easy appointments capabilities in the future.
The world has changed dramatically throughout 2020. Savvy business owners have kept up with those trends and provided their teams with the tools they need to keep moving forward and adapt in this society. If you want your business to remain competitive through 2021, keeping an eye on these future trends can help set you up for success.