Checking off an item on your business to-do list can be just as rewarding as downing an ice cold glass of lemonade on a scorching hot day. But not all tasks are this easy to digest, which is why customer experience trends are not as widely adopted as they should be.
This is especially true in the current climate, where we are seeing a surge in internet traffic from consumers looking for the best experiences. In fact, 84% of customers say that experiences are as important as a company’s products and services. However, consumers are still struggling to experience the best brands have to offer.
The key to adopting the best customer experience trends? Be human and know your customers inside and out, consult the data, and remove friction. It sounds easy, but it isn’t as clear cut as you may think. In this article, we will introduce popular customer experience trends and detail how they can help you increase sales and better engage with customers.
Now, we’d be lying to you if we said that you will find everything you need to know about customer experience trends in this article. It would take several books to cover everything. But, we did our best to whittle down the information into a CliffsNotes version of which ones you can focus on right now—especially as we shift to a new normal.
Know Your Customers: Don’t Skip This Step (or Else)
You’ve heard us talk about this (i.e., knowing your market) on the Viral Solutions blog time and time again, and that’s because knowing your target market is as essential to your business as getting sales. In fact, the two are closely connected. But, knowing your target market deep enough to give your customers the experience they deserve is more than just researching physical demographics and income levels.
Here’s the thing: We are slowly emerging from a global crisis that has affected millions of people and businesses. Because of the way consumers are using the internet during this time, we feel that customer experience is more important now than ever. Your customers are searching for the best products online, and they have more time to do it. To capture the hearts and minds of your target customers, you need to know their current problems and needs at this very moment.
To do this, dig deeper than physical demographics (age, gender, occupation) and get answers to these questions:
- What are their fears, longings, and regrets?
- What makes them happy? Sad? Indifferent?
- Where do they spend their time?
- What are their daily habits?
Now, we’re not telling you to stalk your customers! But, we are telling you to look at the data to get to know them more and study what makes them tick. How do you do this? With something called IoT or the Internet of Things, a popular trend worth mentioning.
IoT is a fancy way of saying “internet-connected devices.” These devices share data that you can use to create stellar customer experiences.
As an example, Amazon created Dash buttons (see below) that allow consumers to buy their favorite items with one click from the website.
You may be thinking that Amazon implemented the Dash buttons to get more sales. Yes, but there’s more to it than that. By studying consumer buying behavior via these buttons, Amazon can use this data to improve the customer experience and make it more personalized to each consumer that visits its website.
As a simple example: Let’s say Amazon discovers that Sally Q orders the same protein bars once a month on a weekend, but then doesn’t order again after three months. Since Amazon has studied Sally’s buying behaviors, it can show Sally advertisements for her protein bars right around the same time she typically orders to keep her buying her coveted brand. Sally is also getting a more personalized customer experience, making it easier for her to purchase her favorite products.
“But I’m not as big as Amazon.”
We hear you. IoT isn’t just for enterprise-level companies, however. Small businesses can take advantage as well since any device that connects to the internet can provide data. It just requires a little creativity.
As reported by Hubspot, Quansett Nurseries in Massachusetts used IoT to deliver a better product and experience for its customers. The nursery sells microgreens to restaurants. It set up sensors that automatically adjust humidity, temperature, and hydration so farmers could control these elements remotely. As a result, the nursery reduced waste and delivered fresher, higher-quality products to its customers.
Use Data, Not Your Brain
Why is collecting data and researching your market so important? Because providing stellar customer experiences is only possible if you do it with their interests in mind. A true experience is one that makes your customers happy.
Consider this example: You want to propose to your partner, which means giving them the best experience, right? This would require knowing their deepest desires, what they love, and what they hate. If they can’t stand bugs and the outdoors, but love fine dining, you would never propose to them on a wooded lake in the middle of the forest. It sounds silly, but this is what many brands do. They think that just because their instincts tell them that customers want a bug-filled wedding proposal, their customers will also.
You must look at the data, not follow your brain, “gut,” or instincts, as they will lead you astray every time.
We rely heavily on data here at Viral Solutions, which is one of the reasons why our clients WIN so much. So, for more information on how to dive deep into market research and collect the data that will help you create amazing customer experiences, check out our articles below:
- Market Orientation & Research: Leaving the Darkness and Stepping into the Light – Part 1
- Market Orientation & Research: Leaving the Darkness and Stepping into the Light – Part 2
- How to Do Market Research: A Guide for Beginners
- What to Consider When Performing Marketing Data Analysis
- Data-Driven Marketing for Rapid Business Growth: The Step-by-Step Process Model to Getting Started
Thoughtfulness Doesn’t Cost a Lot
Sometimes it’s the small things that make the biggest impact. We can spend so much time looking for those innovative, earth-shattering ideas that we forget low-cost initiatives such as kindness and thoughtfulness can go a long way.
Now, we hesitate to call thoughtfulness a “customer experience trend” because honestly it should be the foundation of every business. Sadly, it is too often forgotten, so we decided to add it to our list. It’s one that can be easily implemented and produce huge returns.
Customers who feel an emotional connection with your brand will become repeat customers and sharing evangelists. Thoughtfulness encourages these connections.
Are you being thoughtful enough? Well, let’s ask the question this way….
Are you obsessed with providing customers with the best products and services? If not, you have some room for improvement.
Here are some practical ways you can show thoughtfulness:
- Include hand-written thank-you cards with each product purchase. Don’t worry, there’s a service for this here.
- Reduce customer service hold times and keep email responses to 24 hours or less.
- Smile when dealing with customers, even if they aren’t able to see your face. Smiling changes your attitude, and customers will hear it in your voice.
- Engage on social media; your community should feel that their opinions and feedback matter to you.
- Send surveys to ask customers how they would improve your product and/or brand.
Personalize the Customer Experience for Big-Time Returns
We talk about personalization a lot on this blog because it’s one customer experience trend that never disappoints. It brings customers stellar experiences and drives more sales and revenue.
In a survey of 1,000 consumers, 80% stated that they are more likely to purchase from a brand when it offers personalized experiences and 90% stated that they find personalization appealing.
We talked about how to gather customer data in a previous section and offered resources on how to research your market.
Armed with this data, look for opportunities to personalize your communication and messaging.
Let’s look at a simplified example…
You discover from your data that a subset of your customers purchase more red shoes on your website than any other color. What can you do to personalize their experiences?
- Segment these folks so you can better target them.
- When you send newsletters to this segment, highlight your red shoes and provide links to those products so they can visit your red shoe pages on your website.
- Send newsletters titled “Lovers of Red” that includes images of red items personalized to the customers’ interests (e.g., red lipstick, red dresses, red roses).
- Offer these folks a discount on your red shoes.
- Ask this segment to upload to Instagram a fun picture of them wearing their red shoes (with a special branded hashtag) for a chance to win five more pairs of red shoes in your next giveaway.
- When this segment visits your website, offer recommendations that include the same red shoes (or similar items if they already purchased) they searched the last time they visited.
- If they left red shoes in their shopping cart, send a cart abandonment email offering a discount if they complete their purchase.
Will all of these work? That’s for you to test and figure out (side note: We can help you with that). But what we do know is that by showing your customers you care about their interests (e.g., red shoes), they will feel more valued and, consequently, more connected to your brand.
For more information on how to personalize your marketing, check out these resources:
- Data-Driven Marketing for Rapid Business Growth: The Quick-Start Marketing Guide to Launching High-Converting Personalized Strategies (with Examples)
- Why and How to Personalize Your Transactional Emails
Reduce Friction during the Buyer’s Journey
The buyer’s journey starts with brand awareness and ends with retaining the customer after the first sale. Along that journey, customers can get stuck (experience friction) in scenarios that may affect their perception of your brand in a negative way.
Consider these scenarios:
- A consumer becomes aware of your brand via a blog post and subscribes to your email list. The prospect unsubscribes after getting bombarded with sales emails.
- A potential customer is thinking about making a purchase on your website, but he has a question he needs answered before he buys. He searches the website but can’t find an easy way to contact you and get quick answers. He leaves the website and purchases from your competitor.
- A consumer reaches a customer service agent and asks a question about a product. The response takes 3 days to get back to the consumer, but by that time, it’s too late.
- A customer wants to return a product, but she can’t figure out how to do it. She spends at least 15 minutes searching her invoice and your website for information, and gets frustrated in the process. She will never buy from you again.
These scenarios are all too common. And though they may seem insignificant, they frustrate the customer and derail the customer experience.
Make every step of the buyer’s journey as easy as possible for your customers. To identify friction points in your buyer’s journey, take a walk through it yourself and see where you get stuck. Ask team members to do the same. Listen to the complaints and support issues and improve based on the feedback.
What You Need to Know about Customer Experience Trends
Creating a stellar experience for your customers is much more than a quarterly checklist of “good to have” items that meet a yearly marketing quota. There are a lot of customer experience trends out there, so focus on the ones we mentioned in this article, as they can make a big difference in your bottom line. To summarize, we discussed:
- Why knowing your customers is paramount to improving customer experience
- How the Internet of Things drives sales and loyalty
- How thoughtfulness can bring big rewards
- Personalizing your customers’ experience is a fundamental way to create connections and drive sales
- Removing friction during the buyer’s journey to reduce frustration
If you need help implementing the customer experience trends that will give you the most bang for your buck and produce big returns, we would love to help. We are data enthusiasts, so we love helping our clients set up the right analytics to help them gather key data that drives their business (and sales) forward. Want to chat? Just contact us here for a free consultation.