Digital customer experience in 2021: Paving the way to your customer’s heart in the era of hyperpersonalisation

Darshan Shankavaram is leader of the global digital customer experience practice at Capgemini.

2020 has been a testing year for all of us. While several industries struggled for business, a few of them thrived. In the midst of this, customer experience fast tracked several technology and business imperatives. With social distancing measures in place and eCommerce becoming the primary sales opportunity for many brands, organisations have had to quickly innovate and leverage technology for customer interactions.

Next year is an opportunity for brands to build upon this progress. Digitising customer interactions is one thing, but making these interactions valuable and meaningful is another.

With this in mind, here are the top trends that brands should be aware of as we move into 2021. Brands who take advantage of these trends quickly will increase their chances of outperforming competitors, improve customer loyalty and even boost their bottom line.

Using data to get personal

Enterprises are producing and gathering more data from a growing variety of sources such as mobile phones, social media, smart cars, smart speakers, Internet of Thing (IoT) devices and more. Leveraging these sources would help in better understanding of customer expectations, in turn stimulating more relevant, personalised interactions for better user experience. The relationship between data and the customer experience is pivotal. In modern business, technology is no longer a separate function. Every organisation is becoming a technology company.

Customer data platforms (CDP)

Traditionally, customer data came from customer relationship management (CRM) tools. Each CRM tool captures data in a different way and is meant to serve its own unique purpose. As enterprises look to leverage customer data for a variety of actions and interactions, CRM is simply not able to cope up with the requirements. Here is where customer data platforms (CDP) come in.

These platforms work to unify customer data and provide contextualised insights and analysis of a customers’ needs and wants. I expect CDPs to become more commonplace in 2021 as organisations realise the challenges created by fragmented marketing tools, such as duplicated campaigns and incomplete pictures of the customer. By unifying data in one place, CDPs optimise marketing and advertising spend, improve customer experience, and increase operational efficiency.

Embracing screenless, touchless interfaces

Touchless interfaces such as voice assistants, facial recognitions and contactless payments were already being explored and leveraged pre-pandemic. But, they have come to the fore as a result of increasing consumer desire for contactless interactions – particularly for safety and hygiene reasons. We know that 77% of customers expect to use more touchless technologies to avoid physical contact during the pandemic and beyond.

Many organisations may have quickly scaled their use of touchless interfaces as a swift response to the pandemic, but this is a trend that is here to stay, and grow, as customers get used to the ease and efficiency of touchless interactions. Brands must be aware of and capitalise on this growing trend – we should expect a year of experimentation when it comes to different interfaces.

Organisations should take a startup-style, test-and-learn approach to rolling out these initiatives; while not all pilots will scale, initiatives that meet genuine consumer needs and desires will be rapidly deployed and become a cemented part of the customer experience. 

Moving to ‘headless’ models

Headless technologies will become a differentiator in 2021 as brands seek more personalisation and autonomy for their front-end (user interface) functions. Headless technology can be defined as a software that works on devices without a pre-designed user interface, giving brands the ability for greater customisation.

Today, brands need to rapidly adapt to changing customer expectations and to do this, they need to make quick changes across multiple channels, introduce new functionalities for targeted experiments and new customer experiences. Headless technologies are changing the game by decoupling front-end touchpoints from back-end functionality, allowing brands to pivot quickly and create experiences that buyers crave.

More and more technology platforms are offering non-prescriptive, headless frontends where organisations can design their own architecture. In 2021, we will see organisations, large and small, offering this degree of personalisation, with a focus on giving brands the ability to develop their own content and therefore provide unique, tailored customer experiences.

Hyperpersonalisation through AI

Artificial intelligence has already cemented itself as a key part of the customer experience. Next year, leading organisations will expand how they use it, with a focus on creating empathetic and contextualised interactions.

Customers are reassured by human-like attributes in AI: 64% want AI to be more human-like and 62% feel comfortable with human-like voice and intellect, such as the ability to hold a sensible conversation, respond to follow up questions and contribute additional information.

Until now, many organisations have been focused on lower hanging fruits, like using AI to predict behavior patterns or for customer data analysis. While still important, there is a huge opportunity for organisations to boost the bottom line by improving customer reactions and bringing AI to the forefront. Organisations are now realising this and next year we should see progress in how AI can help understand customer behavior better. The result will be interactions with greater contextualised empathy, making for a better customer experience for the user.

2021 promises to be an exciting year for digital customer experiences, where organisations can build on the progress they’ve already made to create interactions that are personalised, meaningful and positive. Doing this successfully will rely on a carefully orchestrated blend of technologies like AI and data analytics, combined with human oversight and strategy. Brands who get this balance right will reap the rewards in the form of improved efficiency, lower operational costs and, most importantly, satisfied, returning customers.

Photo by Ryan ‘O’ Niel on Unsplash

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