Summer might be calling for lazy days on the beach with a good book, but for us, it’s the perfect opportunity to highlight what’s the latest in the world of customer experience.
That’s why we reached out to our Head of Consulting, Jörg Wesiak – our go-to colleague for emerging trends. We also got in touch with our partners from SAP Customer Experience Labs, who always keep their eyes and ears open for the next big thing.
With significant disruptions to the global supply chain and a possible recession on the horizon, companies are looking for ways to either cut costs or utilize their capacity to the fullest.
That outlook also shapes their approach to customer experience and the trends we are seeing:
Customer Experience Trend 01: Generative AI Goes Mainstream
In the last few years, AI-powered solutions took off, but in the B2B area, they were mostly reserved for companies with the capacity and expertise to design and implement custom-made models.
But with the launch of large language models like Chat GPT and Google’s Bard, the power of AI became instantly available to almost everyone. Millions of people rushed to test the limits of these new technologies leading to some extraordinary situations.
Unsurprisingly, when it comes to customer experience, the service sector – which was always limited by the expertise and capacity of its people – is at the forefront. With generative AI solutions being able to take on tasks usually reserved for humans (think conversational interactions with customers at any time), they are positioned to do for services what steam power did for manufacturing a couple of hundred years ago.
However, we are still in the early stages, so companies should be cautious of the hype surrounding these solutions. For example, there are some genuine privacy concerns that gen AI companies will need to solve if they hope to revolutionize the way we do business.
Customer Experience Trend 02: Sustainability
With the climate crisis entering full swing, governments and consumers around the world are pushing companies to do more and decrease their carbon footprint. So, it’s no surprise that sustainability is and will be a crucial topic for years.
In the EU, ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) reporting will become mandatory for all businesses. This means companies will have to be more transparent and open in how they act and report when it comes to sustainability.
Retail will be of particular interest as big retailers find new ways to push their customers toward sustainable shopping. Gamification and loyalty systems will play a significant role here, with retailers offering benefits to consumers who are paying attention and actively trying to reduce their carbon footprint.
However, this change will also affect companies outside the European Union. The reporting EU companies also have to provide ESG data from their suppliers, no matter where those suppliers are based, which will create cascading positive effects down the line.
Customer Experience Trend 03: Hybrid Shopping Experiences
After the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic decreased, customers were eager to return to stores, but that doesn’t mean they wanted to go back to how things were. According to McKinsey, customers often use between three and five online and offline channels when buying a product.
This behavior means that brands need to find a new, hybrid way to engage with customers, which includes a combination of in-store and online experiences. And the technology required to provide that experience is already here.
For example, retailers now use mapping technology to provide easy in-store navigation, helping customers quickly find the item they looked at online. They also enrich their online shopping experiences by offering conversational online consulting – something you could only get by talking to in-store advisors.
However, it’s not only the customers who are benefiting from the hybrid experience. Faced with limited demand and higher costs (both caused by high levels of inflation), businesses are working hard to become more efficient. By investing in a more enjoyable online experience, businesses are able to reduce the size and number of brick-and-mortar locations – resulting in cost savings that are equal, or often greater, than the initial investment.
By combining the best of both worlds, brands can provide a consistent, high-quality experience, ensuring long-term loyalty and customer value.
Customer Experience Trend 04: Virtual Influencers
And speaking of novel ways to engage with customers – have you heard of influencers Lu do Magalu or Lil Miquela? They are some of the first in what will surely be a crowded space of virtual influencers – and their millions of social media followers don’t seem to mind that they only exist in digital space.
Even though influencers have been around for a while, the idea of a virtual influencer might be hard to wrap your head around. However, the benefits for brands are more than clear.
First, virtual influencers can promote products and services around the world without any limitations regarding budget or travel restrictions. As all marketers know, this can drastically influence the budget and the headache connected to influencer campaigns.
More importantly, the company that engages with a virtual influencer has complete control over the content since it’s created by an agency. This model ensures the high quality of the content and prevents blowback from potentially hazardous behavior by the influencer themselves.
And when you combine this with gen AI capabilities, content generation and interaction with followers becomes easier and cheaper.
Customer Experience Trend 05: Web3 Technology
For our final trend, we reached out to Sven Haiges, the Senior Technology Strategist at SAP Customer Experience Labs, who are always at the forefront of emerging technologies and trends. Sven shared his view on how web3 technologies – and NFTs (or non-fungible tokens) in particular – will shape the customer experience space.
While the hype of collecting NFTs is clearly over, we now have a technical solution for issuing unique digital assets – which could theoretically be linked to almost anything.
For example, you can create and distribute NFTs with different utilities, such as redeemable NFTs, which a user can convert into a physical product.
NFTs are also excellent for creating token-gated communities. This means only the verified owners of an NFT can access a particular website, such as a special commerce landing page or an early sign-up for a soon-to-be-released product.
From the perspective of a brand, Web3 means less infrastructure to take care of and the potential to address a customer segment that is continuing to grow. For example, SAP developed the SAP NFT Management solution, which allows you to draft your first NFT collection and distribute it to your customers without involving any developers or spending a lot of time educating your customers on how Web3 works.