Top 5 customer experience trends for 2022 (and what to do about them)
In this article, our Head of Innovation Jörg Wesiak dives into the five CX trends to watch out for in 2022 and beyond, and gives advice on how to use them to bring value to your company and your customers.
18 April 2022
Customer experience (CX) as a concept has been steadily rising in popularity, fueled by the ever-changing needs and wants of modern customers. But it took a global pandemic – which saw most companies scramble to provide memorable online experiences to customers stuck at home – to cement its place in early 2020.
In the two years since, great customer experience has become the thing that makes or breaks companies in any industry. The rising influence of gen Z (both as consumers and employees) will see this trend continue. As the first truly digital-native generation, they expect outstanding online experiences that are just one click away – both when it comes to their personal shopping and when acting on behalf of their employers.
On the other hand, customers have become used to same-day deliveries, putting a huge strain on supply channels across the world. With shoppers becoming increasingly demanding, and recent world events showing just how fragile the supply channels are, companies will be hard-pressed to ensure their products are delivered on time or risk severely damaging their customer relationships.
In this article, our Head of Innovation Jörg Wesiak dives into the five CX trends to watch out for in 2022 and beyond, and gives advice on how to use them to bring value to your company and your customers. Here we go!
A push towards direct-to-consumer (D2C), and in-store experiences
Brands all over the world are recognizing the benefits of engaging with their customers directly, without any intermediaries or retailers in the way. Nike started investing in this channel well before 2020 and made the smart decision to double down on it at the start of the pandemic – resulting in an 82% jump in online sales later in the year.
More brands are seeing the benefits of D2C, so we’ll see significant investments in this area. Brands that have been leading the charge will continue to expand their direct-to-consumer offer by including new products and categories.
On the other hand, this year is poised to see customers return to the stores, but brands will be hard-pressed to attract them with something they can’t get anywhere else – unique shopping experiences. We’re already seeing moves by large retail brands to attract customers this way.
Douglas – Europe’s biggest beauty retailer – opened its flagship Beauty Palace stores in Munich, Frankfurt, Berlin, Milan, and Vienna. These locations will now provide “innovative beauty treatments” giving customers the full spa-day experience.
Key takeaway: A key differentiator this year will be your ability to engage with your customers directly, both online and offline. Think about how you can (seamlessly) combine the physical experiences with the online services you provide. A good first step would be to look at the role of mobile in your customer journey and see how it can be used to improve the overall experience.
Data privacy and the use of first-party data
In the past, customers were happy to have their internet activity tracked and analyzed in exchange for a more personalized online offer. But that’s no longer the case. Recent years have seen a strong push toward more privacy – both from customers and the regulators – and companies around the world are getting the message.
In 2021 Apple gave iPhone users the ability to block tracking across different apps. Around 95% of users took advantage of this – a decision that is projected to cost Meta (Facebook’s parent company) around $10 billion in 2022 alone, showing just how vulnerable the companies that rely on data intermediaries are.
Companies need to turn away from third-party customer data and towards collecting and analyzing their own. This comes with its own set of challenges they’ll need to navigate – such as managing customer consent properly and transparently. Platforms that invest in personalization, recommendation, and targeting – without any tracking platforms in the middle – will significantly differentiate from the competition.
Key takeaway: You probably have tons of customer data lying around your company, just waiting to be used. But before you decide to invest heavily into data management solutions that offer AI or machine learning, take a minute to first think about what kind of data you have available, how it can provide value to your customers, and what is the best way to get there.
Sustainability and the environment
With the climate crisis finally being seen as a real and visible threat, customers are expecting companies to significantly reduce their carbon footprint and minimize their effect on the environment. This will play out in two ways.
On the one hand, platforms will influence customers to act more sustainably. Loyalty programs will focus on environment-friendly activities with gamification playing a supportive role to keep customers motivated. Additionally, we’ll be seeing a wide range of exclusive incentives for customers who are ecologically aware in their shopping.
For example, Migros – Switzerland’s largest retailer – developed a scale to help their customers understand how their grocery shopping impacts the environment. This is complemented with quarterly reports on how sustainable their shopping has been, and the ability to compare that to different time periods – helping customers reduce their carbon footprint.
On the other hand, companies will change their processes, offerings, information, and business models to provide more ways for sustainable shopping. This will include new or alternative packaging offers, more options for CO2 neutral shipping, ‘green’ labels and environmentally focused product descriptions, as well as innovative business models around used items.
Key takeaway: Sustainability has changed from being a nice-to-have to a critical part of a customer’s purchasing decision. To start, look at your internal processes and see how you can make them eco-friendly – minor changes like these are a great start, but be ready to make some major shifts to your overall business if you want to be seen as a friend of the environment.
The rise of omnichannel experiences through a headless architecture
Convenience takes center stage when we talk about online behavior, with new ways of shopping such as conversational, video, and social shopping set to soar in 2022. Customers are looking to find product information and make their purchases without interrupting whatever they are doing at the time – putting pressure on businesses to add new customer touchpoints regularly and unify the experiences across different channels.
In this scenario, your tech stack is what makes or breaks you and that’s where the headless architecture comes in. Headless means that the user interface is separated from the business/commerce backend. With this model, you can easily integrate new services and touchpoints (such as voice search) without having to change your core systems – enabling you to provide personalized and consistent experiences no matter the channel the customer is using.
Key takeaway: It’s high time you looked at your core business systems and see how they could be improved to cater to the new ways of shopping. Even if you already have an online store, you can rebuild the user interface step by step, using the headless architecture – this allows you to update it in an agile way, without jumping into a huge investment cycle.
Working across departments to provide a great customer experience
This one should go without saying – if a customer purchased something and the item isn’t being delivered for days – they don’t care if it’s your department’s fault or the one sitting two doors down. They are simply annoyed and will think twice before doing business with you again.
Working in silos no longer works if you want to provide great customer experiences – companies will need to ensure end-to-end responsibility across all departments, to make sure all teams are working in step towards a common goal. A great example of that approach is Spotify, which developed a working model around squads and tribes – cross-functional and self-reliant teams which have end-to-end responsibility for their part of the product / service.
Key takeaway: Look at how your teams work together and see if there are ways to unify their efforts and ensure they are working in lockstep. It’s not only about establishing processes though – your company culture needs to support taking responsibility, especially when things don’t go according to plan. And more importantly, finding ways to turn that into a learning experience for everyone.
This brings us to the end of the list of customer experience trends for 2022 and beyond. We hope you’ve found these useful and learned something new!
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you take advantage of some (or all) of these trends, find out more about our Digital Strategy and Innovation Consulting services. If you’d like to connect with Jörg directly, you can find him sharing great insights on his LinkedIn profile.
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