Six customer-experience trends worth considering in 2021

Illustration of six customers going through digital experiences
July 28, 2021



Customer experience (CX) has rapidly become a top priority for businesses. Today's customers don't base their loyalty on price or product. Instead, they remain loyal to brands based on the experience they have. Gartner writes that 81% of companies say they expect to be competing mostly or entirely based on customer experience — that’s 50% more than in 2010. Staying ahead of competitors in 2021 means offering customers the best possible digital customer experience every time they interact with your brand. To help you keep your customers coming back, we’ve highlighted six trends for brands to watch in 2021.

1. Increased focus on omnichannel customer experiences

Customers happily interact with brands across multiple channels — such as email, live chat, and social media — but they expect all communication to remain consistent. Consistency is essential to building a brand identity that audiences want to engage with.

In their 2020 report, PWC found that shoppers avoid retailers that don’t deliver a seamless brand experience in-store and online across all channels. Adobe discovered that companies with the best omnichannel customer engagement strategies enjoyed a 10% year-over-year growth rate, a 10% increase in average order value and a 25% increase in close rate.

Creating an omnichannel customer experience starts with the tools at your disposal. To start, you could use a CRM system to help you store and organize your customer information in one central place so all teams can access it.

You’ll also benefit from a headless content management tool like the Contentful content platform. With Contentful, you can centrally store backend content and distribute it to various front-end platforms via APIs for a consistent omnichannel customer experience.

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2. Greater investment in self-service technologies

Zendesk recently reported that 67% of customers prefer self-service support over speaking with a company representative. Moreover, 91% of customers would use an online knowledge base if available and tailored to their needs.

This comes as excellent news. Self-service is fast and cost-effective. Brands that make it easier for customers to help themselves will reap the benefits. Research by Gartner estimates that by 2030 a billion service tickets will be raised automatically by customer-owned bots, so it’s safe to say this is a growing trend.

Brands need to invest in self-service technologies like Contentful to empower customers to solve problems themselves. From simple FAQ pages to sophisticated online learning portals, Contentful helps brands build, maintain and deliver a digital experience through content that is both easy to use and keep updated.

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3. Striving to provide hyper-personalized experiences

Consumers increasingly expect hyper-personalized experiences.

Of course, that’s easier said than done — and making it happen at scale can consume all of your team’s creative energy and time. That’s where tools like templates and structured content come in handy. 

Hyper-personalized experiences pay off. According to research from Epsilon, 80% of people are more likely to buy from a company that offers personalized experiences. Data from Accenture says that 75% of people are more likely to buy‌ ‌from‌ ‌a‌ ‌company‌ ‌that‌ ‌knows‌ ‌their‌ ‌name and purchase history and recommends items based on this information.

Providing a personalized experience begins with the data you have available on them. Data about your customers — who they are, where they are, how they behave online — allows you to segment your audience, create customer personas and provide personalized experiences. Using marketing automation tools to send trigger emails and other messages based on customers’ behavior helps make this possible.

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4. Seeking efficiencies through cross-functional collaboration

Businesses — whether they wanted to or not — shifted to remote work in unprecedented numbers in 2020. Unfortunately, some weren’t prepared for such a change. It quickly became apparent that their outdated tools and processes needed to be changed. According to Adobe, 53% of large organizations reported that outdated workflows slowed down their processes and hindered meaningful digital transformation in 2020.

If companies can’t collaborate and operate efficiently, they can’t provide a positive (and consistently on-brand) customer experience. Companies must invest in technologies that allow them to streamline processes, automate workflows and ensure that cross-functional teams can access the shared resources needed to improve the customer experience.

For example, more enterprises are investing in digital asset management software to create, manage, collaborate, distribute, securely store and measure asset performance. With a single source of truth for brand assets, organizations secure brand integrity and simplify the creation of and access to content.

Illustration of directional vectors/arrows splitting and combining as a representation of flexibility

5. Scaling support with chatbot technologies

The need for online support increases proportionately with the number of in-person tasks now online. Companies increasingly employ chatbots for customer service to keep up with this demand. 

The benefits of chatbot support are indisputable in this new digital reality. People get access to 24/7 support regardless of a company’s working hours or time zone. In fact, 74% of customers today expect to have access to 24-hour support.

Chatbots equally benefit customers and companies. Around 40% of customers would rather communicate with a chatbot than a person when shopping online, and chatbots can also answer up to 80% of standard user questions. All in all, chatbots save time across the board, allowing support agents to work on more complex issues‌ ‌or‌ ‌projects.

Chatbots can’t always replace human interaction but, in most cases, they can enhance the conversation or quickly resolve common issues. Companies should invest in the latest AI-powered chatbots to provide the best possible (and most “human-like”) customer experience.

An illustrated icon of a robot's head

6. Use of augmented reality to aid the buying experience

Augmented reality (AR) provides a different way to enhance customer experience. It allows for the layering‌ ‌of digital‌ ‌elements‌ ‌on‌ ‌top‌ ‌of‌ the ‌physical‌ ‌world. AR can help customers visualize how they would use a product before committing to a purchase. For example, using the Houzz AR app, shoppers can check what types of furniture fit into their living space and visualize which colors complement existing furnishings.

Screenshot of Houzze app augumented reality

Around 40% of consumers would be willing to pay more for a product if they could experience it through AR and 63% say AR would transform their shopping experience.

Companies that implement AR to aid the customer’s buying experience can expect to attract new shoppers, increase customer engagement and reduce returns by 35% as customers can try before they buy.

Make customer experience a priority 

All six of these trends underline that customer experience is a priority for customers and, therefore, brands in 2021. With six out of ten businesses competing primarily on customer experience, the companies that take customer experience seriously will stay ahead of the competition.

If you want your brand to keep growing, focus on continuing to improve your customer experience in 2021. We can help you do that.

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