How Can Your CX Keep Up With the Latest Global Trends and Changing Customer Behaviors?
Reading Time 6 mins
The pace of global change is only getting faster, as new trends, behaviors and technologies change the way consumers interact with the world around them, and the brands they rely on. This series examines the customer journey execution gap that has opened up in the space created between consumer expectations and CX reality. In this second piece in the series we’ll look at some of those headline trends in detail, and what businesses should be thinking about to keep up.
If consumer confidence feels precarious right now for lots of us, perhaps it’s not surprising. Safety is the most basic of human needs, but in today’s world, it’s increasingly fragile. Leading economies are concerned about the risk of a recession, while social media platforms used by billions daily spread dangerous misinformation and millions of people are the victims of forced migration caused by conflict and climate change.
Facing a future that’s more uncertain than ever before, consumers are looking for brands to help them build resilience. In 2023, the brands who can equip them with the tools they need to survive and thrive will be the winners. But people have come up with their own coping strategies.
Refocusing On What Value Means
For some consumers it means being careful with intentional spending, with the consequences of global consumption weighing heavily on the conscience of a growing number of people. According to a 2023 Mintel global consumer trends report, consumers are re-focusing on what value means to them and spending more intentionally as a result.
In a tough economic environment, consumers want to make smart financial choices without sacrificing their quality of life. This goes beyond making budget-friendly choices to considering how factors like flexibility, durability, and sustainability will play increasingly important roles in the value equation.
For some though, post-pandemic, it’s about navigating a return to reality. Consumers are eager to get on with their lives despite uncertainties ahead and that means out-of-home consumption. Businesses need to help these consumers put the fun back in their lives. For these consumers, there’s no time like the present. Consumers are giving themselves permission to live a little. They’re not abandoning financial responsibility, but they are taking a short-term buying approach with discretionary items.
Who Are Your Customers?
Age and demographics play a defining role in customer behavior. For the expressive and progressive Gen Z generation, the world is a stage on which to take matters into their own hands with what they choose to spend their money on. Real, raw and relevant content draws their attention, in defiance of perfection and sameness.
These consumers express their true selves, enabled and encouraged by a growing number of popular social platforms. The appeal of hugely popular platforms like TikTok and BeReal point to a larger consumer attitude: filters are being switched off in favor of authenticity.
By contrast, according to the IMF, the most formidable demographic challenge facing the world is no longer rapid population growth, but an increasingly elderly population. Countries can take advantage of the opportunities presented by demographic change but it will take concerted preparation, large-scale behavioral changes, investment in human capital and infrastructure, policy and institutional reforms, and technological innovations.
How Are Digital Behaviors Changing?
Consumers want to be able to maximise their time online, and transition their internet time from mindless to mindful. The brands that can help them ‘control the scroll’ resulting in screen time well spent, will prosper.
Take the trend of ‘super-apps’, the Swiss Army Knives of consumer tech platforms. From Tencent’s WeChat in China to Grab in Southeast Asia, these all-in-one apps have evolved to bundle services like messaging, payments, shopping, gaming, and food delivery — creating digital ecosystems that users never need to leave.
Now companies like Meta, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Twitter are looking to super apps as models to extend their reach with consumers, including in the US and Europe, where they have yet to take the same hold, and drive new sources of revenue.
Super apps are part of a retail trend known as ‘Always Shopping’, in which commerce has become so omnipresent on screens and in apps that people are no longer going shopping as a conscious activity but are, in effect, ‘always shopping’. Their screens ensure that they are surrounded by moments where they can spontaneously move from inspiration to transaction.
How Retail Is Changing
In turn, physical retailers are catering for these omnichannel natives by making omnichannel shopping a native part of new formats, integrating digital shopping tools and other technology from the ground up (rather than merely bolting it onto existing stores).
These tech solutions generally aim to make shopping trips more convenient, whether by eliminating lines, speeding up customer service, or sorting through inventory faster. But many of the tools can also help retailers understand shoppers’ behavior and collect data to make the experience more customized and seamless.
Retailers are also leaning on expertise-driven experiences in stores that offer more interactive features and an emphasis on service. These formats promise shoppers specialized, in-person experiences and education. While the high level of service is meant to draw traffic, the “experiences” also serve as physical marketing, the embodiment of retailers’ brand messages.
Future-proofing Your CX to Close the Customer Execution Gap
The heightened expectations of consumers need to be met, and the customer journey execution gap that sits between what is expected – and what is possible – closed. That means CX teams will need people with critical design, data, and journey skills. Forrester research predicts a skills shortage in customer experience that will affect 80% of CX teams.
How well equipped are in-house teams to handle crucial disciplines like design thinking, inclusive experience design, survey design, journey mapping, and data literacy and storytelling? These are the skills needed to plan holistic customer journeys that mean frictionless journeys for customers and thriving businesses.
Let’s look at four critical areas to invest in.
Make It As Easy As Possible For Customers to Get In Touch
Be able to handle any channel, by designing customer service journeys that make the most of intelligent self-service. Consider cloud innovations like contact center as a service, and proactive communications applications and services like consumer messaging applications, video contact centers and augmented reality for customer support.
Align Your Internal and External Processes
Think about how you can align processes to support increasingly complex and personalized customer engagements. The kind of innovations to consider include a customer engagement center that provides customer service and support functionality by engaging intelligently with customers both proactively and reactively.
Optimize Your Resources
Engaged, empowered employees are essential to strong CX, so recruiting and retaining great people is key. Traditional Workforce Optimization (WFO) technology focuses on delivering employee efficiency and effectiveness through tools like quality monitoring, workforce management, e-learning, performance management and speech analytics tools.
It will need to be complemented by an investment in newer Workforce Engagement (WEM) technologies like interaction assistance and voice of the employee (VoE), to help improve operational performance and elevate employee well-being and engagement.
Inform Your CX With as Much Insight as Possible
Being able to turn knowledge and data into actionable customer insights is crucial. Core innovations include customer service analytics, voice-of-the customer solutions and knowledge management for customer service.
Customer service analytics are particularly critical. Combining interaction analytics with next-best-action analytics, comparing real-time and historical insight to offer recommendations that elevate the customer experience and deliver against operational goals.
To be most effective they need to be harnessed to customer journey analytics (CJA) that track and analyze customers’ and prospects’ interactions with an organization across multiple channels, covering every channel the customer has used.