Across the world, customers and businesses are actively trying to move on from the shackles of the Covid-19 pandemic. While a range of uncertainties remain from broader market economics, vaccinations, to the virus (and its variants) and how that will affect daily life, one thing is clear – there is no going back to how things were. What does this mean for the Future of Customers and Consumers? As businesses look to navigate the post Covid-19 world, there are three key customer-centric priorities to which C-suite leaders must pivot in order to emerge successfully in the next normal.
Digital-first, Digital-core, But Not Digital-only
A necessity during the pandemic, a digital-first experience is now table-stakes. IDC’s 2021 Future of Customers and Consumers (FoCC) survey shows that the two highest priorities for enterprises’ customer experience (CX) transformations are social media (35.9%) and website (34.7%). While customers will continue to largely initiate engagement via digital, this doesn’t signal the end of physical/in-person experiences. In fact, the next normal will require C-suite leaders to think and move beyond the construct of channels.
Customers have signaled that fundamentally, what they want are outcomes. What does this look like? A good example on the B2C side is Sephora, a brand that has truly mastered a seamless outcome-based experience across its digital and physical properties alike.
Customers can start their journey via the app or any of the other digital properties, try products virtually, while being given personalized AI based recommendations, and continue that shopping journey with the same virtual cart/bag in a physical store. The physical store continues to progress customers toward their desired outcome (e.g., purchasing a curated product) with in-person and self-service experiences that are also powered by digital tools and capabilities. To compete with experiences informed by the likes of Sephora, enterprises will need to pivot to hybrid experiences, powered by digital at the core across virtual and physical domains.
With the volume and velocity of information being consumed, customers have scant attention to spare, especially in the B2B marketplace. To stand out, enterprises should aim to elevate every interaction to move beyond personalization and deliver predictable and anticipatory experiences. Conducting an intelligent two-way dialogue with the customer will require the following primary capabilities:
- Driving every engagement with customer data at the core
- Making it easy to access this centralized wholistic view of the customer across the enterprise
This will enable businesses to deliver on the promise of an integrated, whole journey experience as a series of intelligent two-way conversations that progress the customer toward their desired outcome(s). Some enterprises have started to recognize this need and have focused their investments on Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) as one of the best solutions for this purpose. The 2021 FoCC survey highlights that over a third (34.5%) of enterprises are planning or considering an investment in CDPs to enable their CX priorities in the next normal.
Engage with Empathy and Trust
For many customers, the pandemic has delivered a variety of setbacks and forced them to critically re-evaluate priorities and thereby their choice of brands with whom they would choose to do business. Winning customers in the next normal will require enterprises to think with a digital mind and serve with a human heart. In a digital-first world, this means enterprises need to give precedence to customer data privacy and consent management in every interaction. Additionally, this also means enterprises should tap into the pulse of the customer sentiment and rapidly adjust to deliver value-based outcomes for customers.
A remarkably successful example of an organization delivering empathy at scale is OCBC Bank, the second largest financial services group in Southeast Asia. The bank focused on ‘Life Goals’ for its customers and effectively made financial wealth planning accessible to the masses. This was coupled with aggregated holdings from customers’ selected banks and government agencies, artificial intelligence nudges, curated investment journeys based on individual risk appetite, and personalized insights and financial tips to enable holistic and accurate retirement planning.
Acting on these priorities and embodying a customer-first mindset will put enterprises on the path to successfully navigate the challenges and uncertainties of the next normal.
If you would like to learn more about the Future of Customers and Consumers or any of IDC’s other “Future of X” practices, visit our website at https://www.idc.com/FoX.