Why Customer Experience Will be the Hottest Trend of 2019

by Thomas Meyer

Posted on 02-08-2019

The world of cus­tomer expe­ri­ence moves in waves, pushed and pulled over time by dynam­ic fac­tors such as price, con­ve­nience, scale, and tech­no­log­i­cal innovation.

Think of the changes we have seen in gro­cery shop­ping. Our par­ents’, or grand­par­ents’ gen­er­a­tion may have expect­ed a one-to-one ser­vice in small shops and mar­kets with­in their com­mu­ni­ty, deal­ing with peo­ple who knew them per­son­al­ly. But over time, with eco­nom­ic changes and advances in trans­port, food pro­duc­tion and stor­age, and trends with­in soci­ety and the work­force, super­mar­kets and large, out of town shop­ping cen­tres became the norm. Con­sumers chose scale and price com­pet­i­tive­ness over more per­son­al lev­els of service.

Since then, per­haps aware anoth­er wave would come along and dis­rupt them in the way they dis­rupt­ed tra­di­tion­al retail­ers, super­mar­kets have been try­ing to get more per­son­al and improve the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence through store lay­out, loy­al­ty schemes, online shop­ping and home deliv­ery. Over time, data and ana­lyt­ics have played an increas­ing role in how super­mar­kets assessed and planned cus­tomer experience.

But now we see the hege­mo­ny of the super­mar­kets being chal­lenged by a resur­gence in farm­ers mar­kets and a dra­mat­ic rise in small retail­ers and online sub­scrip­tion ser­vices for every­thing from razors to fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles. The incon­ve­niences of hav­ing to vis­it mul­ti­ple shops for mul­ti­ple items are being erod­ed by online and home deliv­ery, or being trumped by the desire for greater experiences.

Con­sumers in grow­ing num­bers are being drawn in by the desire for new, more bespoke expe­ri­ences and are increas­ing­ly priz­ing the expe­ri­ence over oth­er fac­tors. McK­in­sey data shows US con­sumers, a key barom­e­ter of how trends will play out world­wide, are now spend­ing more on expe­ri­ences than prod­ucts, and mil­len­ni­als are spend­ing more on expe­ri­ences than past gen­er­a­tions. As mil­len­ni­al incomes grow and this trend matures glob­al­ly, the sig­nif­i­cance of the expe­ri­ence econ­o­my will the defin­ing trend of the era.

We are also see­ing data play an even greater role in expe­ri­ence. Smart busi­ness­es are recog­nis­ing the impor­tance of the data they col­lect and cre­ate in help­ing them gain a greater under­stand­ing of their cus­tomers and the ways in which they can adapt the expe­ri­ence they pro­vide to bet­ter meet height­ened con­sumer expectations.

The adop­tion of AI, which looks set to spike this year, will dra­mat­i­cal­ly increase the abil­i­ty of brands to analyse their data and cre­ate greater expe­ri­ences based on in-depth under­stand­ing of their cus­tomers. Recent Adobe research revealed 48% of busi­ness­es expect to roll out AI for cus­tomer and busi­ness ana­lyt­ics in 2019.

As such, as the year begins, we con­fi­dent­ly pre­dict the grow­ing impor­tance of cus­tomer expe­ri­ence will be the most sig­nif­i­cant trend of 2019. A con­flu­ence of fac­tors will make it more impor­tant than ever, but here’s my take on the four rea­sons why this trend will gath­er sig­nif­i­cant pace through 2019, across many indus­tries, from auto­mo­tive to finan­cial ser­vices and retail.

1. Across soci­ety, we have seen changes that have put a greater focus on the qual­i­ty of expe­ri­ence com­pa­nies deliv­er. Peo­ple have less time to spare and more things com­pet­ing for their atten­tion. They val­ue con­ve­nience above all else in this envi­ron­ment, and want access to every­thing on-demand. Today, even the best prod­uct in the world los­es its attrac­tion if cus­tomers feel they need to put too much effort or time into obtain­ing it.

2. Increas­ing­ly the things we buy are dig­i­tal. We are amass­ing few­er phys­i­cal pos­ses­sions and instead we are buy­ing dig­i­tal expe­ri­ences. In the past year, music stream­ing over­took CD sales for the first time, accord­ing to fig­ures from indus­try body the Inter­na­tion­al Fed­er­a­tion of the Phono­graph­ic Indus­try (IFPI). Sim­i­lar­ly, we’ve seen DVD sales and rentals replaced by ser­vices such as Net­flix which has become syn­ony­mous with a new kind of at-home expe­ri­ence, from bring­ing far greater choice – or more argu­ments, depend­ing on your per­spec­tive – to a fam­i­ly movie night, to giv­ing the world the phrase “Net­flix and chill”.

Such dig­i­tal expe­ri­ences need to reflect the indi­vid­u­al­i­ty and pref­er­ences of con­sumers and the analy­sis of data, and using that data to per­son­alise an expe­ri­ence is cru­cial. An exam­ple from our own work with Condé Nast is the way the pub­lish­er uses data cap­tured about a reader’s con­sump­tion habits to tai­lor their online and in-app expe­ri­ence. For exam­ple, a Glam­our read­er who receives the Condé Nast newslet­ter will be more like­ly to read arti­cles about fash­ion rather than foot­ball; and a read­er of Wired will respond bet­ter to adver­tis­ing pro­mot­ing GQ sub­scrip­tions. A customer’s read­ing pat­terns is an essen­tial piece of data that should shape their expe­ri­ence. Using that infor­ma­tion to make their expe­ri­ence more tai­lored is a smart move, pro­mot­ing match­es and con­tent rel­e­vant to their team.

3. Micro and macro-eco­nom­ic trends are prov­ing sig­nif­i­cant and will put an even greater empha­sis on expe­ri­ence in the com­ing year. Young peo­ple are increas­ing­ly choos­ing to spend their mon­ey on expe­ri­ences and ser­vices, rather than amass­ing the tra­di­tion­al trap­pings of grown-up life such as a home and a car, that may have moti­vat­ed their par­ents. Car shar­ing schemes are ris­ing, and are a clear exam­ple of why expe­ri­ence, over prod­uct, is so impor­tant. If peo­ple are no longer buy­ing cars but rather are hir­ing a car only when they need it, the car itself is less impor­tant than the ser­vice. Those moments of need shine a light on the qual­i­ty of the ser­vice and expe­ri­ence – how easy it is to find a car in good con­di­tion that works per­fect­ly for their pur­pos­es, for the dura­tion they need it.

4. Social media and vic­ar­i­ous liv­ing via Insta­gram, Snapchat, and Face­book have raised the pro­file of expe­ri­ences fur­ther and brought an almost com­pet­i­tive ele­ment to din­ing out, trav­el­ling, and enjoy­ing exot­ic loca­tions. Such plat­forms have also cre­at­ed a new way of inter­act­ing with brands, enabling peo­ple to enjoy a more per­son­alised, more engag­ing rela­tion­ship with the brands they buy from or use.

We are now in an age of expe­ri­ence and the com­pa­nies who recog­nise this and respond most effec­tive­ly, with an agile, adapt­able approach that can change with future waves of con­sumer expec­ta­tions will be the vic­tors in an increas­ing­ly com­pet­i­tive marketplace.

Topics: Digital Transformation, 2019, AI, Business Analytics, customer experience, CX, predictions, UK, UK Exclusive, Digital EMEA