We can’t address customer data trends in 2020 without acknowledging that the impact of customer data on customer experience has reached seismic levels.
At the start of the digital era, a business’ marketing, commerce, sales, and service operations collected and managed their own customer data in silos. The result: fragmented customer experiences and business inefficiency.
A few years ago, companies began implementing solutions to fuel e-commerce, marketing automation, and CRM systems with unified customer profiles, which contain all of the customer’s identity, consent, and preference data. Their objective was nothing short of the holy grail for a business in the digital age: personalized customer experiences that differentiate the brand from the competition and fuel growth.
More recently, organizations have realized how accurate, permission-based customer data can increase the effectiveness of cutting-edge technologies such as machine learning / artificial intelligence and Customer Data Platforms (CDPs), which enable personalization at the scale necessary to dominate in the customer–first era.
This impact is so important because it reflects a critical customer demand. Eighty-four percent of consumers think being treated like a person, not a number, is very important to winning their business. And without a successful customer data strategy, businesses will struggle to meet this demand. Put simply: They won’t know who their customers are or how they like to be engaged.
So, as we look forward into 2020 and beyond, where will customer data impact customer experience the most?
Top 3 customer data trends of 2020
- Digital Identity Will Redefine “Frictionless” Customer Experiences
There are several staples of the traditional digital customer experience; the most recognizable being manual entry of names, passwords, addresses, and payment information as steps of a purchase. In 2020 and beyond, we predict these staples will increasingly become a competitive liability.
Today’s consumers don’t have time to spare. They want relevant, personalized experiences with as little friction as possible. The way businesses across consumer-facing industries respond to this trend will play a major role in their success. And their response will hinge, in large part, on their ability to fuel experiences with customer data.
As an example, banks are investigating the benefits of equipping ATM machines with biometrics. This would enable customers to skip the traditional card-and-PIN number ATM experience and instead face a camera, which would authenticate their identity and provide account access. Not only would this speed and streamline the customer experience, but banks could potentially reduce costs incurred by customer service calls dealing with lost cards or forgotten PIN numbers.
For another example, retailers like Warby Parker and Rolex are reinventing their customer experiences by adding augmented reality functionality to their mobile apps. Customers can virtually try on a pair of glasses or a watch and then buy with one click.
As these examples show, digital identities are already playing a role in the revolution of traditional customer experiences. In 2020, more brands will realize the customer’s definition of “frictionless experiences” will require new levels of technical solutions and creativity based on digital identity.
2. To Up-Level Customer Experience, Businesses Will Prioritize the Employee Experience
Up until recently, strategies to accomplish digital transformation initiatives covered a host of customer engagement-related projects. The most common examples include redesigning Web sites to make information easier for customers to find, improving the incorporation of customer feedback into products and service development, and fueling engagements with customer data to make them more relevant and personalized.
For 2020, we predict an increasing number of digital transformation strategies will add a new element: tying the employee experience tighter to the customer experience.
If employees have positive experiences with their employers, they’ll be more willing to be brand ambassadors and better positioned to help customers solve challenges. And since reviews, survey results, in-store encounters, or social media posts can make a significant impact on an organization, engaged employees are invaluable. They’ll not only reduce the number of negative reviews but will also have a beneficial effect on retention rates.
There are many examples of companies who have gotten off to a fast start on this topic already:
- 87% of customers’ affinity for Starbucks is driven by the way the company treats its employees.
- Zappos works to ensure every employee plays a role in the company’s customer-first culture — even call center employees are referred to as customer loyalty team members.
- Chick-Fil-A gives franchise owners extensive training on how to empower employees to make decisions and build relationships with customers.
Yet many businesses are still playing catch-up to this trend, and we think their efforts will gain momentum in 2020. An engaged, creative, and energetic workforce outperforms the competition in performance, customer service, valuation, and revenue. So, if companies invest in their people and the employee experience wisely, the ROI on the critical business metric of customer experience is clear.
3. The B2B Customer Experience Will Catch Up To Its B2C Counterpart
The trend to enhance B2B buying journeys, coined industrial consumerism, has taken root in industries such as manufacturing, wholesale distribution, consumer products, and high tech – and it’s going to impact customer data trends in 2020.
As the potential benefits of online marketplaces have become more evident, B2B brands have jumped in with both feet into the direct-to-consumer trend. This not only has opened more revenue-generating opportunities, but the customer data collected through these platforms is a treasure trove for future improvement.
In 2020, we predict more benefits will come to the market, and elevate the B2B buyer journey.
Specifically, we see 3 areas where B2B brands have the chance to differentiate:
Onboarding: Brands who can accelerate the onboarding process of business customers and partners at scale will speed time-to-market and get to value faster.
Lifecycle Management: Too often, IT teams are overburdened by managing the networks of customers and partners. The businesses who find ways to streamline lifecycle management will reduce costs and free up their own IT teams to focus on growth-related projects, as opposed to fixing problems.
Access Control: As they launch online e-commerce platforms, companies can break the trust of their business customers and partners if intellectual property or sensitive data isn’t protected to the highest standard. At the same time, it can be broken if users meet too many roadblocks when they try to perform tasks appropriate for their roles and responsibilities. Achieving this balance between access and security will strengthen brand reputation and lower business risk.