Customer expectations are constantly changing in the business landscape due to digitization. Before, a website or a mere digital presence was enough to separate you from your nearest competitor. But today, businesses have to continuously innovate and ensure they are providing new, exciting digital experiences– or risk being left behind.
Case in point, an HBR report cites the number one reason more than half (52 percent) of the Fortune 500 have disappeared since the year 2000 is their failure to achieve digital change.
This new era of digitization and customer centricity appeals to a new breed of customer – the Connected Customer. Though a relatively new term, the Connected Customer describes those customers that interact with brands through digital channels such as websites, apps or Alexa skills.
Connected Customers are highly sensitive and hyper aware of the overall experience they encounter when interacting with brands and have grown accustomed to superior online services.
They span every generation, from baby boomers to millennials, and with Generation Z swiftly entering the marketplace, it has never been more vital for businesses to ensure they provide a convenient digital experience for all customers. If the Connected Customer can’t get the experience they want with you, they’ll take their business elsewhere.
This is particularly challenging for established businesses that fear change or struggle to get investment from stakeholders. But with 67 percent of consumers saying they’ll pay more for a better customer experience, there is a clear indication of a substantial return – the investment is worth it.
Below are three priority trends that you can leverage within your business to attract today’s Connected Customer – and to stay competitive.
Design for the entire experience, not just what’s on the screen.
Most companies have recognized the importance of user experience design. They’ve taken steps to ensure that their apps, sites, and digital products meet the needs of their customers, while providing an engaging experience. What many companies have yet to fully achieve is making sure their brand promise and brand essence are mirrored across every experience they deliver – off- and online – and that both are delivered consistently across channels.
Post COVID-19 will bring renewed expectations on the part of customers, as they will be used to create frictionless shopping experiences via an app or website, with instant checkouts and fast delivery services.
According to a recent First Insight study, over 30 percent of consumers are now taking advantage of online services to get products delivered without going in-store.
Once the worst has passed, brands will need to embrace the convenience that online can’t match and ensure the experience customers have when they walk back into an establishment is the same familiar experience they have when they open the app or visit the website. C
hick-fil-A has already conquered this concept pre-COVID, with its use of beacons built into tables, helping mobile ordering customers to not only skip the line but also find a seat.
To serve the Connected Customer, companies need to develop a design system that transcends the digital, resulting in a consistently engaging experience.
VOICE SEARCH OPTIMIZATION
Taking a chance on voice search optimization is worth the risk.
In 2017, 13 percent of all households in the U.S owned a smart speaker.
However, this number is predicted to rise to 55 percent by 2022. As the numbers grow, we are seeing an overall increase in awareness and a general higher level of comfort towards voice user interfaces.
Mobile phone laws in many states and the advent of Apple CarPlay and Google Auto are also accelerating consumer adoption of voice experiences.
It’s estimated that there will be eight billion digital voice assistants in use by 2023, with most of those available on smartphones – this growth being driven by young consumers and households with children according to consultant PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Going forward, it will be essential that companies investigate both the opportunities and challenges that voice search optimization brings. Brands are now experiencing a shift where touch points are transforming to listening points, and organic voice search will be a key way in which brands have visibility According to Gartner, about 30 percent of all searches will be done without a screen this year.
Having become used to the immediacy of their mobiles and constant access to the internet, Connected Customers can become frustrated when their expectations of a speedy connection are not met. Voice search connectivity can satisfy this need for urgency.
However, it also means businesses have to make sure their content is optimized for voice search. Web content, for example, has to be structured in a particular way that allows voice speakers to accurately determine user questions.
For instance, having a strong FAQ section on a brand’s website in a Q&A format helps voice assistants index a brand and train it to respond properly when a user asks those questions going forward.
Invest in a seamless experience across digital properties
Providing an omnichannel experience for your customers is no longer a competitive differentiator. The new expectation will be providing an experience supported by what we call “cooperative technology” – each touch point and platform your users interact with must be seen as a single holistic experience. And they all need to work together seamlessly.
Think about it this way: if your app was first accessed by a user on a mobile device, how can you provide an experience that continues their journey when they access your services via a different platform?
This includes, sharing user enabled saved data, including past transactions and product wish lists, between different platforms to create a seamless customer journey. However, this practice is now considered the new norm.
We’re now moving from an age where information was contextual to where entire features of a product will be personalized depending on user location, and a new way of thinking is required.
Users don’t notice technology that’s easy to use, but an absence of bad customer reviews isn’t an excuse to halt product improvement.
Instead of people shouting about how easy something is, brands will need to observe new metrics to help measure and improve customer engagement – most likely powered by product analytics tools and machine learning-enabled data science.
This article was originally published in Innovation & Tech Today.