Tuesday, August 11, 2020
Trends

5 Customer Experience Trends That COVID-19 Is Only Accelerating

Stephen Fioretti
July 14, 2020

5 minute read

The current pandemic is a clear example of a disruption that, in many cases, is accelerating trends that were already happening. Below is a look at a few of these trends, including contactless consumer experiences, the ability for employees to “Work From Anywhere”, virtual engagements, and the acceleration of messaging as a channel. We’ll likely see these trends continue to accelerate over time.

Contactless consumer experiences: payments

A contactless payment is a payment transaction that doesn’t require physical contact between a consumer’s payment device and a point-of-sale (POS) terminal. The consumer holds a payment device (e.g. a mobile device) close to a POS terminal and payment account information is transmitted wirelessly. A January report from Ingenico Group and Freedom Pay found that 75% of millennials and 70% of Gen Z shoppers said they were satisfied with contactless payments, with the latter group saying that they’re a “must have” option for merchants.

The pandemic has only accelerated the growth of contactless consumer payments. Richard Crone, CEO of Crone Consulting, estimated in a blog from the National Retail Federation that the use of contactless payments have grown by 20% since the beginning of the pandemic. Known players such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Google Pay have all reported growth. Small businesses are also tapping mobile payment companies such as Square and Venmo for contactless payment experiences. “Consumers want safety, and they want to know when they have to touch something that it’s sanitized,” Crone said for the blog. Crone stated, “There’s nothing more assuring than their own phone.” Rob Harrold, senior manager with Deloitte’s strategy and operations practice was also interviewed and said, “What was more of a convenience option has now turned to a ‘safety’ feature.”

Popwallet is an example of a company that helps brands that want to leverage this growth of contactless payments. They make it easy for brands to pop promotions and personalized content from ads, emails, and other channels into their touchless mobile wallet. Popwallet helps marketers improve engagement of consumers within this mobile experience and measures their response. If a consumer brand isn’t considering or using contactless mobile wallets to engage consumers, they risk getting left behind.

Contactless consumer experiences: curbside pickup

The coronavirus has been a catalyst for big changes in the way consumers spend and pay. As mentioned above, trends like contactless payments are growing, and so is the move towards “buying online and picking up in-store”. This service is now a ‘must have,’ and the pandemic has accelerated what was likely already going to happen. According to Invesp, 67% of shoppers in the US have used Buy Online Pick Up In Store (BOPIS) in the past six months, and 10% of all sales will be fulfilled by Click and Collect by 2025.

Curbside pickup has become popular with retailers, restaurants, and grocery stores. And it’s easy to see why this happening – the option is convenient for shoppers, limits congestion in stores, and minimizes human interaction.

Glympse provides “The Last Mile Automation” for curbside pickup, giving shoppers the ability to track the real time status of a grocery delivery or “drive up & go order” through a brand’s ecommerce platform. When a shopper places an online order, the local retailer fulfills the order and the shopper receives an alert when the purchase is ready. Shoppers can then use the Glympse platform to share their location when they’re on the way, and a geofence trigger alerts the retailer’s staff when the customer is about to arrive. It also enables 2-way communication between the shopper and the business to fine tune the contactless curbside experience.

Work from anywhere

While the movement of working from home or anywhere was gaining traction before the pandemic (e.g. to give employees flexibility, harness the gig economy, improve job satisfaction, reduce agent turnover, and adapt to the new workforce expectations), this new workforce trend has become the norm. Companies across the nation expect to have at least a portion of their employees continue to work remotely permanently. Some companies were ready, or at least were moving in that direction already while other companies scrambled to deploy the technology to support a distributed workforce. It’s critical that these remote workforces have the infrastructure and tools necessary to communicate and collaborate with other employees or customers via phone, email, chat, video, and messaging.

OpenMethods and Five9 have helped companies and governments get up and running quickly to work from anywhere. They have enabled many organizations to move their contact centers to a distributed model and helped keep contact centers going while communicating and collaborating with their extended enterprise and their customers. Customers still expect you to help them with their questions and needs—quickly, calmly, and with empathy—and these two companies have helped many organizations maintain this level of service.

Virtual engagement

The shift to work from anywhere has also spawned the explosion of virtual engagement technologies. While physical events are almost at a complete standstill, many organizations are leveraging virtual event platforms to engage with their employees or to address and deliver content to their prospects and customers. As virtual engagement becomes pervasive, companies are also demanding richer, interactive, and personalized experiences with their employees, customers, and prospects through these virtual conference/webinar platforms.

ON24 and Zoom are both at the forefront of enabling high-touch virtual engagements. These companies were rocking before the pandemic but the growth of their use is now meteoric. As they say at ON24, they’re helping us all become “webinerds”.

Explosion of messaging as a channel

The pandemic caught many organizations flatfooted as they tried to respond to the explosion of incoming inquiries and calls –the only contact methods many companies were offering. Although the outbreak was an act of nature that few could foresee, consumers have long been pushing for brands to embrace messaging channels such as live chat for customer service. There are no wait times, it’s familiar and easy, photos and other content can be sent back and forth, and previous conversations are there, reminding both the brand and the consumer of past interactions.

Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Apple iMessage, and other messaging platforms were gaining speed in the last couple years according to eMarketer. But in just a 10-day period in March, WhatsApp, for example, had seen a 40% increase in usage, according to research firm Kantar. And the growth had been the largest in the 18- to 34-year-old age group, a highly coveted and valuable demographic for brands.

Conversocial, Quiq, and Sprinklr are helping brands harness and support the long tail of messaging platforms like SMS, WeChat, Google Business Messaging, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Apple Business Chat to engage with their customers in customer service and marketing experiences. Sprinklr also enables enterprises to listen to social networks and respond from their customer care organizations.

These are but a few of the trends that are accelerating and quickly changing the nature of customer experiences. As an enterprise, think about how these trends are affecting your business. In many cases, you have no choice but to embrace these changes and leverage technology innovations to help deliver better experiences for your employees and customers.

Stephen Fioretti
Stephen Fioretti is a fly fisherman, sports fanatic, still trying to learn to speak Italian, and the father of 3 fine boys. Steve manages Oracle’s strategic CX ISV partners and programs and has more years of experience in the technology space than he cares to admit.
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