2021 Digital CX trends: What you need to know about what’s next

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Digital experience trend #2

If you aren’t optimizing digital experiences, you’re falling behind: Consumers expect digital experiences from their favorite brands, and they expect them to be easy, convenient, and to have plenty of innovative options.

The first trend made it clear that consumers expect digital experiences from their favorite brands, but what about a digital experience makes it successful in the eyes of consumers? And what more do those consumers need to further adopt digital channels? According to the research, it’s the ease with which they are able to “go digital” and the innovative options available to them.

Breaking down the U.S. data first:

  • U.S. consumers were asked, “how easy was it to go digital during the pandemic?” Exactly half of respondents indicated that it was easy to go digital.
  • When we asked what factors made a digital interaction easier or more difficult, over 50% of comments talked about a lack of call center support when it came to in-app or web-related bugs.

In Canada:

  • 67% of consumers said it was easy to “go digital” during the pandemic.
  • Approximately 25% of comments discussed the lack of call center support concerning in-app or web-related bugs.

From these numbers, it’s clear Canadian consumers found it easier to switch to digital experiences when in-store experiences were no longer an option.

Canadian retail, grocery, and pharmacy brands were the most improved when it came to digital ease, as their scores increased by 10% in comparison to before the pandemic. The standout performers, however, were Canadian financial institutions, which yielded the highest ease scores across all industries; 83% of consumers found it easy to go digital with these brands.

On the other hand, American financial institutions experienced an 8% decrease in ease compared to consumers’ experiences before the pandemic. The difference in financial institutions’ scores in Canada versus the U.S. shows us that Canadian financial institutions’ digital strategies and experiences are more mature than their American counterparts. And when we look at the digital channels available to Canadian financial consumers, there are more options. For example, features such as mobile deposit and digital wallet are part of everyday life for consumers. In the U.S., however, these options aren’t as readily available.

As far as the digital options consumers expect from each industry for their future shopping experiences (both in store and online) they say that:

For the retail and food service experience, contactless payment and loyalty apps. For grocery, curbside/pickup and contactless payment. Financial services customers expected digital wallet and open banking.

From their responses, it’s clear that consumers expect to have contactless payment options wherever they are spending their money, regardless of industry. If your brand has a handle on this option, then that’s great! But if your brand has yet to go contactless, you need to get this feature on your roadmap and fast, or risk failure to deliver on customer expectations.

Another feature you may consider adding to your digital roadmap is an installment program such as Afterpay, Affirm, or Klarna. These options allow customers to buy now, then pay over time in multiple installments. Consumers in the U.S. were more aware of these programs than those in Canada (60% versus 31%), but interest was still incredibly high across North America.

Here are some more quick stats about the growing opportunity for brands installing payment installation programs:

In the U.S., one of two consumers:

  • Have used installment programs in the last 12 months
  • Plans to use installment programs in the next 12 months
  • Would be likely to choose a brand that offers such programs

In Canada:

  • One of three consumers have used installment programs in the last 12 months
  • One of four consumers plans to use installment programs in the next 12 months
  • One of three consumers would be likely to choose a brand that offers such programs

It’s clear that there is an enormous opportunity for brands that offer installment programs. Consumers are expressing interest in these payment options, so brands that are the first to utilize them are sure to stand out in the eyes of consumers.

Takeaways and action steps

To compete in today’s digital world, it’s not enough to simply have a website or an app. Brands need to be constantly optimizing their digital channels according to customer preferences, making them easy to use and access. Additionally, they need to keep a finger on the pulse when it comes to new digital opportunities, such as contactless payment. Here are few more action steps for brands looking to continually optimize their digital experiences:

  • Make it easy to get help: Despite our best efforts, bugs happen! That’s why it’s so important to arm your call center agents with the knowledge they need to help consumers troubleshoot any complications that may pop up on digital channels. Additionally, make sure you are mining unstructured data to see what elements might be getting in the way of a good experience. If it’s an issue with the app or website itself, then pass that information along to your dev team. If it’s an unclear process, see if you can create an FAQ or how-to page to help consumers self-serve solutions.
  • Have a clear escalation process: Consumers want their experiences to be easy, so if they run into the same digital experience complications multiple times, they are likely to give up on that channel. That’s why it’s so vital to have a clear process with which you can escalate issues with your website or app to the teams that can fix them. Also, accountability is key here; set firm deadlines and make expectations well known. Setting a goal to continuously improve digital experiences is all well and good, but it’s all for naught if you don’t have clear processes and governance structures in place.
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