5 predictions for how customer experience will change in 2019

Business Insights

2018 has been a really exciting year for customer experience. However, a lot of what we have seen in 2018 is actually just a starting point for trends that are going to get much bigger in 2019.

Whatever your business, data is playing an increasingly important role in the experience of your customers, as the online and offline worlds merge. So, here are just a few of the major trends I believe will set the tone for 2019 – they’re pretty exciting!

#1 Data comes to the front line

Every customer touchpoint is going to become more digital, but it doesn’t spell the end for human staff. In fact, the quality of the human touch will fundamentally increase as more available data and information for the front line staff means human interaction can become “tech-augmented” and enhanced.

This trend is important not only because it allows individual interactions to be much faster, but it will also help staff personalise the service they offer clients more effectively. How long has they been a customer? How often do they shop? What’s their birthday? These details will soon be at staff member’s fingertips, so clients can be greeted by name every time they make a transaction.

#2 Predictive commerce

Amazon introduced most of us to algorithmic prediction and smart commerce almost 20 years ago, with “If you like this book, you will also like this one” recommendations. In the next few years, however, predictive commerce will mature to automate many more of our day-to-day purchases.

The moment your printers and washing machines are connected to your Amazon Prime subscription, they can order products automatically. What’s more, algorithms will also start to help us find the best moment to buy a product at the cheapest price. Canadian app Hopper is already helping people time exactly when to book flights to get the perfect price point, but their algorithms are also starting to suggest alternative destinations that might meet our needs better – pretty soon, machines will know us better than we know ourselves.

#3 The power of ‘Human’ and ‘Local’

Digital has, of course, become crucial for businesses working to win customers today – it is creating a level of convenience we have never been before. The flip side of this, however, is that the rise of digital also means the importance of the ‘human’ and ‘local’ factors also increase.

Smaller, more locally-centered companies now have an opportunity to create an advantage that tech companies simply cannot match. Tech giants don’t know the local communities they operate in as well, and they cannot offer the same level of human, emotional connection. In a David and Goliath battle, if you’re a small businesses, focusing on delivering a high-quality, personal service could be the key to your success.

#4 Voice becomes a filter

Voice controlled devices, like Amazon Alexa and Google Home, are now becoming so mainstream that they have become the new filter for how customers are exposed to brands. These devices cut out the need for customers to go through dozens of pages of search results to find a product – you simply ask your device to order a product, and it solves the issue of too much choice.

This has big implications for brands. According to Business Insider, 54% of American households already have an Amazon Echo device, so if these customers use their device to search, Amazon is acting as a filter for what products get offered to them. People have talked about Facebook becoming the biggest information filter in the world – Amazon is doing the exact same thing for products.

#5 Managing your customer’s time

Over the last decade, we’ve all become more concerned about how we spend our most precious resource – time – and companies have recognised this too. Businesses have started putting their expertise into offering time management benefits to the customer, either through saving them time or enhancing their time.

So, think about how you can enhance the quality of experiences that customers already have, so they can spend their time well, or focus on taking away experiences they may not enjoy or need, to save their time. Understanding the customer context and customer experience is key to this – if a company can use data to offer what you need at exactly the right time, they have added value by saving you time. If a retailer offers a way to check out in store without queuing, they have added value by saving you time.

These trends are just a small selection of how tech is going to make our lives and our retail experiences better than ever before, so buckle up, 2019 is going to be a big year!

Prof. Steven van Belleghem is an expert in customer experience in the digital world. He’s is an award-winning author, and his new book Customers The Day After Tomorrow is out now. Follow him on Twitter @StevenVBe, subscribe to his videos at www.youtube.com/stevenvanbelleghem or visit www.stevenvanbelleghem.com