2020 was revolutionary for retailers — both on and offline. 2021 seems poised to be no different as CX and marketing continue to be transformed by consumer preferences, new safety regulations, and the retail market as a whole. The trends for 2021 will be no doubt shaped by the events of 2020, but there will be a shift from reactive to proactive. Retail CX has been reshaped by 2020 and sent in a new, more digital direction, and in 2021 we’ll see the new strategies that took root in 2020 start to flourish. Here are our top trends for 2021:
1. Safety and security will remain top of mind for both in-person and online shoppers
For consumers, health and safety as they shop will continue to be one of their #1 priorities for 2021 and perhaps beyond. This means brands will need to continue (and perfect) their in-store cleaning and safety measures while continuing to optimize their contactless pickup experience. As we’ll highlight later, the delivery and pickup process has become part of the customer experience — organizations need to make this as seamless as possible to build brand loyalty and trust.
While physical safety is ranked highest as a concern going into 2021, customers are also becoming more conscious of online threats as well. Each year more brands fall victim to online attacks and data breaches, and consumers are demanding their data be protected and respected. In the coming years, we can expect to see the expansion of existing legislation like GDPR and CCPA, as well as new laws and regulations coming into effect as consumers demand more protection. This also points us to another rising trend: 2021 and on, first-party data will be the only data marketers can use. That means that storing, retaining, and leveraging your own data set becomes that much more important for impactful marketing. P.S. Blueshift can help!
2. Consumers will expect an optimized online customer experience
During 2020 consumers turned to e-commerce companies to fill their needs as in-person shopping became undesirable or impossible. For the companies that can quickly pivot to focusing their energy on the online experience, there are huge gains to be had.
Ecommerce companies and larger retailers have already been investing in the digital experience, so the rest of retail has some catching up to do — but it’s not impossible to optimize your online experience for 2021. Learn how some of our partners have shifted their marketing and CX strategies to keep up with consumer expectations in Blueshift Engage: Being Adaptive and Embracing the Learning Mindset, now on-demand.
3. Excellent customer service will set brands apart from the crowd
As rules and regulations about what businesses can stay open fluctuate and consumers remain uncertain about what’s right for them, businesses will need to meet this uncertainty with compassion. Brands that adopt more customer-friendly policies and ramp up their customer service will be the brands that customers remain loyal to well past 2021.
For retailers, this might mean making the return process as contactless as possible and extending grace periods for making returns. And, as shoppers who may be inexperienced with navigating the world of online shopping get to browsing, a dedicated team of chat and call center staff to assist (and have the stored customer data to be immediately up to speed) them will prove to consumers that you’re willing to go the extra mile to get them the help they need.
4. A frictionless buying experience will be key for growth
As customers, we’ve gotten spoiled with top brands like Amazon, Target, and Walmart offering an insanely easy checkout experience. These pioneers now offer completed purchases in only a few clicks (with some as low as 2, max). And previously, this was very difficult to pull off because consumers were hesitant to store secure data like their credit card information. Unfortunately, any kind of friction, like tedious info filling, slow sites, and other time drains, can lead to abandoned carts.
In fact, a broken or invalid coupon code will cause 46% of shoppers to exit the buying process, and having to re-enter payment information turns off 30% of consumers. But, with recent advances in digital wallet technology and marketing, even smaller businesses can get customers to checkout in just as few clicks. Apple Pay is a great example — in 2020 pay popular retailers adopted the use of Apple Pay checkout on their mobile sites and apps. 2021 will no doubt see more adoption and other one-click players making their claim on the virtual-wallet market.
5. AI-powered personalization will become commonplace
As the demand for digital-first, quality experiences grows in 2021, legacy tech just won’t cut it. Older systems can, at most, use demographic and geographic data to personalize the website experience, but anything beyond that is nearly impossible. Luckily, AI is here to help overwhelmed marketers deliver meaningful personalization, at scale.
And although AI might seem far off as a reality for most businesses, it’s actually surprisingly commonplace. If businesses don’t currently use AI, most have its implementation on their roadmaps. Of those who have adopted AI into their martech stacks, 81% report exceeding revenue goals by over 30%.
6. Breaking down silos will be essential for success
As long as AI adoption is on the rise, the conversation around data will be an important one. AI and machine learning are only as good as the data that it’s being fed. Siloed, unorganized data will lead to sub-par performance of AI models and sub-par personalization.
The key to doing omnichannel personalization seamlessly, across every touchpoint, ties in breaking down the data silos that exist in most martech stacks today. In many companies, their customer information remains siloed within departments and channels (which is a leftover consequence from the days of siloed marketing departments). Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) are the most popular way for businesses to get all of this disparate information into one place, so it can be effectively used across channels, touchpoints, and departments. If you’d like to learn more about CDPs and what they have to offer join our webinar with the CDP Institute and Smart Panda Labs.
7. The delivery experience is now the customer experience
In the past, consumers separated the ordering experience from the delivery experience — any shipping delays were blamed more on carriers than companies. But now, as companies promise quicker delivery times and partner more closely with carriers, consumers see their package delivery experience as part of the overall buying experience.
This trend goes hand in hand with heightened expectations around customer service. While businesses cannot control how quickly a package is delivered, they can control how they will respond to customer service tickets. Businesses that invest in quality service teams will not only get better reviews and less dissatisfied customers — they’ll be setting the stage for lifetime loyalty.
8. A shift towards loyalty and longer buying cycles as consumer tighten their purse strings
In general, consumers are becoming more budget conscious and this means businesses will have to try even harder to win business. We anticipate that while acquisition will always be important to marketers, loyalty marketing will be the new normal for driving revenue.
This means longer consideration periods and buying cycles, a push for more personalized and thoughtful messaging, and excellent customer service. And, now that marketers have the tools (and data) to make that all possible, this trend should be one that marketers are delighted to see become a reality.