The 6 Customer Experience Trends that Defined 2018

Lauren Burgess
Written by Lauren Burgess
January 09, 2019

Last year saw digital customer experience take its rightful place as one of the most important aspects of running a business today.

It was in 2018 that Gartner discovered the majority of people consider customer experience even more important than price! 

It’s no surprise that so many exciting digital experience trends emerged and became popular talking points for businesses and the media alike in 2018.

Here’s a look back at the six CX trends that defined the last 12 months: 

1. Digital transformation: Everyone’s doing it

Digital transformation has been something of a buzzword for the last couple of years, but you’d be sorely mistaken if you didn’t take it very seriously as a result.  

What digital transformation really means is a fundamental cultural shift within a business that allows it to fully integrate digital technology across every area. It completely changes how the business operates and how value is delivered to customers.  

“Digital transformation is a fundamental cultural shift within a business that allows it to fully integrate digital technology across every area.”

While there are a variety of reasons why a business may choose to undergo a digital transformation, it is quite often a matter of necessity. Businesses that fail to evolve inevitably fossilize and eventually disappear.  

IDC Research predicts that “By the end of 2019, digital transformation (DX) spending will reach $1.7 trillion worldwide, a 42 percent increase from 2017.” 

Digital transformation is key for understanding and improving customer experience, so it’s clear to see why they’re intrinsically linked.

2. New ways of measuring customer experience

How would you rate the service today? Did you find everything you were looking for? Would you recommend us to a friend?  

There’s a good chance you’ve been asked these sort of questions dozens of times over the years after purchasing a product. For a long time, a customer’s experience could only be “accurately” judged with surveys. Unfortunately, while surveys can provide rich, contextual information for businesses, they have some significant limitations 

2018 saw the introduction of Decibel’s Digital Experience Score (DXS®), the world’s first all-encompassing metric for objectively measuring customer experience across digital properties. It uses machine learning to understand and quantify hundreds of digital interactions and automatically calculates an experience score for every visit to your website or app. 

Dedicated experience metrics like DXS® are allowing businesses an unprecedented view of CX and are providing clear guidance for essential improvements.

3. AI got very chatty

In a 2018 study by Customer Think, 94% of respondents suggested that “advanced technology” like AI is already a huge factor in “helping their organization to overcome complex CX challenges.”  

While chatbots aren’t exactly brand new, this year saw them reach new levels of sophistication thanks to a fresh wave of investment. (Check out some of the best examples from the year right here.) 

Customer interaction with chatbots is steadily increasing, with 15% of people having used one in the past 12 months. Whilst this is significantly lower than the number using traditional methods like calls and emails to contact a business, there are a host of specific benefits. 

Primarily, people turn to chatbots because they usually provide service 24 hours a day and responses are near enough instant. 

As chatbots become more intelligent and personable, it will become increasingly difficult to tell the difference between AI and a human.

4. An emphasis on sincere and targeted personalized content

“Content is king!” professed every marketing blog from the last ten years. Well, while that’s still largely true, we’ve come on in leaps and bounds from the ‘spray-and-pray’ approach that so many businesses once had to content. We’re now looking at personalized content that speaks to specific customers on specific journeys.  

According to research by Epsilon, 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company if it offers a personalized experience. When a customer feels like a company cares about them on an individual level, they feel more emotionally invested and more loyal to that business. 

“80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company if it offers a personalized experience”

In 2018, we saw a huge rise in the number of enterprises offering experiences that were personalized to their unique needs.  

Spotify is a great example of a company using masses of data to provide personalized experiences for its customers. Not only do they curate multiple playlists each week based on a user’s listening habits, they also provide end-of-year statistics on their listening over the last 12 months. By providing so much value through the content they’re delivering, they completely avoid the “creepy” factor that so many consumers associate with personalization. 

They’ve even gotten away with using personal data in their advertising. Over the festive period in 2018, they used the names of peoples’ playlists in both online and real-world adverts.

5. Innovative tech ushers in new experiences

2018 was a year of embracing the sort of innovative technology that leads to truly unique experiences. We saw driverless cars delivering pizza, drones leaving packages on doorsteps and augmented reality creating visually dynamic ecommerce and gaming experiences. 

In the final few days of 2018, streaming platform Netflix released “Bandersnatch,” a choose-your-own-adventure-style film. It was hailed as a ground-breaking, interactive viewing experience and will likely lead to imitations and improvements on the concept in the near future.  

“The use of innovative technology in CX represents a shift in consumer needs and expectations”

These sorts of customer experiences are currently far from mainstream, but they hit headlines in 2018 and represent a shift in consumer needs and expectations.  

The emphasis is on technology that increases convenience and makes people feel more involved and engaged with brands.

6. The rise and rise of the CXO (et al)

Who is responsible for customer experience? For much too long, we’ve seen the ownership of a business’s customer experience fall to the marketing department. Even when it isn’t left solely to marketing, CX has traditionally been thought of as an extension of a customer-facing department’s typical duties. 

Real Business lists the CXO’s five main objectives as:

1. Promote the culture of customers orientation internally

2. Develop knowledge and understanding of customers

3. Implement targeted campaigns to increase customer loyalty, retention and satisfaction

4. Promote the customer perspective and make sure it is considered for all topics and projects of the organization

5. Measure all the factors that form the customer experience through various KPIs

In 2018, we saw a number of enterprises around the world finally recognize the need for a dedicated manager or even entire team of people committed to assessing and improving customer experiences across the board.

The true answer to the question posed here is, “everyone” but having a dedicated Chief Experience Officer (CXO) or similar can be the driving force you need to keep everyone aligned and focused on building a customer-centric business. Businesses sincerely woke up to this idea in 2018.

Here’s to the next one

A huge amount of progress was made in 2018, and we’re thrilled to have been a part of so many exciting developments in the customer experience space. Want to read some of our thoughts about what might be to come in 2019? Check out our predictions for ecommerce CX.

Topics: Customer Experience, Digital Transformation, DXS, Marketing, Personalization
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