2017 – Trends, business cases and strategic steps

Customer expectations are higher than ever before: In the course of purchase decisions, the experience factor is becoming more important than the price or specific product characteristics (Customer 2020, Walker). Therefore, we are convinced that in 2017, in order to increase commitment to their brand, companies will have to take a closer look at how they inspire their customers in the digital world.

In this context, there are specific trends that will shape the digital year 2017 and change the way companies deal with their customers. We have identified four topics that companies need to address in 2017 and derived from them concrete strategic steps that need to be taken:

  • Personalization: With IQ to the EQ
  • Always on: Consistent customer experience across the channels
  • IoT & Robotics: Artificial Intelligence enriches customer service
  • Augmented and Virtual Reality: Worlds of experience to immerse yourself in

Personalization: With IQ to the EQ

In the age of information overload, customers seek relevance and experience. The goal in 2017 will be to bring the existing, often static websites to life. A company and product vision must be replaced by a personal and emotional experience, which covers the specific needs of the customer. Customers behave differently and are driven by different factors and decision-making mechanisms. Companies must address these differences in order to establish a long-term relationship with the customer. With skillful algorithms, behavioral patterns can be detected and marketing activities can be automated (marketing automation) in order to achieve conversions of various kinds. Through targeted collection of the so-called “micro data” about customer behavior throughout his entire life cycle, visiting strangers turn into “familiar faces” that can be addressed personally (nurturing). Instruments to be used on this path are a content strategy that defines the relevant content individually and in relation to the situation, as well as flexible, cross-channel tools that allow dynamic personalization.

Business case: Through the personalization and emotionalization of the customer experience, both the direct conversion rate and the long-term customer loyalty increase. Barriers that prevent people from aborting transactions and switching brands become stronger because the customer feels understood and taken seriously. Through automation, companies achieve efficiency and a shorter time-to-market of their marketing activities.

Maturity of the topic: The topic of personalization is mature. Companies that do not deal intensively with this in 2017 will face competitive disadvantages.

Strategic steps in 2017:

  • Define the target image and motivational drivers with regard to personalization
  • Develop specific fields of application for the rule-based dynamization of content, involving iterative implementation, review and optimization
  • Create a concept of and initiate cross-channel nurturing over the entire customer lifecycle by means of marketing automation

Challenges: Personalization is a complex and thus a resource-intensive task. In addition to the considerable effort required to create content, companies must invest in smart and, as far as possible, flexible tools that can be integrated into the system landscape, in order to use the content in a user-friendly manner, in real time and across the channels.

Always on: Consistent customer experience across the channels

In their decision-making, customers choose the right point of contact for their individual and situational needs. There are different usage patterns of sales channels and information sources on the journey from inspiration, evaluation, purchase to after-sales. It is referred to as the so-called channel hopping. The customer alternates between different channels and sometimes uses channels even in parallel: some customers are looking at offers in the store, at the same time inform themselves directly via a mobile device about possible alternatives before ordering the product at home in the online shop. Other customers can be inspired and informed on the Internet, but then prefer a stationary point of sales (POS) for the actual purchase. Consumers can no longer be categorized as pure online or offline shoppers. The choice of information and purchasing channel depends on the situation and the product. The multi-option consumer uses the contact point in each case where he can best meet his needs in the respective purchase situation and phase. Companies need to respond to this need with an omni-channel infrastructure that will meet customers where they are. Cross-Device Analytics is gaining importance in this context.

Business case: A context-oriented approach always includes the device that the customer currently uses as well. Thanks to omni-channel, an integrated and consistent customer experience, characterized by added value, service quality and convenience, can be achieved. This increases conversion rates and companies can unlock new target groups and new revenue potentials.

Maturity of the topic: A better part of the companies have recognized the potential of omni-channel and support the interaction with their customers through different channels. However, not all the core processes of the companies have been made available across all contact points, in many places the continuity of end-to-end processes is not guaranteed.

Strategic steps in 2017:

  • Analyze the customer journey
  • Reflect on own channel infrastructure
  • Validate customer needs in different phases of the customer journey, derive specific added value

Challenges: The main thing is not to map everything on all channels and not to position the distribution channels side by side or against each other. Instead, channels and their specific characteristics should be optimally exploited and their interactions should be systematically orchestrated.

IoT & Robotics: Artificial intelligence enriches customer service

The Internet of Things and robotics are revolutionizing customer service. Smart objects and chat bots automate communication between companies, products and customers. They enable customers to recognize and express their needs. They allow for prompt, contextual, cross-channel communication with a company and facilitate completely new forms of self-service.

Business Case: Thanks to IoT and robotics, a company is directly and quickly accessible to the customer according to the motto “easy to do business with” and thus it can set itself apart. By automating simple repetitive queries, the company can also focus on more complex tasks in the service area.

Maturity of the topic: The subject of the Internet of Things and robotics is still at the experimental stage.

Strategic steps in 2017:

  • Analyze customer service with regard to strategic opportunities that can be developed using the IoT and robotics
  • Identify added values that can be created for the customer
  • Experiment and learn within a clearly defined area

Challenges: The quantum leaps in the field of artificial intelligence over the last three years have not yet been translated into application-oriented enterprise solutions.

Augmented and Virtual Reality: Worlds of experience to immerse yourself in

Augmented and Virtual Reality applications have the potential to deeply change the customer experience. Augmented Reality adds digital information to the real world. It supports customer decision-making processes such as the selection of a suitable sofa for the living room. Thanks to Virtual Reality applications, a user is fully immersed in the sounds and sights of a virtual reality and experiences the situation as if it were real. By introducing devices such as Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Samsung Gear and Google Cardboard, Virtual Reality is making itself ready for the mass market.

Business Case: Virtual reality applications allow for a location-independent customer experience with new insights, they make it possible to dive into another world. This stirs emotions and thus increases conversion. Augmented Reality transfers digital products / services directly into the customer’s world. This can increase the conversion rate and reduce bad buys.

Maturity of the topic: The topics are still at an experimental stage. However, by playing with them early enough, a company can demonstrate its innovative power.

Strategic steps in 2017:

  • Monitor further development of the topics
  • Carry out dedicated tests in a clearly defined area to gain experience

Challenges: The critical mass of the distribution of specific Augmented and Virtual Reality utilities has not been achieved yet. There are still no applications with a proven business case in this dynamic and complex environment.

The Values Are the Experience

A short report about Kim Goodwin’s presentation during the Frontend Conference 2017 in Zurich.
I, a UX-designer myself, really enjoyed Kim Goodwin’s speech. Whenever we apply user research methods or model personas, we often fall back on her bestselling book «Designing for the Digital Age».

Always put yourself in the position of your users

In this article, I refer to Sarah Semark’s presentation at the Frontend Conference on 1 September 2017 under the theme: «Empathy for Introverts».

This keynote title really appealed to me – not so much because I consider myself to be a very introverted person but rather because I find it very important to be an emphatic person in my job as designer.