Customer experience is king these days, so what are the kind’s trends for 2013? A new report from Forrester Research says that customers will increasingly expect experiences to adapt to the context, companies will move closer to unified experiences across devices, and mobile is becoming people’s “remote control.”
In "Digital Customer Experience Trends to Watch, 2013", Forrester notes that website designs are increasingly responsive to the device a user chooses, such as The Boston Globe’s site that offers the same content for different form factors. In 2013, the report said, sites will go beyond simply tailoring the same content to different display characteristics.
Context Is Key
Instead, Forrester predicts sites will also become more adaptive to the common use cases for a given device. It gives the example of Kiwibank in New Zealand, which provides a mobile-suited login, branch finder and customer service number when users interact through a smartphone browser.
But the key word for customer experience this year may be context. The report notes that experiences with the most impact are those that meet a customer’s needs, are personally relevant and deliver what is needed at that time.
This means targeted content using apps customized by location information to provide related services or offers, and, Forrester predicts, using individual customer history, predictive analytics from aggregate data, and variables such as time and location to deliver experiences that deliver what a user needs next — before the user knows. In one straightforward example, restaurant recommender Hoppit suggests more upscale possibilities after a user has indicated a greater interest in eating establishments by choosing its newsletter.
The report also expects content and experiences to be synched between devices in new ways. It points out the trend of syncing information across devices, the home services trend where appliances can be controlled through mobile apps, and multi-user games such as a soccer-related one from Heineken that delivers commentary in coordination with local broadcast times of soccer matches.
2012 was the year when the touch interface, once considered an exotic form of interaction, went beyond smartphones and tablets and, largely through the introduction of Windows 8, is now part of mainstream computing. Forrester expects the proliferation of design solutions that attempt to provide user interfaces for both touch and mouse/keyboard interaction.
With the sea of data continuing to grow, and with companies and consumers regularly interacting with big data analytics in order to make intelligent business decisions or spot trends, the report sees information visualization — or “infovis” — as going mainstream. Increasingly, Forrester said, visual interfaces will be used more frequently to quickly explain the data and provide the means for users to intuitively drill down for more details.
With so many changes and opportunities, where should a company begin? Forrester recommends focusing on “key customer journeys” that support the most critical business needs, such as the 18- to 24-month renewal point for a two-year wireless service contract or the first 30 days after opening an investment account. These pivotal moments of decision can then be addressed in the customer experience planning by companies, as customers are encouraged, and given easy-to-do options, to move forward with their choices.
Time for Replacement?
As CRM and customer service software vendors are recommending, Forrester also suggests that companies “move beyond device-specific strategies” by leveraging user data regardless of which device or context a customer is using. This “omni-channel” approach is customer-centric, and supports the growing assumption by customers that their experience and their customer history will be consistent across all the channels it uses to interact with a company.
The report also emphasizes what supply chain vendors have begun to push — that, in the age of digital, brick-and-mortar stores can enhance their usefulness by becoming integrated with their online selves, by becoming instantly aware of their inventory across the entire company, and by offering in-store services that cannot be matched virtually. The report describes this as leveraging “inherent device strengths for smart handoffs” that help to “blend the physical and digital aspects of the overall customer experience.”
As experiences, devices and information access continue to evolve, Forrester says to expect such major changes in organization and interaction models as data analytics professionals teaming up more frequently with visual designers, and mobile emerging as the “experience unifer” and “remote control for people’s lives.” Mobile’s central status will lead to new customer experiences from newly connected products, the research firm predicts, such as a heart stent in your chest letting your smartphone know it’s time for a replacement.
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