We're into week two of 2022, but I wanted to take a moment to look at where we our focus will (or should) in customer experience in the year ahead, as well as assess how I did with my CX predictions for 2021 (and if you’re scoring at home, be kind).

Accessibility Efforts Open Up 

At the start of 2021, I predicted accessibility and personalization would see a lot of growth. Let’s look at each of these in more detail.

Accessibility and inclusivity have undoubtedly come a long way in the past couple of years. We’ve gone from being reactive and conducting accessibility audits only if necessary, to a culture where awareness is promoted, product design occurs with accessibility in mind, and developers write code with accessibility built-in. Accessibility design reviews, the creation of design systems with an accessibility-first mindset, and in-sprint accessibility testing help solidify this culture. A  nationwide survey in the spring of 2021 run by my firm, Applause, found three out of four respondents indicating that digital accessibility was a priority for their company.

Our view on inclusivity has broadened as well. Previously, the screen reader was often the only assistive technology under consideration. More and more, I see interest in feedback from people who use other assistive technologies, and with conditions other than blindness, including people with low vision, motor, cognitive or hearing impairments.

Another encouraging aspect I’ve noticed more this year is we are not just thinking about assistive technology and disabilities but looking at inclusivity in a broader context, e.g. older adults as a population, people with varied cultural backgrounds, beliefs, etc.

We’ve got a ways to go, for sure. As Annie Jean-Baptiste wrote in "Building for Everyone": “It’s not enough to want to be inclusive. We must think and act with intent and deliberation.” We are seeing more companies committing to just that. As far as predictions go, I’ll check this one off.

Related Article: Web3 Publishes Working Draft of New Accessibility Guidelines

We're Still Struggling With Basic Personalization 

Next up, personalization. I had proposed personalization will “reach a new standard” because, “With recent advances in artificial intelligence, among other technologies, we will take a leap toward true personalization, focused on the individual, and working in real-time.”

I don’t believe we’ve made it this far yet. In November I put out a call to go back to basics with personalization. We’re seeing some strides towards better personalized experiences, and advances in AI have the potential to propel personalization in the right direction. But more often than not, we’re still struggling with what users may perceive as basic personalization.

In short, more work needs to be done. It can be difficult to get personalization right and make it effective. But it is essential and brands need to keep their eye on the prize. According to Forbes, personalization can account for as much as a 50% reduction in acquisition costs.

Learning Opportunities

Related Article: When Will Marketers Master Personalization?

For 2022, Let's Just Focus on Amazing Customer Experiences

What about 2022? I expect a continued focus on accessibility and inclusivity, security, personalization and AI-driven features such as AR, VR and voice.

But rather than highlighting specific topics or features, I see us all taking a more holistic view in 2022. More and more brands are now aware that they are competing based on the user experience of their products, and the overall experience the customer has with their brand.

So in addition to the individual factors above, the key will be to focus on a multi-channel, end-to-end superb and frictionless (as much as possible) user experience. 

How can brands ensure a superb experience?

In addition to a solid approach to design and implementation, planning and testing are crucial activities. The planning phase should not be an afterthought. Planning is when you evaluate what users need and want throughout their journey and interactions with your brand, when you establish how you measure success and what you need for a successful execution. A solid plan will keep all parties on the same page and will keep costs down. Testing digital products throughout development, and a focus on gathering user feedback across the entire customer journey is equally critical to ensure consistent success. 

This holistic approach to the customer experience is the next step in building better customer experiences. And those who commit will win.

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