contactless payment
PHOTO: naipo.de

2020 was a meteor. With the onset of COVID-19, lives around the globe changed forever.

For businesses, it made digital transformation a reality. For years, we’ve seen brands adjust to this reality, some rapidly, others dragged along kicking and screaming. But the pandemic elevated digital as the first and most critical touchpoint businesses had with their end users. With sales teams grounded, offices closed and workers remote, companies had no choice but to double down on digital transformation, both for external and internal audiences.

Predicting what will happen in 2021 seems to be a fool’s errand given that the pandemic is still raging — but I’m going to give it a shot.

Trend 1: Digital Accessibility Fines and Lawsuits Will Rise Under Renewed Scrutiny

With a new administration came a heightened — and necessary — focus on accessibility for all. In The Biden Plan for Full Participation and Equality for People with Disabilities, President Biden stated that his administration would “aggressively enforce existing civil rights laws for people with disabilities, including the Americans with Disabilities Act.” The plan stated that the administration would “push for strong ADA compliance” and “continue to advocate for stronger ADA enforcement.” It’s a promise we’ve already seen some movement on with the updated White House website.

The focus on ADA reinforces the need for development teams to incorporate digital accessibility. Companies must practice inclusive design with vigor and build accessible experiences from the outset, at both a product and design level. In practicality, this means implementing testing to ensure digital experiences meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Testing should include real-world usability testing with participants with disabilities, as well as design reviews and audits. This approach allows organizations to uncover digital accessibility defects that would otherwise go unnoticed.

Testing also ensures conformance, which is especially important as pressure to deliver accessible digital experiences intensifies under the new administration.

Related Article: We Need Accessibility and Inclusive Design More Than Ever

Trend 2: Code-less Automation Becomes a Mainstay for Development Teams

Seventy three percent of US consumers say that customer experience is a very important factor in their purchasing decision, so much so that even if they love a company or product, 59% will still walk away after several bad experiences and 17% will walk away after just one bad experience, according to PWC. Customers demand a flawless digital experience on every platform they use today, and the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that organizations can provide them both remotely and quickly.

Because of this, I anticipate that code-less automation will only continue to grow in importance for development teams. The pace of change has never been faster. No longer can brands get away by choosing quality or speed — it has to be both. Companies have to be able to deliver digital experiences that are functionally sound, intuitive and easy to use. Not only that, but new releases have to be delivered seamlessly and quickly.

Code-less automation addresses this challenge by helping businesses get started on their path to full-fledged automation, without incurring the high costs of hiring workers that are dedicated to writing all automation scripts. Instead, code-less automation requires no automation expertise, and can be completed by developers or QA pros — or really anyone with access to the internet — making it ideal for less complex test cases. It also lowers the barrier to entry for automation and helps brands get started quicker and with less overhead. Code-less automation will make shift-left testing more attainable for all brands and build collaboration between development and QA teams.

Related Article: How No-Code and Low-Code Can Help Budget-Strapped Marketing Departments

Trend 3: Contactless Customer Journeys Remain a Priority

While many restaurants and retailers struggled during the pandemic, others quickly shifted to provide more flexible options. Customers embraced buy-online, pickup in-store, as well as curbside and expanded delivery options from their favorite shopping and dining destinations. As lockdowns loosen and people cautiously resume their routines, companies in a variety of industries, including restaurants, retailers, transportation, travel and hospitality, should expect customers to continue to demand low-contact and touchless interactions.

As companies roll out new experiences like keyless hotel entry or touchless payments, they should consider the entire process from the customer’s perspective to ensure satisfaction. These tools must do more than just work properly; they need to function smoothly, easily and intuitively to keep customers coming back.

Related Article: What Does Customer Experience in the Hotel Industry Look Like Today?

Trend 4: Self-Service Chatbots Take Off

Automation in self-service environments through use of chatbots has made significant advances over the last several years, but COVID-19 raised the stakes. As our health system has been under siege, reliance on digital channels has become a necessity rather than a nice-to-have.

With patients facing new daily anxieties over the pandemic and other health issues that may have previously prompted a trip to the doctor, chatbots have emerged as a solution to provide a first screening and triage of symptoms, and to answer questions about the coronavirus, such as the latest news from the government, tips to prevent COVID-19 infections and common symptoms.

Similarly, the strain on call centers during the pandemic has resulted in higher user adoption of chatbots to get answers to simple questions 24/7 and without the constraints of long wait times.

2020 was a lesson in resilience, and that couldn’t be truer than in the business world where so many companies made great strides to adapt to a digital-first world. But, let’s be clear: as we get a handle on COVID-19 and customers begin to move forward, we can’t put the genie back in the bottle. Those of you increasing investment in digital — good for you. Those of you who aren’t, there is still time, but make no mistake: your customers have become accustomed to a new way of life and they will be looking to you to continue to expand your digital footprint.