Five Customer Experience and Market Research Predictions for 2022

The Customer Experience (CX) discipline, including market research, is continuously changing, and being enhanced as more organizations understand how critical CX is to future growth. And even though CX and market research are key for business success, the programs are often in their early stages, even in modern offices.

2022 will be the year CX and market research explode.

Customer data is too important to ignore. And the pandemic altered our normal routine enough to fundamentally change buying behavior, for both B2B and B2C – maybe forever. Modern businesses fall behind sometimes, especially with this year’s uneven return to the workplace. And even a good program can improve. The predictions in this article will help your team act with foresight to build the best and most-responsive organization possible in 2022.

Prediction #1: Brand loyalty rebooted

COVID killed brand loyalty. Brand loyalty took a nosedive during the pandemic with 75% of consumers trying a new shopping behavior since COVID started. This includes trying new brands, new retailers, and new generics.

During the pandemic, consumers vented their need for novelty by ordering new toothpaste, a different cereal, or engaging in a fully new routine. When consumers couldn’t browse grocery store aisles, getting new products delivered scratched the itch for something outside the routine.

But the great brand realignment isn’t over. McKinsey reports that consumers intend to continue these new habits after pandemic restrictions ease. Eighty percent of consumers intend to continue use of private labels and almost as many intend to continue using new brands (73%) and new retailers (79%).

Why loyalty matters

Smart marketers and researchers know that a 5% increase in customer retention can increase company revenue by 25-95%. In short, it can be easier and more profitable to keep the customers you have than attract net-new customers. Loyalty matters because regular customers tend to be your best customers.

If consumers tried new or private labels during the pandemic, it should then come as no surprise that Forrester reports that loyalty and retention marketing budgets increased by 30% in 2021. CMOs are attempting to shore up loyalty by putting the customer at the center of everything they do. Expect to see customer experience, marketing, and market research grow ever closer in 2022.

Why consumers switch

The pandemic forced consumers to change behavior, but that isn’t the full story around consumers’ lack of loyalty. It’s simply easier these days to produce products, purchase advertising, and find a receptive audience. This speed to market is part of the reason there are so many small direct-to-consumer brands appearing recently.

How to earn wandering consumers back

Some experts encourage a return to marketing and research basics to improve brand-customer relationships. At Alchemer, we recommend making that brand-customer relationship your highest goal. Growing relationships takes effort, but we’ve found that our best relationships typically lead to our best growth opportunities.

So, we put customers and their feedback at the center of our work. Our recommendation to business and research leaders is to become customer-obsessed in 2022. It’s a huge task to orient away from a product-first or company-first mentality. But shifting to a customer-first mentality makes all the difference.

Prediction #2: Surveys are just the start

Customer experience programs are far more than surveys. Prepare for CX and research to get more complex in 2022. Surveys will always play a part in customer experience and market research. Surveys allow researchers to benchmark performance, capture post-purchase feedback, and develop a data cache with periodic surveys.

In 2022, CX programs will grow far more comprehensive in scope. Executives have been trying (and often failing) to integrate customer feedback in a meaningful and profitable way – in a way that allows for quick customer interaction and issue resolution, not just data collection. That real-time relationship building has been difficult or impossible in the past, but no longer. Technical advances will finally allow CX managers and market researchers to contribute meaningfully to relationships in real-time.

No playing around

CX leaders need surveys to collect data, but then that data must feed into other systems, triggering automated workflows and providing solutions quickly.

In fact, McKinsey declares that “survey-based systems can no longer meet the demands of today’s companies“, because they are:

  • Limited. Only 13% of CX leaders express full confidence that their measurement system provides a representative view of their customer base.
  • Ambiguous. Only 16% of CX leaders think that surveys allow them to address the root causes of performance.
  • Unfocused. Only 4% of CX leaders believe their CX measurement system enables them to calculate a decision’s return on investment (ROI).

In fact, our prediction for 2022 is that customer data becomes one important piece of your larger CX and research program – a broader view empowered by connected data sets.

Prediction #3: From data collection to data action

Many CX and market research teams lack the data integration of their sales and marketing counterparts.

Sales departments tend to operate using a customer relationship management (CRM) tool like Salesforce (SFDC) and, by 2022, have likely already integrated with other data sets like Jira for product or Salesloft for cadences. Likewise, marketing tends to run the marketing automation platform with data that syncs not only to Salesforce but other publishing or analytics tools.

Integrated data is how sales and marketing get done. Less so for CX.

In 2022, expect the CX and market research functions to evolve in many organizations. CX has collected numerous potential data sets just waiting to be leveraged:

  • Internal customer behaviors, transactions, and profiles
  • Third-party data on customer attitudes, purchase preferences and digital actions
  • Social media activity
  • IoT data collected in-store or on-location regarding customer health, usage, and sentiment
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS) or Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)

We predict that this next year will see CX departments and market researchers evolve from data consumers to data contributors, sharing critical customer interactions throughout their journey.

Learning how to share

Customer data needs to flow to frontline employees and tools, like a company CRM, via an application programming interface (API). The API can serve as a catalyst for automated actions based on metrics like lead score.

In a recent Forrester Consulting Thought Leadership Paper, commissioned by Alchemer, “Smoke And Mirrors: Why Customer Experience Programs Miss Their Mark“, only 29% of CX respondents say they can meaningfully act on the data they collect and only 17% say that feedback is communicated to the appropriate internal teams to act on it.

Companies have invested heavily in creating customer programs that do a pretty good job of listening and analyzing feedback, but are terrible at responding to the input from their customers.

Collecting and seeing data is one step. But acting on data is a trend Alchemer expects to see much more in 2022, a key differentiating feature for market research teams.

Prediction #4: Automation embraced by employees

Automation provokes anxiety in many people including market researchers. PwC reports that 60% of people are worried about automation putting many jobs at risk.

In 2022, Alchemer predicts a shift in the way we view automation. We believe this coming year will herald a new relationship with automation; an acceptance of our human foibles and the automation we will now call upon to continue our evolution.

Acceptance of automation should not come as a surprise. We know brands are becoming more transparent about data collection and market research. We know that consumers care less about businesses collecting particular pieces of information, like email addresses. And we know we cannot stop the onset of better software, better AI and ML, better…everything.

Fear of automation is overstated

In the United States, 52% of respondents received automation training within the past year and 94% credit the training with an improved job performance. Almost all respondents claim that automation makes them better at their job.

But acceptance of automation doesn’t end at training. When considering future careers, 63% of workers see automation skills as critical to their career growth.

So, let’s face it: We are cautiously optimistic about the future of technology. The same PwC study reveals that 64% of respondents say technology presents more opportunities than risks (only 9% disagree).

Increasing human potential

So, why are workers so bullish on automation these days? An early indicator could be exactly the type of work being automated – humans may be delighted that their repetitive, mundane work can be automated freeing more time for strategy and analysis.

A second indicator appears to be a renewed focus on other skills. With the introduction of AI, executives are more likely to look at processes and roles, and to consider different modes of working. Many business leaders are incorporating training on uniquely human skills: 59 percent of AI practitioners reported that their organizations are focusing on “process skills, like active listening and critical thinking”.

We may already be seeing this type of training pay off. People learned a lot of new skills during the COVID pandemic. And not just how to bake sour-dough bread. Four in five workers learned new skills from home during the pandemic (82%) and 72% report feeling more confident in their ability to do their job. While many experienced The Great Recession or Realignment, those of us reporting to work are feeling better about it than the recent past.

In 2022, we finally embrace automation.

Prediction #5: B2B more like B2C

Many of us spent a good portion of the pandemic making purchases from our phones, downloading media onto our devices, and playing games online with family members. We were living B2C lives where purchases were only a click away.

Now, as workers return or plan to return to work, we are back to living B2B lives during part of the day. We’re required to speak with Sales teams to get information. We access wonky vendor portals or employee intranets to find solutions.

When will a software company homepage give us the same warm and fuzzy feelings as Netflix?

The pandemic changed business relationships forever

The bar has been raised for customer experience and market research teams and how they develop relationships with consumers.

As workers shifted to remote work, they found a lot to love. Self-serve options, common in B2C e-commerce, have grown for business buyers too. Top-of-funnel activities like identifying and evaluating new suppliers offer more self-service options – up in a new McKinsey study from 22% of respondents in August 2020 to 34% in February 2021.

We don’t hate human interaction; we just want to complete our work. McKinsey shows that two-thirds of buyers prefer remote human interactions or digital self-service. A Forrester study found that 59% of B2B buyers and sellers prefer not to interact with a sales rep and 74% prefer buying directly from a website. The message: Let us do it ourselves.

What do B2B consumers want?

B2B consumers want everything that B2C consumers have – easy service, quick product purchase, digital content, and responsive support. Forrester Principal Analyst Kathy Contreras says, “[t]he future B2B buyer will expect buying experiences to be increasingly open, connected, intuitive, and immediate“.

B2B buyers want access to information – access that is possible through ubiquitous digital channels, available anywhere, on any device. With more people confined to their homes this past year and more reliant than ever on digital tools, customer expectations for a frictionless experience have risen.

“Personalization” is the term most often tossed around when discussing tactics for customer focus. But we predict a bigger focus than just adding someone’s first name to their email introductions.

This personalization is different. This personalization is about the whole experience – the content, the product, the offer, the look, and feel. This personalization starts to sound a lot like B2C to CEO Gal Oron:

“Performing analytics on customers’ product content interactions can help businesses better understand what each customer needs and tailor their experiences – from the content they’re served to the offers and promotions they receive – in a way that feels just as customized and relevant as their video streaming feeds.”

Personalization is about providing answers for the consumer. If these experiences are as profitable as they seem – Epsilon says 80% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase when offered a personalized experience – then expect to see a lot more personalization in B2B sales during 2022.

We predict personalized, relevant experiences for B2B buyers on digital channels to greatly increase as the lines between B2B and B2C continue to blur. It may not be Netflix, but perhaps it can come close.

A version of the preceding article was originally published via a series of posts on the Alchemer blog: CX Prediction 2022.1 – Brand Loyalty Rebooted; CX Prediction 2022.2 – Surveys Are Just the Start; CX Prediction 2022.3 – From Data Collection to Data Action; CX Prediction 2022.4 – Automation Embraced by Employees; and CX Prediction 2022.5 – B2B Becomes More like B2C.

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