Lessons of 2020

By Team Session AI on March 6, 2020

Meeting Customer Expectations in an Evolving & Digital Landscape

As 2020 comes to a close, ZineOne is looking back on this eventful year—and the lessons learned from it. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated both customers’ and companies’ digital adoption, with those in the retail, banking, hospitality, and foodservice spaces recognizing the power data and personalization offer in reaching and engaging customers no matter where they are. 

From personalized 1:1 experiences, contactless customer fulfillment methods, and technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), this year was busy with developing efforts to better connect with customers. Let’s take a look at some lessons we’ve learned along the way. 

Lesson 1: Digital Adoption is Happening Faster Than Ever

Digital adoption grew by leaps and bounds in 2020. According to a McKinsey global survey of executives, in just a few months’ time, COVID-19 sparked years of change in the way all organizations do business. In fact, digitization in areas like customer service, the supply chain, and internal operations is forecasted to have accelerated by three to four years, and the share of digital or digitally enabled products offered by companies accelerated by seven years. 

Part of this shift stemmed from a necessity to continue sales during temporary in-person closures. Many retailers leveraged digital offers for customers, encouraging them to order online through the website or app and have items delivered directly to them. For example, in the grocery sector, online grocery sales went from $34.54 billion in 2019 to $106 billion in 2020—a 207% increase.

Lesson 2: Blending Online & In-Person Experiences is Important

Delivering a satisfying customer experience is critical to building long-lasting customer loyalty. According to PwC, 79% of consumers rate customer experience as one of the most important components of the purchasing decision, after quality and price. 

It’s essential to reach customers no matter where they are located today with personalized, 1:1 experiences. Technology such as augmented reality (AR) allows companies to deliver some of the benefits historically reserved for in-person shopping. However, brick and mortar locations still play a critical role for customers. In a Harvard Business Review study, it was found that omnichannel shoppers spent more money with each transaction compared to customers who shop either exclusively online or in-store. Rather than “showrooming” (where customers conduct research in person but make purchases online), omnichannel customers today are increasingly “webrooming” (researching products online before making a final purchase in-store).

Lesson 3: New Methods of Customer Fulfillment are Essential

Today’s customers want options and experiences that are tailored to them. Retailers must offer various ways to deliver the goods that consumers have become accustomed to, such as “buy online, pick up in-store” (BOPIS), next day delivery, self-service kiosks, and contactless payments. 

BOPIS, in fact, grew more than 500% during 2020. Customers appreciate the convenience of the online shopping experience with the added benefit of driving to the store and immediately picking up their purchase. Curbside pickup has also increased significantly—85% percent of customers have increased their curbside pickup orders, and 79% say contactless store pickup experiences are very important to them. Especially for businesses operating in 2020, the New York Times notes that curbside pickup allowed big-box retailers to keep associates working and physical locations open by turning them into fulfillment centers.

Lesson 4: Safety is Paramount in Every Industry—and Some More than Others

COVID-19 illuminated the need for health and safety during the shopping experience. In every sector, customers are looking for contactless and quick service. In the hospitality industry, many hoteliers learned how important it became to assure customers that their safety standards were high and the guest experience was meaningful.

According to Metova’s fall 2020 hospitality survey, 90% of respondents say it’s very or extremely important that the hotel they stay at enforces COVID-19 safety policies, and nearly 90% prefer that the hotel has a mobile app with capabilities that allow them to avoid interacting in-person. Hotels are now offering many contactless services, like remote check-in and check-outs, chatbots to assist customers, robotics for guest services, and turning mobile devices into TV remotes and room keys. Even when society returns to a more normal mode of operation, more guests are likely to continue to seek out the digital solutions they first utilized in 2020 as added features of convenience that contribute to their overall experience.

Lesson 5: AI and ML Are Playing an Even Larger Role 

While the use of AI and ML has grown in recent years, the events of 2020 accelerated the use of intelligent technologies to engage customers. The global AI market in retail is expected to grow at a CAGR of 34.4% from 2020 to reach $19.9 billion by 2027.

Industries from retail to banking to quick service restaurants use AI and ML to deliver personalized service to customers who expect more customization and intuitiveness than ever. Intelligent technology not only is transforming the customer experience but also increasing revenue, with a recent study showing that companies that utilize advanced digital technologies and proprietary data for customers to create personalized experiences are recording revenue increases that are two to three times faster than companies that do not.

2020 Lessons Learned

While COVID-19 affected nearly every area of the customer experience in 2020, many organizations were able to grow and develop their customer engagement efforts to be stronger than ever. Technologies like AI and ML, personalization and customization, touchless and contactless experiences, and a blend of digital and physical methods are helping companies gain—and keep—loyal customers throughout uncertain times.

ZineOne enables businesses to understand their customers better and respond in-the-moment with relevant 1:1 engagements. Contact ZineOne today to discover how our Intelligent Customer Engagement (ICE) platform can help you optimize the customer experience.

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