Thursday, December 12, 2019

Three Things To Know About 2020 Customer Experience Trends

Year-end articles and blog posts about hot trends are popular. People enjoy reading speculative predictions, and writers are happy to collect the clicks earned by lofty and alarming statements about the pace and breadth of change. Since both writers and readers love them, the annual slew of CX predictions are arriving, and you can find plenty of posts and articles about the Customer Experience trends you “must be aware of” and “must get ready for” in 2020. But must you? Really?

I’ll share some observations on CX trends in this blog post, but at the same time, I also want to caution you from taking too much from the flood of similar articles you will see this month. Most organizations do not struggle with CX because they don’t see or execute the buzziest new trends; they struggle because the foundational basics of CX are often neglected. To a CX leader grappling with limited resources and influence, it may seem appealing to chase some talkable new tech rather than encourage customer-centric changes across the enterprise, but focusing on CX blocking and tackling will almost always have a much greater impact.

As you read this year’s crop of articles about the CX trends you absolutely must act upon or risk immediate consequences, keep in mind these three cautions:

1. There is often much less to those “hot” trends than meets the eye

One of the ways to create attention for a dubious trend is to focus on the innovative business model for a well-publicized startup with a rapidly growing private valuation. The eye-catching valuation gives the appearance of success, but we should know by now that private valuations and impressive IPO prices are not an accurate harbinger of future performance. From Theranos to WeWork to Uber to Magic Leap, it should be evident that impressive growth and inordinate financing rounds are no guarantee of sustainable, profitable success.

Take Direct-To-Consumer (DTC) strategies, which were all the buzz earlier this year. I’m not suggesting DTC isn’t right for your brand or won’t be important in the future, but are you aware those well-known envy-inducing DTC brands aren’t actually profitable as of yet? Casper hopes it will become profitable on an EBITDA basis in 2019. Dollar Shave Club wasn’t profitable when Unilever purchased the company, and subscriber growth has slowed since the acquisition. The Honest Company made headlines in 2017 for a down-round that stripped the company of its “unicorn” status, and the CFO recently shared The Honest Company generates half of its total revenue from stores and not DTC. Lastly, SmileDirectClub was one of the five worst IPOs of 2019, with its shares losing over 60% from its September IPO price.

I am not casting aspersions on these brands or the DTC strategy, which may continue to grow more common and profitable in the coming years, but given the deafening level of hype about the DTC trend, you’d be forgiven for thinking these companies were printing money and not struggling to get into the black. By all means, research the value of DTC strategies, but don’t buy into this or any other hot trend simply because some unprofitable, VC-funded companies have gained market share by selling products or services at a loss. If that were a repeatable and scalable recipe for success, we’d all be billionaires.

Real CX Trend: Back to Basics: Corporate websites have been with us for 25 years, mobile apps for 15 years, and social media for more than a decade. Yet, many brands still struggle to offer good, customer-centric experiences on these channels. Focus your efforts on learning the drivers of satisfaction and dissatisfaction you have on today’s widely adopted-platforms and channels rather than racing to launch a technology, platform, or strategy that may (or may not) be the next big thing in 2025. No brand will fail in 2020 because it lacks a Virtual Reality application or Alexa Skill, but many brands are already failing because they cannot deliver the experience customers want and expect in the real world, on desktops, and on mobile phones.

To continue reading the blog post, please click through to my blog on Gartner's website. There, you'll get information on two more CX cautions ("The first focus of CX is on what customers want, need and expect; not on trends, tech or competitors" and "CX trends are not as 'hot' as you probably think") and two CX tips or trends ("The tech that matters most is the tech that helps improve your customer understanding" and "Hold your existing vendors responsible for keeping you up to date on new tech trends.")