Opinion: 3 Pandemic-Born Customer Experience Trends That Are Here to Stay

By Ranga Bodla is VP of Industry Marketing for Oracle NetSuite

Fun fact: The first vending machine was created in 1833 and is considered by some to be the world’s first self-service technology. Nearly two centuries ago, our ancestors could purchase postcards through a coin-operated vending machine and a customer experience trend that has withstood the test of time was born.

Trends are an interesting concept – we recognize the major shifts in our experiences but we don’t often know when they originated and how long they will last. Will the trend be a fad for a year or will we see mass adoption and have it become a part of the fabric of our lives?

The pandemic has accelerated technology trends that were previously gaining momentum in the name of customer experience and convenience. Now, some of those trends have become essential for businesses to offer safe shopping experiences, but they come at a price.

To know which experiences are worth investing in, you have to recognize which are the fads that got us through 2020 and which will prevail long past next year.

The following trends make for more convenient experiences for consumers and therefore, are here to stay:

Contactless Shopping Experiences

To follow health guidelines, we’re all trying to minimize contact with people and as a result, contactless consumer experiences have accelerated.

Buy online pickup in store (BOPIS), curbside pickup and contactless payment help create more efficient shopping experiences. Gone are the days of having to wait to check out in store when you can stay in your car, skip the line and pay online.

But there are considerations when choosing and implementing technology to provide a smooth experience. Make sure to select a platform that can automate and integrate the back-end and front-end experience, from inventory management and fulfillment to website and payment processing.

Also, take the time to train your staff and ensure they’re well versed on your platform and contactless offerings. They will be able to easily answer customer questions and articulate how BOPIS, curbside pickups and contactless payments benefits them.

Subscription Business Models

Consumers value speed and convenience above all else and subscriptions deliver on both. We’ve seen industries such as media, entertainment, consumer products and health and fitness get turned inside out and upside down by companies offering subscription services.

In addition to customer preference, there are numerous reasons to implement a subscription model. I helps you manage cash flow and easily predict demand, leading to better inventory management, forecasting and ultimately, a better customer experience and retention.

The most successful subscription businesses focus on delivering a consistent and quality customer experience at every single interaction. A subscription system that automates billing and processes can help minimize customer support issues and give your team real-time information on service requests, improving performance by keeping customers signed up and cash flow consistent.

Marketing Through SMS Messaging

During the recent Cyber Weekend, mobile became the primary ecommerce revenue source. Given that people are inundated with emails from brands and social media ads, look for ways to craft customer experiences for mobile devices.

Messaging is a powerful marketing tool. 98% of text messages are read within two minutes and have extraordinary engagement rates as it is one of the least saturated channels. As with every investment, there are best practices to make sure your business is successful in offering a SMS program. First, promote the channel to grow subscribers by offering incentives such as a percentage off the first order. Second, design campaigns that are specific to text. Highly personalized tones and short-and-sweet messages always perform the best on SMS marketing.

Last but not least, automate your SMS marketing as customers expect an immediate response upon sign-up. Through a cloud-based marketing platform, you can also recapture sales by monitoring website browsing activity and triggering messages when a shopper has abandoned a cart. Even if they don’t sign up for promotional SMS campaigns, you can offer messaging status alerts to keep them informed on their order, giving time back to customer service agents.

These are a few of the trends that are here to stay. Your investment in these strategies will pay off by increasing customer retention and optimizing your business for a post-pandemic environment.