10 CX trends to watch for in 2022

Steven van Belleghem

In this guest article, renowned thought-leader and author on customer experience Steven van Belleghem, covers 10 CX trends to watch for in 2022.

Businesses head into 2022 facing very different customer behaviours and expectations to those of just two years ago. The global pandemic, combined with emerging technologies has created major shifts, but also provided opportunities for brands to reimagine and reinvent the relationship with their customers.

So what are the trends in customer experience to watch out for in 2022? Here, I have picked out ten that I believe could play a major role:

1. Could you create artificial serendipity?

It has always been the job of marketing to make products and services as easy as possible for customers to find. Interestingly, however, new research by the University of Sydney, University of Florida and Rutgers University showed just how important the act of ‘finding’ a product is in the customer experience. The report highlighted how seemingly random discoveries of products actually play a huge role in how customers enjoy shopping. Facebook research also uncovered that 63% of users enjoyed shopping more when discovering items they weren’t actively looking for.

Data-driven marketing means customers have access to a sea of information about products, while carefully orchestrated customer experience strategies might make it feel like the days of discovering something unexpected is a thing of the past. But it is creating this type of serendipity, albeit artificially, that is driving the success of subscription box services like Birchbox and Stitchfix. We’ve even seen Netflix introduce a button that eliminates choice and plays a randomly selected show to help users discover something unexpected. Brands that understand how to stimulate serendipity have an opportunity to set themselves apart.

2. Is it time to set up your branded economy?

You will have probably seen the hype around NFTs in 2021. The reality is that, at this stage, NFTs are still often a gimmick, but they will soon move beyond the current ‘exciting’ collectibles phase and change the game in customer loyalty.

Some of the most interesting potential of NFTs lies in the concept of branded economies that could trigger a paradigm shift in customer loyalty. Most loyalty schemes today are out of balance, offering more benefit to the company than to the customer. With NFTs, the customer can become part of the journey. As a frequent flyer, for example, you could have an NFT stake in a company to create a shared interest instead of opposed ones – if the company does well, the value of your NFT will rise, so you will become a true brand ambassador.

3. Are you loyal to your customers?

When I talk to different organisations around the world, one of the most common questions I am asked is “how can I make my customers more loyal?”. However, I actually think it is now time to turn this question on its head to say “how can my company show loyalty to its customers?”.

As in the NFT example above, one trend I see happening is a move towards shared interest between brands and their customers. Companies need to reassess their loyalty systems to create a positive-sum game, so when a brand does well, the company shareholders, employees and customers all benefit. There is an interesting example of how fashion retailer Shein has successfully started rewarding customers who act as true ambassadors – we’ll certainly see more of this in the coming years.

4. Are you a Partner in Life?

There is a growing trend of brands that look beyond the ‘customer journey’ to see how they can add value in the life journey of an individual. They see how their product or service could help remove negative energy or create positive energy in order to build a deeper, emotional relationship with a customer.

A Samsung smart fridge is an interesting example. Of course, it can let the customer know which products are due to go out of date to help them save money and reduce food waste. But with so much data now available, it could easily start helping the customer improve their life or ethical decisions that matter to them – which products are unhealthy, or environmentally friendly?

5. Are you thinking about Metaverse Commerce?

You have probably seen the battle for the Metaverse kick off in 2021, but I still believe it will take quite a while before these types of VR platform really become ubiquitous. That doesn’t, however, mean brands shouldn’t start thinking about performing commerce and marketing inside the metaverse now.

The metaverse effectively takes the trend of social commerce we see in China to a more immersive level. Imagine, could fashion retailers launch purely virtual clothing collections, with exclusive collectible items worn by stars as an NFT? It feels futuristic, but the possibilities are literally endless, and the companies who understand the trend now will have a significant head start.

6. Do you love your frustrated customers?

It is a well-known fact that people spread negative customer experiences faster than positive ones. But did you know that only one in 26 customers who have a bad time will share their experiences with the company in question?

It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that no complaints means no problems, but it is important to actively seek out dissatisfied customers to learn from them. A report by PwC showed that 1 in 3 of (formerly) loyal customers will leave a brand after just one bad experience, so don’t miss the chance to tap into one of your greatest sources of information.

7. Do you still suffer from digital inconvenience?

Most businesses will have felt the power of digital convenience during the pandemic. When people were stuck at home with nowhere to go but online, their patience for complicated or slow experiences disappeared, and this zero tolerance is here to stay.

It is not always easy for a small business to compete here, but we should learn from brands like Amazon. It may look like they have reached the ultimate frictionless, invisible experience, but they continue to question every interaction with customers – you should see your own customer experience in the same way, continuously working on details in an endless pursuit of perfect convenience.

8. Do you understand new habits?

The scientific term “Hysteresis” refers to the fact that social systems tend to change permanently after an external shock, such as the pandemic. This means many changes that we initially saw as temporary, whether that is hybrid working or the boom in takeaway deliveries, are probably here to stay.

Rather than wait for customer behaviour to return to “normal”, think about how you can leverage these changes to improve your offering to win the war for customers.

9. Could you help reduce cognitive load?

Living online comes with a dark side too, and many of us will have experienced the cognitive and emotional cost of being overwhelmed with information, polarising media content and brands competing for our attention. Interestingly, there is now a trend of companies that are using this as an opportunity to become a Partner in Life of customers, helping them to cope with this increasing problem.

Telehealth solutions are emerging, such as the Amazon Halo device that tracks emotions as well as physical health metrics, but we have also seen partnerships such as Waze and Headspace collaborating to remove stress and anxiety from traffic jams.

Chances are your customers experience anxiety or stress at some point during the journey towards your products or services – why not see it as an opportunity to see how you could help relieve their cognitive load?

10. What are your ethical boundaries?

Ethics has been a big topic of 2021, and I’d suggest what we are now seeing is how increasingly aware consumers are of whether companies handle their data, their lives and the environment with care. We’ve seen them cause problems for Facebook, and it is why people are raising questions about Amazon’s smart fridge.

Recent Forrester research uncovered that privacy journey design will become a key CX priority in 2022, so although it might not be the most exciting part of your marketing strategy, be sure to take the time to think through your privacy and consent journeys too.