2016 was the year of conversational commerce and of messaging and chatbots. 2017 will be the year of the usage maximisation and integrated experiences. Here’s a glance at the latest four customer engagement trends:
#1 Messaging, human assistance & chatbots
There are currently more than 3 billion active users on messaging apps. This continues to rise globally and across all generations. In 2017, more than ever, brands will need to be ubiquitous. Beyond their ability to manage all communication channels from one platform, brands will also have to find a way to be present at all times to handle these conversations easily.
To do so, two customer engagement trends complement each other and will be intensified and maximised:
- #1 Chatbots. In theory, chatbots allow you to automatize a part of your conversation. They also help you manage costs of conversations. But, because of technical constraints, chatbots remain very scripted and, in reality, they can only help you handle very basic conversations and usually the intervention of a human agent is needed.
- #2 ibbü: Highly qualified experts support customer service teams and help online shoppers at certain key moments of their customer journey on-site or elsewhere. These independent savvy enthusiasts, connected to brands via a marketplace, will enable brands to cover time slots when their customer service teams are not available. They will support online shoppers with cutting-edge subjects and will be more profitable than bots.
#2 We’re heading towards more authentic customer relations
During the F8, Mark Zuckerberg said that it should be as easy to contact a company as interacting with a friend. This almost went unnoticed in the midst of the noise provoked by chatbots during the F8 in April 2016. However, this sentence also implies the perspective of an in-depth mutation of the relations between brands and their customers towards conviviality and sincerity. According to Authentic 100, the annual Cohn & Wolfe index, only 7% of those surveyed in the UK describe brands as “open and honest”.
In 2017, it’s time for brands to adapt their customer engagement strategy to offer more authentic communication. They need to interact with online shoppers on touch points they are already using, messaging touch points more specifically (chat, text messages, messaging apps) and the conversation practices that come with them.
#3 Full-stack customer service for an integrated experience
Many disruptive companies have placed qualitative customer service at the heart of their success by enabling simple access, integrated experience, instantaneous responses, satisfaction surveys, etc. Disruptive companies differentiate themselves through small, authentic gestures (you receive a free bottle of water when you book a private car with Uber, Airbnb hosts provide you with sightseeing advice, etc.)
The common characteristic of these companies is that they are all “full-stack” platforms! This term has different meanings but the main characteristic of these companies lies in their capacity to offer and control all the service and experience they are offering.
In 2017, customer service will be disruptive and will encounter the same need. Brands have to think and handle their customer service in an integrated way: a customer journey that offers each interaction at the right time and place, with the right team of agents motivated by an innovative approach and managed using one single technology.
#4 Customer engagement trends in mobile: usage keeps growing
To remain innovative, brands have no choice but to be mobile like their users. Following the surge in mobile use with more searches done on mobile than desktop, Google has created a mobile-first index. This index makes the m-commerce even more essential to brand performance in terms of organic search. M-commerce keeps growing in the United Kingdom: it accounted for more than 30 billion euros in 2016 (eMarketer), which is a 25% increase from 2015. eCommerce is becoming increasingly dependent of m-Commerce: 49% of all UK e-commerce transactions took place on a mobile device during Q1 2016 and 39% of all e-commerce transactions involved using multiple devices during the purchase journey (Business Insider). However, mobile customer experience still lags behind, despite numerous emerging innovations like in-app payment solutions, virtual assistants (Siri, Google Now) or QR Codes becoming mainstream.
Therefore, brands have to integrate mobile into their cross-channel strategy. According to Deloitte research, smartphones, used as part of a shopping experience, impact 15-18% of the in-store sales – an estimated £35–£43 billion. Brands also have to transform smartphones and tablets into fully-fledged sales tools and not only add-on accessories.
According to Google’s consumer barometer, 23% of British consumers rely on smartphones when looking for information on upcoming purchases. Also, more than 86,5% social media users are active on mobile. Social selling keeps growing: 46% consumers use social media to make a purchase decision and more than 71% of them are likely to buy an item based on social media referrals.
Find out more about this year’s eCommerce trends by sector in our Conversational Commerce White Paper.