2021 would be the 12 months manufacturers have worthwhile experiences from distant interactions

30 second summary:

  • In line with the changes of the past year, the behavior and expectations of customers have also developed dramatically over the past year
  • 31 percent will buy more online in 2021 than a year earlier
  • Breaking the clutter and creating meaningful experiences for valued customers will be a priority for brands
  • Donna Tuths, Chief Transformation and Innovation Officer at Sutherland, sees four key trends for 2021

2020 has forced brands to completely change the way they work in the aftermath of the pandemic, and it is evident that some of the changes we are witnessing will be permanent. Brand relationships that were previously defined by visiting stores or talking to salespeople in person are now being redefined as remote interactions. Mandatory physical distancing around the world coupled with increasing digital connectivity has resulted in many brands switching from stationary to online.

In line with this change, customer behavior and expectations have changed dramatically over the past year. For example, consumers were 31 percent more likely to shop online in 2021 than a year earlier.

While online or remote interactions are not a completely new concept, the challenge for brands is to break the clutter and create meaningful experiences for their valued customers. Here are the four top trends I expect to see in 2021 to make this a reality.

Customer care is shifted to a business driver

Marketers take note. In the battlefield of experience, remote customer interactions have become key. With the vast majority of them now taking place in the contact center, companies have realized that these interactions are gold. With the omnichannel capabilities available today, marketers have terabytes of data generated daily through their interactions with their customers. These can be used for hyper-personalized interactions to inspire your customers and make every contact count.

Investing in the employee experience will impact the customer experience more than ever

Satisfied employees are satisfied customers. The more brands invest in the employee experience, the greater the customer benefit. AI-enabled recruiting tools can transform the power of data into a perfect match between their target consumers and the people they trust to interact with them every day. Additionally, AI-enabled tools can enable these people to provide the smooth support with less effort.

This year brands will come much closer to the right balance between man and machine

Rather than replacing people, machines elevate what people do and give them powers that extend beyond space and time. This offers benefits to consumers and employees alike. While people are busy interacting with customers, AI-enabled bots trained in analyzing sentiment data and more can search chat, email, and other channels to identify customers who need help quickly.

2021 could be the year AI-enabled marketing explodes

This would literally give a new meaning to the term "marketing automation". With massive amounts of interaction data available to many companies and advances in machine learning, brands could see next-generation AI-enabled real-time marketing that detects signals and sends hyper-personalized messages and offers instantly without a Marketer or Marketing Operations Person raising a finger.

2021: Renewed focus on creating rewarding experiences

For brands to be more focused on creating successful experiences across their customer touchpoints, they need to improve the way they use data, deploy assistive technology, and empower their employees to drive those interactions.

Only when the right balance is struck between the three can brands deliver the kind of experiences that ensure success in increasing consumer happiness and loyalty.

Donna Tuths is the Chief Transformation and Innovation Officer and Chief Marketing Officer at Sutherland.

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