While e-commerce has been fast-growing over the last few years, COVID-19 forced many organizations to adapt quickly to the challenges posed, and those that didn’t adapt suffered. With store closures and rising coronavirus fears, consumers began purchasing more online. According to Digital Commerce 360, in 2021, e-commerce reached $612.86 billion, up 16.4% from $526.72 billion in the first three quarters of 2020 alone, and there are no signs of this slowing down either.

In 2021, as online commerce continued to proliferate, organizations were faced with the dilemma of how to thrive among serious online competition. Organizations began prioritizing their customers’ needs over their own profits. Many brands worked to connect with their customers’ core beliefs and values. Businesses doubled down on creating a rich online and offline digital customer experience. The rapid progression of artificial intelligence (AI) made deep personalization and automation more accessible for everyone. Privacy and security became top priorities. And the list goes on.

It’s safe to say that 2021 was all about catering to the customer to stay ahead. Many of the themes we saw in 2021 will continue to become the norm. Still, if you wish to continue to dominate your industry and differentiate in a sea of “sameness,” your organization must look ahead and continue to optimize the digital experience.

Without further ado, here’s the top five digital customer experience trends we expect to see in 2022.

#1: Enhanced Digital Privacy Experience

Customers want an engaging and personalized digital experience. However, with the sunset of third-party cookies on the horizon and increased privacy regulations, it’ll only become more challenging to craft the digital experience customers expect. So it’s safe to say that privacy is now a customer experience issue.

tiles spelling the word privacy

In Salesforce’s 2018 State of the Connected Customer Report, 6,700 consumers and business buyers were surveyed about the use of their personal data. In the report, they found that “Overwhelming majorities are willing to share relevant personal information (or in the case of business buyers, professional information) in exchange for perks like personalized offers, personalized shopping experiences, and consistent omni-channel interactions.” In other words, your customers are more than willing to share relevant personal information, but you must establish a sense of trust and offer value in the process.

So, what can you do to optimize your organization’s privacy experience? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Make privacy a priority rather than an afterthought.
  • Be upfront and set clear expectations on how data is used.
  • Build a foundation for collecting first-party data with the use of first-party cookies.
  • Communicate the value of opting in for highly relevant personalized experiences and offers.
  • Give customers more control and easier access to how their data is being used.

In short, trust is the foundation of a solid digital experience. Without it, you’ll fail to gain customer confidence, resulting in missed opportunities. Therefore, the number one priority for 2022 is to establish a sense of trust and break down the barriers so your customers can have a truly personalized and engaging experience with your brand.

#2: Supply Chain Contingencies

Over the last few years, the surge in online shopping has created unprecedented demand for consumer goods, and this demand will only continue to grow. Unfortunately, supply chain issues have bubbled up as of late and have reared their ugly head. While many of these issues are beyond your control, you can change how you communicate them to your customers. On your website, you can make use of sitewide ribbons, callouts, emails, or inline messaging to convey these supply chain issues and how they impact shipping times. Even better, if you have relevant product alternatives, you might consider offering these to your users. If you have an app, you can take advantage of prominent messaging and push notifications to share this information.

cargo ships representing shipping contingencies

As companies continue to face supply chain issues, it’s important to remember that the digital customer experience should always be a top priority. Here are a few tips on how to handle the digital customer experience during these times:

  • Be transparent and honest with your customers. Let them know what’s going on and what you’re doing to fix the issue.
  • Keep them updated on the situation as it progresses.
  • Offer solutions and product alternatives wherever possible. (More on this below)
  • Allow users to opt-in for “in stock” notifications and alerts.
  • Respond to customer inquiries and complaints promptly.
  • Show compassion and understanding.

Note on point #3: Out-of-stock notifications, alternative product recommendations, etc.

In all honesty, these should be embedded into your strategy regardless of the current situation. Keeping your customers in the loop should be practiced regularly to ensure an optimized digital experience.

#3: The Rise of Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and the Metaverse

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have been around for some time now, but we’re finally seeing these innovations go mainstream. While VR has long been reserved for gaming and simulations, we cannot ignore its potential for transforming commerce. On the other hand, AR has become more and more popular with brands that sell physical goods. IKEA, for example, developed an AR app called “IKEA Place” that enables users to preview their furniture in their home at scale, based upon their room dimensions. In addition, Warby Parker’s app allows users to try on prescription eyeglasses virtually, eliminating the need to visit a physical store. ULTA offers “GLAMlab”, a virtual try on service where shoppers can try on thousands of makeup and beauty products from the comfort of their home.

Traditionally, VR and AR experiences have been disjointed, but this is quickly changing. That brings us to the hot topic for 2021, the “metaverse.” If you’re not familiar with the term, the metaverse goes beyond traditional two-dimensional screens by connecting AR, VR, and wearable devices together to create immersive online virtual worlds where people can socialize, interact, work, and play.

screenshot showing facebooks new immersive vr experience, horizon worlds
Facebook’s immersive virtual world, Horizon Worlds

The metaverse became a big buzzword after Facebook announced its new name and changing focus. But, of course, Facebook isn’t the only company betting on the future of the metaverse. Companies like Microsoft and NVIDIA have their own visions for what the metaverse should look like, and they’re heavily invested in the technology as well. NIKE has also entered the metaverse arena with the introduction of NIKELAND, a metaverse developed in partnership with popular video-game platform Roblox, where users can play games, socialize, and equip their avatars with digital Nike products.

To some, it sounds like a breakthrough. To others, it’s a seemingly dystopian nightmare. But the metaverse may not be as far out as it seems.

While the metaverse is still in its infancy, it’s worth considering, especially if your brand sells consumer goods. If the metaverse is widely adopted, it may open the door for new ways to engage with customers and new opportunities for advertising products and services. With time, the metaverse may very well become a necessary part of your digital experience.

#4: Human-Centric Digital Experiences

In an era where companies collect more data than ever before, it’s more important than ever to focus on the customer. And what better way to focus on the customer than by creating human-centric digital experiences?

Human-centric digital experiences are designed with the customer in mind. They’re based on the understanding that each customer is unique and deserves a truly personalized experience.

One of the best ways to create human-centric digital experiences is by using first-party data. First-party data is the de-siloed data you’ve collected from your users directly based upon their behaviors, interactions, purchase history, etc. You can use this information to segment your customer list into different profiles based on their commonalities so you can give them more tailored digital customer experiences.

Zero-party data gives customers more control over their preferences, which will help you better understand their interests and behaviors.

You can pair this with zero-party data to create a complete customer profile for each user to go even further. Zero-party data is the information your users have provided to you directly: on-site polls, surveys, quizzes, and loyalty and rewards programs. This data gives customers more control over their preferences, which will help you better understand their interests and behaviors. Equipped with this data, you’ll be able to offer even more relevant, individualized experiences in real-time. For a more detailed primer on first- and zero-party data, head over to our article on the topic, written by our Senior Optimization Strategist, Alex Molineux.

Human-centric digital experiences aren’t just limited to the private sector. It applies to government organizations as well. Traditionally, navigating dozens of government services online has been a painful and disjointed experience, but that is soon to change with the latest announcement by The White House.

The Biden-Harris administration recently expressed their commitment to signing an executive order that includes 36 customer experience (CX) improvements across 17 federal agencies to build accountability, promote transparency, and improve the delivery of government services.

As 2022 approaches, if you want to stay ahead, your organization must aim to become more human-centric by putting your customers at the center of everything you do.

#5: In-Session Personalization

The problem with traditional, static personalization is that it’s often disconnected from what users actually want, and it’s not exactly personal either. Traditional personalization often spans multiple sessions and is more of a long-term strategy. And with the increasing privacy restrictions and deprecation of third-party cookies, these personalization efforts will be affected. The good news is that you can overcome this obstacle with in-session personalization.

in-session digital customer experience personalization, young woman looking at phone and smiling

In-session personalization enables you to discover what customers want “in the moment” and quite possibly before they even know what they want. These personalized digital experiences are much better at keeping up with ever-changing customer needs and behaviors because these experiences are updated on the fly as an individual user interacts with your website and shares their preferences. After all, the more personal your content, the better equipped you are to answer your customers’ questions and provide them with the relevant digital customer experience they’ve come to expect.

The best way to do this? Ask them questions about their interests, goals, and values while they’re interacting on your website or app, so you can deliver customized content or offers for their needs, all without them having to ask for anything!

Transform Your Digital Customer Experience Strategy in 2022

While we can never predict the future with 100% certainty, we believe that the theme for 2022 is privacy, customer-centricity, and innovation. Now that you know what trends to expect, ensure your digital strategy is equipped to take advantage of these trends. In doing so, you’ll be positioned for a thriving and fruitful 2022.

Let us know your digital experience optimization goals and learn how we can help.