Predictions for CX, sales and marketing

5 Predictions for CX, Marketing and Sales in 2021

Can you even make predictions at the end of a year like 2020? I mean… I made plenty of predictions back in 2019 and ‘global pandemic’ was not one of them. 

2021 won’t be a year for complacency. Economies are retracting and customer expectations and behaviours are changing drastically. Businesses will need to make highly targeted investments, even as revenues shrink. 

But the thing about Covid is that it’s an accelerator for themes which were already building momentum. 

The coming year will be a filter through which only select organizations can pass. Here’s how you’ll be one of them…


#1 Retail that went digital, stays digital

Are we ‘returning to normal’ once reliable vaccines are in place? 

Schools, bars and theatres, yes. (Sort of. With caveats.)

Retail? No. 

Large areas of retail have moved online very rapidly in the last year. This fits with a trend that has been unfolding for years, but which has shifted up several gears. 

Some categories, including food and household items have seen an average 30% increase in online sales. In effect, the move online has been forced through 3-5 years of progress in under twelve months. 

What’s driving this?

The reason for this move is obvious; if it’s not safe to go outside, people need shopping brought to their door. And once this move happens, it’s relatively difficult to undo. In addition, there are plenty of brick and mortar stores which have already closed.

Perhaps most importantly, around 60% of consumers expect to work from home in future. That makes online shopping a far more convenient option. 

What’s the impact for businesses?

If you can accommodate more online custom, this move may ultimately be a net positive. The cost base for an online-first organization is relatively small, although there may be second-order effects to work through. (More on that below…)

#2 Marketing moves away from value-driven messages

Consumers currently have a tight focus on price and convenience in their purchase decisions. Those two factors have become the top factors in purchase choice in 2020. 

So what’s new?

In the last decade we’ve seen a widespread trend of value-led marketing. A growing global middle-class, especially prevalent in developing economies, have had concerns beyond price.

Reaching those customers has often meant being green, organic, local, renewable… in some way socially conscious.

But in straightened times, consumers are going back to basics. 

What’s driving this?

People have less money than usual. That’s the bottom line. 

There are other factors in the mix. Most people have a reduced ability to browse locally and  buying online naturally emphasises speed and convenience. Essentially, a lot of people feel the need to prioritize their own interests over broad cultural interests. 

What’s the impact for business?

Social consciousness isn’t some new brand killer – but it may need to take a back seat for a little while. Of course, it all depends on your product. Many brands have focused on themes of resilience and solidarity during the pandemic. 

But at the end of the day, it’s price that’s moving people to action right now. 

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#3 Brand loyalty is drying up

When consumers aim to spend less, customer loyalty can become an issue. During the pandemic, vast numbers of customers have explored their options, investigating new vendors for goods and services. 

The range varies widely across territories; around 30% of consumers in Japan and 96% in India have changed their shopping behaviour this year. (The mean is around 71% globally!)

What’s driving this?

We’ve already touched on price consciousness, and the consumer need to shop around. In a general sense, many consumers have been broken out of their routines in ways that are disruptive to usual spending cycles. 

What’s the impact for businesses?

It’s a good time to poach customers – and to focus on customer retention. Discounts work best when they’re driven by a specific purpose, like a deliberate reward. Now might be the best time to offer customers discounts in recognition of the tough experiences many of them are having.

#4 Service expectations are headed upwards

Your customer service might be good… but is it good enough?

Customer service has traditionally been strongest in brick and mortar locations. When most of those closed for long stretches of 2020 – many, never to reopen – businesses quickly realized how much strain those resources were carrying. 

Physical locations are a burden in staffing and maintenance costs. They’re also a lifeline for customer outreach. 

What’s driving this?

Customers recognize the loss on their part, and expect businesses to meet the difference. For example, 83% of customers expect retailers to provide flexible shipping and fulfillment options such as buy-online-pick-up-in-store.

What’s the impact for businesses?

Businesses are always playing catch up when it comes to service. Most of us were late to social media. Plenty were slow to implement chatbots. Some are on the fence about conversational AI

Customers have entirely new needs now. And they expect them to be met yesterday. 

#5 Customer LIfetime Value will shrink 

General economic recovery will be restrained by a consumer need to spend less. Spending on necessities is already getting squeezed. Entertainment spending is struggling to recover. Even the tentpole events – everything from ‘back to school’ to Christmas – will have a pretty minimal showing this year. 

Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) is a worthy goal to track. But the combination of less loyal customers and lower purchase value is going to put the pinch on it. 

What’s driving this?

Retailers in every category are hungry right now. They’re going to fight tooth and nail for customers – and they’re fighting hard over a pot that’s smaller than usual. 

What’s the impact for businesses?

Businesses will need to reduce service costs, and that means investing now. In 2020, almost half of businesses kept the investment in AI steady, while 30% increased it. 

It’s not always an easy sell to increase investment when times are tough. But it’s important to understand that the challenges brought about by this crisis won’t disappear when that crisis is over.

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