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Customer experience is the bedrock of a strong, confident brand. The interactions between a business and its customers strengthens brand consideration, boosts PR, and creates a brand relationship with longevity and value.

But as 2019 rolls around, the customer experience landscape is set to change. To stay ahead of the game in the coming year, read on for some key trends that you should consider when planning out the next twelve months in your business.

Podcasting transforms content marketing

Audio technology, specifically podcasting, will be a key element of customer experience in 2019. 44% of Americans have listened to a podcast, and 80% listen to seven show a week on average. It’s a significant customer delivery channel that will only grow in the coming year.

The benefits of podcasting for brands are manifold. First and foremost, it’s relatively low-cost. Basic recording equipment is affordable, and it’s easy to set up a suitable studio yourself. The rise of home pod-casters

is testament to that.

Podcasting also gives brands the opportunity to get creative with their customer experience. Creating a branded podcast that delivers high-quality and relevant content to audiences makes for accessible and engaging audio content.

And even if you eschew making your own podcast, the advertising possibilities afforded by other podcasts is not something to turn your nose up at. For example, the website builder Squarespace regularly runs ads on true crime podcast Casefile. It’s an unlikely connection, but it works.

To get started with your own branded podcast, click here for a handy guide. It’s a customer experience channel that’s affordable and expanding, and one well worth jumping on in 2019.

Voice chat gives customers more ways to connect
Voice search has been quietly growing of late, and 2019 looks set to be its time to shine. But alongside voice search, comes a similar application with voice chat for customer experience.

Beyond making simple queries, voice chat lets customers have conversations with brands using sophisticated artificial intelligence. Of course, this technology is still in its nascent stages. But it has potential, and as it grows, it will unlock an array of customer experience benefits.

Perhaps the most important of these benefits is voice chat’s humanity. Communicating with a faceless entity through messages lacks the warmth and personality of a phone conversation. Verbal dialogue adds a personable element that makes the customer feel valued.

To get ahead with this in 2019, start by experiment with your voice assistant of choice: Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, and so on. Use analytics to discover how your customers communicate with your brand across multiple channels, including online messages, social and, where applicable, in-store conversations.

This will help you build out your voice chat’s function and language, creating a positive customer experience that translates seamlessly from written text to speech. We can expect voice assistant brands to start introducing technology for businesses to help them with their own voice marketing in 2019.

Social messaging will become ubiquitous
2018 has seen a number of brands tentatively using Facebook Messenger as a customer communications channel. Starbucks, Domino’s, and Lyft are just a few examples of businesses using Messenger bots to deliver a strong customer experience.

Its efficacy lies in the channel itself. Using social media to interact with consumers is already commonplace and vital for brands. But social messaging takes advantage of widely-used social platforms that are mobile-ready and already in people’s pockets. Customers can place orders and raise complaints with the same ease with which they can message their own friends and family.

As 2019 nears, more and more brands will take advantage of social messaging. As such, your business needs to be prepared. There is a growing number of Messenger bot tools that small businesses can use to create their own — social messaging is not just for large enterprise brands — it’s a strategy that scales both up and down.

ManyChat is the easiest and most accessible chatbot builder, albeit with limited functionality. For more complex conversations, Chatfuel can provide powerful for those with the requisite coding knowledge.

These tools are perfect for small businesses or service businesses with less online traffic. However, if you’re using an enterprise ecommerce system, a more sophisticated Messenger bot platform such as Conversable best suits the needs of a more complex ecommerce model. As well as Messenger, Conversable also provides chatbots for Twitter, Alexa, and even vehicular AI like OnStar.

Consumer power will grow even greater

Customers are changing. They are becoming increasingly business-savvy, critical, and time-poor. People are overloaded with marketing messages, channels, and options — so brands have to work hard to be heard.

The end result of all this ‘sensory overload’ is a market where customers have more power than ever before. This is reflected in the nascent consumer-to-business trend — brands are increasingly leaning on consumers for product idealization and development. Brands are starting to leverage customer buying power earlier and earlier in the product and brand development life-cycle.

And the same applies to customer experience. You are no longer just marketing to passive consumers, but instead to hyper-aware customers with business savvy and a wealth of consumer options at their fingertips. Consequently, you will need to go above and beyond with your customer experience delivery. Sidestepping customer complaints or fobbing off unhappy shoppers with weak excuses won’t fly in 2019.

Instead, you should strive for openness and honesty in everything you do. Acknowledging and owning up to your flaws enhances your customer experience by leveling the playing field, and it is this that will get you head in 2019.

Customer experience is a vital aspect of running a business, as much as your product, marketing, and branding. As 2019 draws near, now is the time to look ahead and re-position your own customer experience strategy to reap the rewards in the new year.