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What can we expect in 2022? Our top ten digital customer experience trends

  • By 3chillies

It’s hard to believe that we’re nearly at the end of the year! Around this time, many digital teams start to think about priorities for the coming year, and consider their strategies, plans and roadmap. This year, the themes of digital customer experience and web development are big influences on these considerations.

Here at 3Chillies, we’ve taken another glimpse into our crystal ball to look at some of the trends that are likely to arise during 2022. Many of these are similar to what we predicted last year, and are running themes already seen throughout 2021. Perhaps you’ll agree with us, perhaps not! Here’s our view of ten digital customer experience trends for 2022.

  1. Competition to remain fierce in the DXP space
  2. Digital Experience Platforms (DXPs) are much more than just content management systems. Platforms we work with such as Sitecore and Optimizely, as well as a brace of other vendors, are providing platforms with a range of integrated capabilities covering everything from content management and personalisation, to digital asset management and e-commerce. Customers may subscribe to just some of the features, but overall, they give digital marketing teams considerable muscle to create comprehensive customer experiences across different channels.

    Readers of this blog will know that we’ve already covered the strategic direction of these DXPs. This is a very competitive area, with leading providers investing in their solutions and acquiring other smaller providers to extend the feature set of their solution, as well as drive growth and market share. Others have also sharpened their marketing and, in Optimizely’s case, even rebranded. In 2022, we expect the competition in the DXP space to remain fierce, with more acquisitions, more investment in platforms and more features all providing greater choice for marketing teams, and leading to better solutions.

  3. Digital touchpoints with customers will remain the focus
  4. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, the pandemic is still very much ongoing, and the appearance of a new variant means the extent to which we will be able to interact face-to-face is unknown. We think this means that in 2022, the emphasis on digital interactions with customers will remain the focus for marketing efforts.

    During the pandemic, many marketing teams pivoted and spent more on digital customer experience and digital channels than on events and other traditional marketing channels. The impact of this has been permanent, as many organisations have kept investing in digital. With 2022 possibly bringing further Covid restrictions and even lockdowns, we think teams will continue to focus on evolving richer digital environments across websites, apps and social media platforms.

  5. Agility will be king
  6. The uncertainty and volatility caused by the pandemic, as well as the expectations of customers around how they consume information, interact with brands, buy products and more, means that digital customer experience is often the area where organisations remain competitive. Being agile, responsive to customer need and quick to market can give you a competitive edge. In 2022, those teams that can create digital experiences at speed will be in the strongest position; we think being agile (with a small ‘a’) will be a major theme. Of course, there are various factors which can impact agility, including the technology you work with, having a robust DevOps approach, your deployment strategies and even the mindset of your marketing team.

  7. Organisations will prioritise privacy as tracking cookies decline in influence
  8. Last year, we suggested that data privacy and security will remain increasingly important for customers. We think this will be even stronger in 2022, particularly with consumers rallying against third-party tracking cookies that track their movement from site to site. Solutions like CookieBot can really help digital marketing teams do the heavy lifting on cookie management and remain compliant with GDPR and other privacy laws, as well as allow visitors to turn off the cookies they don’t want to use, while giving the necessary consent. We think robust cookie management solutions will continue to be critical.

    However, we can also see the writing on the wall for third-party tracking cookies. Although the decision was delayed from 2021, Chrome – the world’s most popular browser – will withdraw support for tracking cookies in 2023. What will replace them is uncertain, but in 2022, we expect cookies to start to decline in importance as teams look for alternative strategies, and consumers continue to react negatively to anything that unnecessarily impacts their privacy.

  9. Support for SaaS to build
  10. The convenience and benefits of Software-as-a-Service have resulted in major DXP providers starting to make the different components of their platform available on a SaaS basis. While Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) is still available, some of the major providers are also investing in their SaaS offerings, including Sitecore and Umbraco, an open-source CMS we often use here at 3Chillies. SaaS brings flexibility, ease, scalability, cost reduction, quick onboarding and even the avoidance of vendor or contractual lock-in. We think DXP elements and features offered on a SaaS basis will gain more promotion and attention during 2022.

  11. Product differentiation will extend accelerator options
  12. As DXPs develop their offerings and provide different services across their platforms, there is a growing place for accelerator options. These tend to be managed sites available on a SaaS basis, with a variety of templates and other ready-made components or widgets which enable rapid and straightforward web development. Examples include the Sitecore Experience Accelerator (SXA) and Umbraco Uno; these platforms can work very well, in fact, we used Umbraco Uno to deliver a corporate website within five days! As DXPs develop more pure SaaS offerings and agility becomes ever important, we think we’ll see DXP providers evolving their accelerator options during 2022, driving more take-up over the year.

  13. Headless and the composable DXP will get more attention
  14. The availability of a range of standalone SaaS offerings covering different elements and features of the DXP, such as the core CMS, analytics, personalisation, e-commerce, digital asset management and even front-end experiences (decoupled from the CMS), as well as the need for agility in a complex, omni-channel environment is focusing attention on more lightweight options like the “composable DXP”.

    While the integrated, all-in-one DXPs like Sitecore and Optimizely offer exceptional opportunities to create immersive customer experiences, they can be complex and require a lot of moving parts to develop, test and launch sites across different channels. Headless publishing – where the back-end CMS is decoupled from the front-end experience – can offer a quicker and more agile route to publishing content from one CMS across a website, app and e-commerce solution.

    The composable DXP takes decoupling one stage further - it’s essentially a digital experience “ecosystem” consisting of a series of best-of-breed solutions that work together through APIs. The idea is that you can then use your preferred solutions for all the different elements of a DXP to create the system that works best for you, offering greater agility and cost effectivity while using the tools that you and your team love.

    All the major platform providers have been offering more support for headless publishing over the past couple of years, and now, some are also emphasising the power of a composable DXP. We think both headless publishing and the composable DXP will get a lot of attention in 2022, and while we think it’s still early days for the latter, it will be interesting to see what traction the composable DXP receives.

  15. Containerisation to grow in popularity
  16. Containerisation is a trend in technical infrastructure which packages software, apps and code into different “containers” which can then be deployed more easily and safely, avoiding some of the interdependencies that come with other deployment options. Containerisation is enabled by popular frameworks such as Kubernetes and Docker. There are plenty of potential advantages of containerisation, including reduced costs, smoother and quicker deployments and easier ongoing infrastructure management. We think that in 2022, containerisation will pick up in popularity as an option for some organisations, especially with growing support from CMS and DXP providers, and both IT and marketing teams will feel the benefits.

  17. Automation and AI fuel will get started on personalisation
  18. Customer expectations around digital experiences have moved towards wanting more personalised and tailored experiences, where an app or site “knows” the visitor, providing them with options to customise their experience. Digital marketing teams are doubling down on creating more granular experiences.

    Personalisation enables these more tailored and targeted experiences, but it has been out of reach for teams, requiring some effort, skill and resourcing to actually make it work in practice. There are many teams who aim to introduce personalisation, but never quite get there.

    In 2022, we think automation and AI will start to fuel more personalisation by making it available out-of-the-box, lowering the barriers of entry to getting started. Some platforms have enabled automated personalisation, and we think this will help smaller organisations and under-resourced teams create personalised experiences, with AI doing the heavy lifting for them. In turn, this experience can give personalisation more momentum and prioritisation, especially if it is initially successful.

  19. Robust DevOps will remain the backbone of effective web management

Perhaps this is more a declaration than a trend. For effective web development and deployment that is truly effective and quick to market, it’s essential to have robust DevOps processes and systems running, as well as the appropriate mindset across the team to make it happen. This was a trend in 2021 (yes, we mentioned it last year), and it’ll be a trend in 2022 too.

Here’s to a happy 2022!

We think 2022 will be another interesting year for digital customer experience, and for the IT and marketing teams that deliver it. From all of us at 3Chillies, have a happy, healthy and prosperous new year. See you in 2022!

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