Well, 2021 happened. It was a year that began with political tumult and the pandemic’s worst stage yet; mellowed into a spring of vaccine rollouts, reopenings, and hope; and then ricocheted into a summer and fall of inflation, supply chain disruptions, and the pandemic’s (thankfully less lethal) return. But we enter 2022 cautiously optimistic that, as the predictions indicate, a new normal is settling into place.
AI-fueled digital transformation and omnichannel communication will continue to reshape CRM.
“In 2022, the concept of CRM will begin to change. Today’s customer relationship management software is just storing data. It’s not managing the relationship. AI is changing that—so much so, in fact, that it could topple the largest CRM providers even as they scramble to add AI to their offerings. The top software providers offer 20-year-old legacy systems. They’re build on human analysis, and a lot of operations are human driven. Their architecture doesn’t scale to an AI-first world. By the end of 2022, we will start to see newcomers coming in and taking over the category.” —Raghu Ravinutala, CEO of Yellow.ai
“The COVID-19 pandemic showed us that companies big and small had to shift to digital operations to meet new customer expectations. Companies scrambled to move to the cloud and, in the process, ended up with many disparate cloud-based applications. In 2022, I anticipate we’ll see more companies using iPaaS to guide their digital transformation by connecting those applications and automating business processes to create a more seamless customer experience.” —Jan Arendtsz, CEO and founder of Celigo
“[Artificial intelligence] will continue to play a more central role in [customer experience]. AI is growing more advanced with every passing year. In 2022, we’ll see the tech take center stage for businesses that have a mature CX program.” —Craig Shull, senior vice president and general manager of GetFeedback at Momentive
“There is no doubt the pandemic accelerated digital adoption. In almost two years, non-digital natives have become more digitally fluent, and, as such, demand for more digital customer service touchpoints that help these consumers and their specific needs has increased. As we look to 2022, digital transformation will become generation-less. With more digital-savvy consumers within all generational groupings, brands will be able to usher in a much larger digital component with both mobile and self-service finally able to take precedence.” —Chris Bauserman, vice president of marketing at NICE CXone
“In 2022, more brands will transition to a digital contact center, or a cloud-based contact center that takes an AI-first approach, where voice and digital channels blend into a seamless experience for customers, enabling brands to offer every customer the best possible experience in their channels of choice.” —Tony Lorentzen, senior vice president and general manager of intelligent engagement at Nuance Communications
“Customer engagement through social channels, such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, will leapfrog traditional ways of contacting customer service, such as phone, email, and live chat…. With asynchronous messaging, a customer can continue engagement with a customer care agent over a more extended period—sometimes hours or days, and the nature of these interactions requires organizations to revamp their performance and quality management approaches.” —David Singer, vice president of go-to-market strategy at Verint
“Enabling and optimizing remote work has been a constant focus of corporate leaders throughout 2021…. To address this issue in 2022, enterprises will invest in real-time quality assurance solutions, which are powered by AI-driven automation, to identify and rapidly fix any IT issues that could negatively impact CX and business processes.” —Alok Kulkarni, CEO and co-founder of Cyara
“In contact centers, consumers and agents will no longer fear AI, they will become reliant on it. AI has quickly gained widespread acceptance in the business world and has proven to be an important element in business processes. As the labor shortage continues to persist, businesses can’t risk burning out their agents so they will look to AI technology to help offload mundane tasks agents dislike while augmenting their capabilities to solve customer issues. Without a doubt, in 2022, consumers will also embrace artificial intelligence to help make their lives easier while preserving their ability to speak to humans.” —Patrick Ehlen, vice president of artificial intelligence, Uniphore
“Digital transformation planning took a detour during the pandemic. Pre-pandemic, reducing costs was a top priority. Today, companies see digital technology as a competitive advantage to improve CX and drive growth. With years-long planning timelines for digital technology adoption reduced to months, we will see the pace of business change speeding up in 2022.” —Nick Bandy, chief marketing officer of LiveVox
“The next generation of chatbots will be so sympathetic and intelligent, companies will begin to prioritize sentimental analysis in order to better understand their customers. Constant interactions train chatbots to better communicate with consumers. And, thanks to natural language processing (NLP), more companies in 2022 will introduce multilingual, easily trained, highly intelligent chatbots that have the ability to understand customer enquiries however they are worded.” –Beerud Sheth, CEO of Gupshup
“If B2B marketers want to prepare for the future, including the possibility of metaverse, they have to adapt their strategies. Relevance, creativity, and consumer experience throughout the advertising journey will be critical. In the hybrid world of [augmented and virtual reality] boring ad copy and stock photos won’t cut it.” —Nirosha Methananda, vice president of marketing at Influ2
“Fragmentation in the media environment is here to stay. Consumers are in the driver’s seat, choosing what content to watch, and when and where to watch it. Advertisers are learning that brand measurement must evolve to match consumer expectations and behavior. Fortunately, AI-led technology is fueling a new generation of digital tools, including those that modernize today’s media measurement landscape. In 2022, we will see AI take media measurement to the next level, shifting away from traditional panel-driven models to provide real-time input and ability to reach audiences on underserved emerging platforms, including podcasting, digital out of home, and connected TV.” —Rob Cukierman, general manager of measurement and product partnerships at LoopMe
“AI and machine learning are invaluable to creating better shopping journeys which are individualized for each customer and vital to determining customer intent and influence behavior in real time. We’ll see AI-powered personalization evolve to deliver more highly customized experiences in 2022.” —Tracey Ryan O’Connor, group vice president of Qubit
“The pandemic has accelerated the rise of the remote workforce. Now that contact center operations have enabled AI and desktop systems for digital supervision and collaboration, agents are empowered to be freelance agents. In 2022, businesses and brands will rely on these gig workers as the norm.” —Michael Lawder, chief experience officer at ASAPP
“In 2022, marketers will more broadly realize three areas where [machine learning] will have a major impact: capturing unknown audiences and understanding their audiences in a holistic way; letting ML predict and automate the next-best step in determining engagement execution; and putting audience insights and engagement execution in proper context in the buyer’s journey. With machine learning, marketers who pair fit and intent alongside engagement get a holistic view of prospects that helps them identify the many paths they take to become customers.” —Randi Barshack, chief marketing officer of RollWorks
“Inbound marketing will remain a best practice. In a time of digital transformation, embracing inbound marketing is an incredibly smart move. The key factors affecting customer experience are speed, knowledgeable assistance, convenience, and service.” —Nicolas Vandenberghe, CEO of Chili Piper
“More and more enterprises are going to stop forecasting and doing quarterly business reviews and will instead rely on real-time data and AI to provide accurate intelligence on what is working, what isn’t working, and what will be working.” —Art Harding, chief operating officer of People.ai
Personalization will remain a top goal for companies.
“Personalization continues to be seen as a Holy Grail for brands. Increasingly, with only first-party data available, personalization efforts will fall short for all but a small number of companies. Also, programmatic ad targeting starts to lose ground to contextual targeting.” —Greg Sterling, vice president of market insights at Uberall
“Personalization and data will continue to play a vital role in the success of marketing and advertising campaigns [in 2022]. Brands need to think outside the box and use a more targeted medium designed to provide unique, personalized experiences for shoppers. While we rely on DSPs to target audiences, audio out-of-home (AOOH) technology enables marketers to offset the loss of cookies with venue targeting and product on-shelf targeting. It’s the perfect time for AOOH to increase its presence in the programmatic space and for buyers to take advantage of the environment we’re in.” —John McAdams, vice president of sales at Vibenomics
“Loyalty will continue to be a critical strategic imperative to support business growth as it enables first-party data activation, provides value to customers throughout their life cycle, helps with channel integration, and is the force behind personalization to ultimately create brand love and advocacy.”
—Paulo Claussen, senior director of loyalty at Michaels
“Brands can create value by building experiences and emotional connection with consumers, thereby creating relationships that transcend the sale of goods and services. As consumers, we build the deepest relationships with brands that personalize their outreach and experiences. Meaningful personalization at scale is perhaps the biggest challenge and opportunity for brands today.” —Leo Griffin, vice president of technology and global head of consumer at Hanesbrands
“2022 is the year that brands must leverage their investments in first-party data and present truly personal offers to their loyal customers at scale. Those that transition to personalized offers and experiences will have a stronger competitive advantage and drive deeper value with their loyal customer base, while those that don’t make the transition will begin losing share.” —Christian Selchau-Hansen, founder of Loyalty Innovators and co-founder and CEO of Formation.ai
“The journey to loyalty program of one has already begun and will continue to get more and more personalized as we head into the future. With the speed of technology and all of its benefits, there is little reason not to be able to deliver a personalized, holistic, and omnichannel CX (including loyalty program benefits) to a segment of each individual customer in the not-too-distant future.” —Joe Gouveia, director of loyalty rewards programs at Variant
“Personalization used to be a nice to have, but now it is a have to have. It is an expectation of the customer that they receive relevant offers to them. We are tasked with knowing what they have told us and what they haven’t told us but done to personalize their experiences.” —Erin Levzow, vice president of marketing and digital technology at Del Taco Restaurants
“There’s going to be increased personalization available to customers in contact centers as companies look to provide seamless customer experiences. Businesses will anticipate what products or problems customers are reaching out about based on past behavior; provide suggestions through AI assistants and chatbots; and even fix these issues automatically without the interaction with a human being, thus shrinking the interaction and resolution time. And at the end of the day, customers will feel their time is highly valued and that businesses know them well, creating a frictionless experience and therefore driving high customer satisfaction and loyalty. This is all possible with cloud contact center technologies, which will become more relevant as businesses leverage tools to deliver a highly efficient customer service strategy, high level of personalization, and faster go-to-market.” —Otto Sanchez, director of engineering at InterVision
But the drive for personalization will be balanced by privacy concerns.
“Brands will be using mobile text messaging and mobile wallet to grow their loyalty programs. This comes with recent privacy changes that will force brands to think outside the app for reaching new and potential customers.” –Alex Campbell, co-founder and chief information officer of Vibes.
“Brands will continue to learn and adopt personalization in many aspects of the customer experience, and loyalty schemes will equally continue to gain ground as a source of primary data. The tech advancement will enable more and more marketers to use reward engines to serve the right offers to the right loyalty members at the right opportunity. Similarly, AI and machine learning will enable more brands to personalize in a smarter way using data beyond transactional data. However, finding the right balance of personalization, data privacy, and customer trust remains a critical point. —Pavel Los, commercial marketer, loyalty expert, and country chairman, Shell
“Data collaboration will be a core focus in 2022 as brands and their partners look to maximize the effectiveness of data without compromising privacy or security. When powered by privacy-enhancing technologies and centered around the non-movement of data, data collaboration ensures data governance for both parties while unlocking new use cases, customer insights, and revenue streams. [In 2022] we will see an acceleration in this strategy to make customer experiences more personalized and effective across every customer journey touchpoint while driving meaningful business impact.”
—David Gilmore, head of privacy tech solutions at LiveRamp
“Against the backdrop of growing data privacy concerns, [in 2022] enterprises will make a concerted effort to build greater trust with their customers by establishing strong data privacy policies. We’re seeing this unfold as more and more companies appoint chief privacy officers. However, organizations don’t necessarily need a CPO to be successful as long as they recognize what their users want and put those preferences first. For this to be effective, companies must ensure their privacy policies are transparent, follow those policies at all times, and never surprise their users.” —Min-Jae Lee, chief privacy officer of Quantcast
“Digital advertising will become more interactive and less creepy. As regulators and consumers clamp down on privacy abuses by the tech giants, expect to see fewer ads creepily targeted on your browsing behavior and more ads inviting you to interact directly with a company through interactive digital experiences. Ads will start to feel more like a good conversation and a little less like a nosy neighbor spying on everything you say or do. In the process, advertising will become more interesting, more entertaining, and more authentic.” —Tod Loofbourrow, CEO and chairman of ViralGains
“As first-party data strategies take center stage in the new cookieless era, we will see a resurgence of second-party data partnerships to help fill in the gaps. Because second-party data is another company’s first-party data, privacy concerns using second-party data will be minimal because the buyer knows exactly where it came from. Therefore, publishers and brands who have data that complement each other will partner together to create audience segments that scale.” —Kerel Cooper, chief marketing officer of LiveIntent
“The marketing landscape continues to be disrupted by supply chain issues, staffing shortages, new business models, new technology, and regulation. This disruption will continue to shift the marketing landscape as we move to a cookieless world where more AI tools continue to be developed to maintain customer privacy and drive and enable personalization.” —Craig Elston, head of strategic services at Iterable
“Even though third-party cookies will disappear (we won’t be predicting whether Google will ever land on a final date), that doesn’t mean third-party data will. The reality is that third-party data will continue to stick around because the alternatives that will crop up in its absence aren’t feasible for smaller publishers.” —Mike Woosley, chief operating officer of Lotame
The industry will look for new ways to measure performance.
“Aligning around measurement standards for every media channel is important. All forms of digital—mobile, display, programmatic, connected TV, etc. — should be found in one place and measured against the same standards. And [in 2022], linear TV should be added to that, too.” —Lindsay Fordham, vice president of product at Lucid
“Contact center success metrics will be reevaluated. Instead of contact centers solely relying on net promoter scores and revenue statistics, look for the rise of new customer experience and cost analysis models to show where and when further investment in the contact center is needed. This will be especially important as we continue to see the contact center be critical to customer service and overall business success in crisis times.”
—Dave Hoekstra, evangelist at Calabrio
“2022 will be the year marketers maximize technology to avoid burnout. The pandemic created a level of uncertainty across the marketing landscape, with businesses challenged with quickly pivoting to meet the demands of potential customers. While marketers have the technology to help them execute their jobs effectively, they still lack the right data and analytics capabilities to provide a more complete overview of the campaigns taking place. This data would provide a more accurate picture of what’s working and what needs adjustment. Increased and strategic deployment of AI and chatbots will facilitate continuous sales and succeed in forging relationships with greater consistency, eliminating gaps in customer connectivity while helping to relieve overtaxed marketers.” —Katie Foote, chief marketing officer of Drift
Companies will keep human beings in the mix.
“2022 will be the return to human as we hit the chatbot ceiling. As the pandemic pushed business online overnight, companies quickly scaled automation and self-service technology, like chatbots and FAQs, to deflect and resolve customer issues…. Look for more and more companies to rethink customer service as a branding opportunity in 2022, which means rethinking the bot deflection for even the simplest conversations and exceeding delight with the human touch.”
—Colin Crowley, customer experience advisor at Freshworks
“2022 will be the year of the customer service agent. In an age of short-staffed companies and a backlash against poor customer service, organizations will prioritize the role of the agent as part of the ongoing battle against the Great Resignation. Look for companies to enhance agent training and recruiting and adopt new [artificial intelligence]-based technologies to help agents do their jobs better and faster while also making their work life easier.” —Krishna Raj Raja, CEO and founder of SupportLogic
“While social commerce was previously focused on ads or promotions, platforms are beginning to provide new and innovative selling solutions that focus on making the journey easier for buyers. Moving into 2022, brands should reevaluate the purchasing paths they offer and consider taking advantage of social selling opportunities through Instagram posts, Reels, Stories, and more.” —Alexander Frolov, co-founder and CEO of HypeAuditor
“Hybrid physical and digital marketing tactics will prevail in 2022 to build human-to-human connections. As the average consumer battles with digital advertising overload, B2B marketers can no longer rely on digital mass-marketing tactics in 2022. Instead, B2B marketers will need to embrace new marketing strategies and tactics that leverage the strengths of person-to-person interactions to supplement the missing human connection element of digital marketing. In 2022, we’ll see new B2B marketing tactics emerge that include a hybrid mix of online advertising, direct mail, and virtual events that enable the entire marketing lifecycle and customer experience to feel more human and, therefore, allow marketers to forge stronger person-to-person connections.” —Nick Runyon, president of PFL
“Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve seen just how important the human connection and experience is, and voice will be a critical factor in how brands deliver that to customers in the year ahead. While organizations will continue to embrace automation technology, such as bots, in 2022 voice will be the dominant channel for brands in how they achieve successful customer interactions.” —Jeff Gallino, chief technology officer of CallMiner
“First-party data is the future of marketing.… Humanizing first-party data by listening to and analyzing customer call data will be an important data strategy for both B2B and B2C brands in 2022.” —Dee Anna McPherson, chief marketing officer of Invoca
One thing that won’t change: Customers, and their experiences, will still be at the center of everything.
“The demand for seamless customer experiences won’t slow down at all in 2022, and in fact, companies will put even more emphasis on finding the best ways to improve customer experiences as a way to exceed customer expectations.” —George Gallegos, CEO of Jitterbit
“The heart of customer service is now the call center. In the past this was a place to collect and pass along CX information. In 2022 this will be the epicenter of where the customer experience becomes even more crucial as the post-sale experience becomes as critical to overall satisfaction as the purchase experience. Important data and direction will be shared in this circular relationship as customers connect with the brand and the brand connects with customers and is vital to drive a deeper meaningful relationship as changes in pandemic behavior begin to normalize daily life and our economy.” –Jason Ten-Pow, founder and CEO of ONR
“Some of the world’s leading consumer-focused brands, like Uber and Doordash, are operating as customer-centric workflow apps. Vertical-focused industries have been relying on automated workflows for years, but they have primarily been focused on internal functions that are employee- and productivity-centric. Now, businesses of all types need to turn their automated workflows outward to tackle customer needs. To do business in the mobile era, businesses will be required to adopt customer-centric workflows that improve the customer experience. In 2022 and beyond, businesses will need to reimagine their workflows from the perspective of their most critical business entity: the customer.” —Stanley Huang, cofounder and chief technology officer of Moxtra
“The massive changes to consumer behavior driven by the pandemic, such as the surge in e-commerce penetration we saw in 2020, which saw 10 years’ growth in three months, are here to stay, even as the world opens up. The world is now an amalgamation of online and in-person. And it’s up to the brands to keep up. The key to success in 2022 will be developing a first-party data strategy that helps brands truly know their customers and meet their expectations.”
—Tamara Gruzbarg, vice president of strategic services at ActionIQ
“COVID has accelerated adoption of digital technology and enhancements in technology across several industries. It has resulted in notable changes in consumer preferences and elevated their expectations on receiving relevant and customized experiences. Simply put, [consumers] expect that brands know what they want based on their preferences and data collection. These consumers will naturally gravitate toward brands that recognize their needs and deliver experiences seamlessly.
—Anjali Iyer, director of insights, strategy, and analytics at Marriott International
“Experiential retailing will become the norm. Consumers will shift their purchases based on the experiences they can get, not the product they are purchasing. The latter will be commoditized.”
—Nick Antoniades, retail industry principal at Treasure Data
“Buyers are doing more and more product and vendor research on their own before they even speak to a seller. Exacerbated by the current speed of digitization, in 2022 buyers will continue to take more control over the sales process, increasing the demand for self-guided experiences, with both content and products. While sales representatives will continue to be needed at crucial moments of the buying process, marketing demands will be greater in creating compelling on-demand customer experiences across the entire funnel.” —Isabelle Papoulias, chief marketing officer of Mediafly
“In 2022, CX programs will grow far more comprehensive in scope. Executives have been trying (and largely failing) to integrate customer feedback in a meaningful and profitable way that allows for quick customer interaction and issue resolution, not just data collection. That real-time relationship building has been difficult or impossible in the past, but no longer. Technical advances will finally allow CX managers to contribute meaningfully to relationships in real time.” —Ryan Tamminga, vice president of customer success at Alchemer
“Everyone is a direct competitor in the experience economy. Gone are the days when customers compare the experience of your brand with those in the same category. Rather, they compare yours against the best digital experiences out there – like those of Netflix or Uber. In 2022, brands will be focused on the convergence of technologies to create the CX everyone is looking for, no matter what vertical or industry you work in.” —Scott Wassmer, general manager of the Americas at Appnovation
“The market has greatly matured since the early days of digital advertising, and consumer desire to not be followed around and treated like a number will require that marketers become more elegant in their approaches. CMOs who apply a creative mindset and appeal to individuals with more authenticity and value will see success [in 2022]. —Mary Drummond, chief marketing officer of Worthix
“In our digital world, customer support has grown beyond the call center and transitioned into emails, chatbots, social media, and even community group chats. In 2022, native language customer support will be a key part of providing customers with a feeling of confidence, empathy, and incentive.” —Vasco Pedro, co-founder and CEO of Unbabel
“The fusion of customer experience and marketing is the most prominent theme that tech companies are focused on in 2022. There is a renewed focus on the idea that consumers should have control over how they view and engage with advertising experiences, and consumer choice will be at the center of both media and marketing strategy.” —Jim Johnson, vice president of account planning at VDX.tv
“The standards for what makes a good customer experience are steadily being raised. In 2022, relevancy, which drives advertising convenience, will play an increasingly large role in what defines a good customer experience. When an experience is relevant, consumers are more likely to engage and feel like they are receiving a quality experience.” —Doug Stevenson, CEO and co-founder of Quintesse
This article originally appeared on Destination CRM.