Retail in Asia

Customer experience priorities for Southeast Asia brands in 2023

Customer experience (CX) capabilities are set to play an important role in Southeast Asia’s retail and e-commerce landscape in 2023. A recent Sprinklr study found that social commerce would contribute USD 42 billion to Southeast Asia’s e-commerce market by the end of 2022, with some 45 percent of internet users in Singapore, the region’s digital hub, today shopping on messaging apps.

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Vincent Washington, Vice President of Customer Experience Management (CXM) Best Practices Group at Sprinklr, shares with RiA insights into the evolving nature of customer experience, artificial intelligence, and digital commerce – as well as the most important customer experience (CX) priorities for Southeast Asia brands — and beyond, in 2023, and what CX leaders should be considering for their own companies.

Closing the gap between customer service and marketing: Getting these two functions more integrated

When a customer has an issue with a brand, they do not care what department resolves their issue. Conversely, leading brands know how to create great CX from either the customer service or the marketing teams.

CX leaders will seek new metrics to demonstrate the value of customer service beyond just handling issues. Metrics such as concurrency rates, average handle time, or first-touch resolution are internal volume management measures that help teams evaluate speed and productivity. Customer service teams also need to develop other strengths beyond just issue resolution, such as ambassador/influencer building, brand amplification, and turning service into experiences that create a funnel for revenue generation as partners with other internal teams such as loyalty and omni sales teams.

As customer service teams evolve, lines between social care, customer engagement, and marketing community management will continue to blur. Brands that will get ahead in ‘23 will integrate these practices to curate the best possible CX via brand and support conversations.

Turning “service” moments into shareable moments

Successful brands will develop programs to empower customers to share positive experiences. Customers are quick to tell the world about a negative experience, however, seldom tell others about the time a brand exceeded expectations. But customer service teams can improve the odds a customer will share a great engagement by building sharing triggers and using digital tools to help customers amplify and share inspiring experiences. The best CX teams will incentivise this activity and create greater retargeting opportunities.

Turning customers into brand advocates is essential amid the rise of social commerce, which contributed approximately USD 42 billion to Southeast Asia in 2022, according to a study commissioned by Sprinklr. Social commerce refers to any form of sales activity that occurs directly on social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok. One of the most promising and vibrant social commerce trends in Southeast Asia is conversational commerce, where customers interact with business owners for purchases directly via messaging apps like WhatsApp. In Singapore, the digital hub of Southeast Asia, 45 percent of internet users were found to be shopping on messaging apps according to the Sprinklr study, demonstrating the deeply entrenched role of consumer-led transactions in today’s retail and e-commerce landscape.

Digital-first commerce is here to stay: Forward-looking brick-and-mortar locations will pivot to stay relevant

The lines between physical location, e-commerce, conversational commerce, and other forms of digital commerce will continue to blur. Brick-and-mortar locations will need to pivot more to experience building centres to showcase what you can do with products versus just having a showroom of inventory to buy from. There will always be an audience for customers who need to touch and feel a product before they buy. So, supply chain awareness will be key. Virtual reality experiences, and more importantly, augmented reality experiences, are going to become common expectations.

As a case in point, Sprinklr’s study found that conversational commerce contributes USD 200 billion for online-to-offline transactions in Southeast Asia. Customers often begin conversations over messaging apps with store staff, after which their purchases are completed in brick-and-mortar stores. With conversational commerce set to play a growing role in the region’s retail and e-commerce landscape, the most successful businesses will be those that are able to harness technology such as AI chatbots or voice assistance to power personalised CX, facilitating purchase decisions.

Moving past transactional relationships with customers is crucial

Customer service continues to evolve into customer engagement, where service is just a use case. The true business objective is to establish a brand connection. Businesses will need to develop ways to put this approach into practice so that it’s really a value-added experience that a customer feels personalised and relevant.

Another aspirational differentiator businesses have yet to tap into is providing transparency and personalised data or history to customers about prior successful care experiences with their brand. Consider how a website shows the last product purchased to remind a customer of their satisfaction with it. Why not do this with care engagements? Give customers real-time insight into where they personally had the most satisfaction and where other customers are finding success.

This allows brand owners to capitalise on current retail and e-commerce trends such as conversational commerce, where customers select a product and pay directly on messaging apps such as WhatsApp. With purchases starting with conversations led by store staff, being able to deliver impactful, personalised engagement can be useful to encourage more transactions and boost customer satisfaction.

Loyalty programs play a role in creating proactive customer support experiences

Personalisation matters more than ever. Consumers don’t just want personalisation, they demand it – and with brand loyalty becoming more elusive, getting it right matters. Loyalty programs are no longer just ‘earn to burn points’. Loyalty is about knowing and anticipating your customer’s needs. Brand leaders in personalisation achieve outcomes by tailoring offerings and outreach to the right individual at the right moment with the right experiences.

Brands in various industries have established loyalty programs to attract and build enduring relationships with customers. Over 500 million customers are actively enrolled in loyalty programs and those programs are often viewed as the face of the brand. Loyalty leaders can also leverage data to tailor engagement and proactively care for members when they need the brand the most.

How brands could use artificial intelligence (AI) successfully in 2023

If companies can successfully position AI as an aid instead of a replacement for human service, consumers will increasingly get more comfortable engaging with AI bots. This should free up traditional service teams to focus on other priorities that positively impact customers.

In many cases, AI can also be used to deliver greater insights that empower agents to provide better service. It can hyper-categorise customers into lifestyle and intent matrices to be used for segmentation and retargeting. The challenge brands need to solve now is figuring out what this pivot should look like.

They need to understand what kind of tasks should be a priority once AI is handling all the more mundane and routine tasks, and how metrics can be used most successfully.