The team at Lucky Beard has looked ahead to trends in technology and design in 2022. These trends also impact business strategy so there’s plenty to ponder as we face into the new year.

Digital transformation is a necessity; now it’s about acceleration

The pace of business change is speeding up, so it’s not about if you change but how fast.

A company’s average tenure on the S&P 500 Index was 32 years in 1965; by last year it had fallen to just over 21 years.

Companies like Netflix, Revolut and Tesla are rewriting all the rules in the categories they operate in, and we would argue a big part of the reason why they are so successful is customer experience.

With Tesla, there’s no dealership, the sale is all handled through your app.

Even though the experience incorporates technologies embedded in virtual and augmented reality, it’s delivered in a way that takes all the fear out for the consumer.

Innovative companies are setting expectations. They are taking pieces of technology that have been around for a while and packaging them into a simple, compelling brand and seamless customer experience that adds value to the customer’s life.

And you can take inspiration from beyond the sector you operate in. Now’s the time to ask: if a furniture retailer can use augmented reality to show its customers how a sofa would look in their living room, why can’t an insurance provider use digital technologies to deliver a more compelling experience for the customer?

The rise of ethically driven, human-centred design

While we’re on the subject of consumer experience, another trend we expect to see a lot more of in 2022 is ethical UX.

Companies need to be conscious of ethical design where everything revolves around the best intentions for the user or customer.

By way of explanation, the intention of user experience is to get someone to perform an action or complete a task.

For many years, the industry leaned on techniques like persuasive design and dark UX which is a way of designing a user experience that favours one action over another.

For instance, a lot of mobile games put the ‘buy’ button in the same place as you’d expect to click ‘next’.

This is a form of unfair influence because the user might not be consciously aware of how they’re being subtly nudged in a certain direction.

The reason you get a popup saying ‘subscribe now’ and then a chatbot pops up is because it works and it converts into sales.

Yet it’s always done in the businesses’ best interest; now it needs to be in the consumer’s best interests. We think these kinds of practices will start to die out next year.

Putting people back in the picture

Online sales are rising, and even as stores reopen, some of the biggest brands like Walmart are seeing big increases in their e-commerce revenues.

But that headline trend hides some big developments behind it.

Over the next year, we expect pushback on the robotic ‘user’ experience. Some automated processes lack empathy and nuance – exactly the kind of thing humans are good at – whereas customers want human, kind, empathetic, real experience.

The aim is to put the customer first, and as the line between real and virtual continues to blur, leading brands are starting to deliver ‘human’ rather than digital interactions.

Expect to see app and website design becoming even more intuitive and human-centric – such as visual search and virtual try-ons to help them when shopping online.

Anywhere there is a ‘high touch’ interaction – even in a traditional space like wealth management – there’s an opportunity for brands to make experiences like customer service or help more personal.

There’s an app for that – everywhere

Another technology-driven trend will come, unsurprisingly from Apple who despite a relatively low PC market penetration still wields an outsize influence on the sector.

Its transition to the new Apple silicon chips will give its entire product line a common architecture.

What this means in practice is that apps originally developed for its smartphones or tablets will now work on its desktops.

We think this will start to play out in the market with businesses thinking about how to deliver a consistent experience across all their platforms. At heart, we think this is another trend that favours the customer.

The prevalence of purpose

Thinking about these kinds of design issues is about more than deciding where a button goes on your website. When you start to break it down, this becomes a question of strategy: what kind of business do you want to be?

We think 2022 should be a year when businesses start to ask more fundamental questions, such as: what’s the long-term impression of my brand on sales behaviour?

We think it’s time for a change of mindset from aggressive sales to customer care; of being there to serve the customer, not to annoy them.

Businesses must strike a balance between the need for profit and being mindful of the customer beyond the next transaction.

Today’s informed customer wants to give their business to brands that do more than just provide a product or a service.

Do your customers know what your purpose is? That’s one question to ponder as we head towards the new year.

New year, new opportunity

Whenever the new year comes into view, thoughts of resolutions are never too far away.

It’s no different in business: we’ve noticed in Ireland that a lot of digital customer experiences aren’t quite up to the increasing demands of the digital-savvy customer.

The reality is, the rush to digital triggered by Covid left a lot of businesses exposed. To quote Warren Buffett, “it’s only when the tide goes out that you learn who’s been swimming naked”.

Recently, we’ve been contacted by clients looking to figure out how they evolve their business in order to stay relevant in a world that’s changing by the day.

But that said, you got to get the basics right before you can race ahead.

Now is a good time for companies to optimise their online activity to capitalise on changing technology, business operations, and customer expectations.

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