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UserTesting 2021 Predictions: Five Trends to Expect in The Year of the Customer

vmblog 2021 prediction series 

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2021.  Read them in this 13th annual series exclusive.

Five Trends to Expect in The Year of the Customer

By Andy MacMillan, CEO of UserTesting

In 2020, companies were tasked with reimagining all aspects of their processes. Enterprise organizations accelerated their digital transformations to accommodate remote work, retailers leaned on methods like curbside pick-up like they never had before, and consumer needs changed rapidly. Now, as companies look forward to 2021 and settle into the "new normal," they must relearn their customers in order to make strategic, customer-centric decisions. With this in mind, there are five key trends that we can expect to see in "The Year of the Customer."

The rise of the new CEO-Chief Empathy Officer

The role of the CEO in its traditional sense is evolving as we know it. The need for empathy has never been more important than it is today. Empathy will become a determining factor in whether your company is perceived as a customer-centric organization, or not. And it starts with a new kind of CEO-the Chief Empathy Officer. This is not a new, standalone role to add to the C-suite, but a characteristic the leadership team must possess; a charter they must steward. The business challenges brought about in 2020 have made it clear that company leaders need to go all in on empathy-they must tap into the human perspective to help them make customer-informed decisions, they must see the world from their customer's perspective. Empathy might sound like a fluffy word, but it will be what sets apart the leaders from the laggards in 2021-and it starts with a new kind of leadership: empathetic & understanding towards its customers.

Don't let digital be the death of your company

Once a buzzword, the pandemic quickly transformed digital transformation into a business imperative. Not only did the pandemic accelerate digital transformation for companies large and small, it also revealed that the process doesn't have to take years. What 2020 has made clear is that organizations must have a digital presence with a strong customer experience in order to stay relevant and remain competitive now and in a post-pandemic world.

It's time for organizations to get emotional about their customers

Big data can tell you a lot. It can reveal patterns and trends that can help an organization make important decisions. However, big data alone lacks emotional intelligence. Discovering the ‘why' behind the patterns and trends is critical. Emotional data provides companies with the ‘why' context, to help them build customer intuition and give them the added assurance that the decisions they are making are right for their customers. In today's rapidly changing business environment, the ability to use emotional data at scale to foster customer empathy is one of the most important opportunities for companies.

Companies will need immersive AR to bring their buying experiences to life

This pandemic has had a severe impact on businesses around the world. It changed consumers' shopping behaviors and the way they consider and purchase goods and services. The pandemic may be responsible for accelerating the pace of AR adoption. has recently predicted for the AR/VR market saying that the global market is expected to reach $94.4 billion by 2023. For eCommerce and real estate industries especially, a high quality AR experience is a must; consumers want to be able to see/visualize how the product looks within the environment, and AR offers the next best thing to in-person viewing. While the AR experience is not designed to replace the in-store experience, it is set to enhance it. The expectation of great AR experiences has never been higher. 

More companies look to close the empathy gap with their customers

What is the empathy gap and why should companies care about it? Many companies suffer from what's been called the empathy gap. In a study by Capgemini, it's been shown that although 75% of organizations think they're customer-centric, a mere 30% of consumers agree. And I wouldn't be surprised if the pandemic has widened this gap! If you want to have a customer-centric organization and close the empathy gap, you have to be able to put your customer at the center of that business model. Now more than ever, companies must focus on going that extra mile to relearn their customer post-pandemic. The more emotional data a company can collect on their customer, the more effective they will be at anticipating their challenges and needs. By and large, this customer motion will help to close the empathy gap. 

As companies continue to innovate and iterate on the technological advancements made during 2020, keeping customers at the center of every business decision will prove increasingly important, in order to provide great experiences for 2021 and beyond.


About the Author

Andy MacMillan 

Andy MacMillan is CEO of UserTesting to which he brings 20 years of enterprise SaaS experience. As a former product executive at Oracle and Salesforce, he saw the critical role that customer centricity plays in creating great experiences. By helping companies become more customer-centric, he has helped grow multiple enterprise-SaaS businesses to values in the hundreds of millions of dollars. 

Published Tuesday, December 22, 2020 7:29 AM by David Marshall
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