Businesses, especially in retail and financial services, need to strike a healthy balance between human and digital touchpoints for excellent customer experience.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are shopping online than ever before. In fact, about 70 million more people in South-East Asia shopped online since the pandemic began.

Beyond just shopping, consumers are increasingly relying on digital touchpoints for services such as banking as well. 

With this dependency on digital services, human touchpoints are becoming a luxury and will eventually differentiate higher-end services from lower-end ones. Labor shortages across many industries are also accelerating this trend. 

As more businesses pivot towards digitalization, they run the risk of alienating consumers who seek a more “human” experience. To provide personalized and excellent customer service to all types of consumers across every service level, businesses must be able to strike a balance between human and digital touchpoints. 

DigiconAsia broached the issues surrounding customer experience in the ‘phygital’ age with Julio Bermudez, Vice President, Asia Pacific and Latin America, Amplitude.

What are the key factors contributing to the fast growth of digital touchpoints, especially in retail and banking?

Julio Bermudez (JB): The pandemic has precipitated an unparalleled acceleration of digital transformation on all fronts, and the result is a massive uptick in the adoption of digital products. We’re seeing this in every sector. Shopping has moved online.

Remote work has driven record use of enterprise software. And fintech has taken off. It is predicted that at least 65% of Asia Pacific’s GDP will be digitalized by the end of 2022, and we’re seeing similar evidence in Amplitude’s own data. Daily active use of digital products around the world has grown 54% since January 2020.

How is digital customer experience in the Asia Pacific region evolving, and what are some key trends to look out for?

JB: Just like before the pandemic, people are looking for intuitive, personalized and easy digital experiences. But the expectations for what that means is constantly evolving, and many organizations are struggling to keep up. I’m watching a couple trends in particular:

  1. While digital products are permeating every aspect of our lives, not everyone welcomes this change. There is an emerging group of digital nay-sayers, who don’t want to look at menus on their phone or conduct doctors’ appointments virtually. As this class of consumers grows, businesses will need to find a way to make their digital products easier to use, less intrusive and more akin to “normal” digital-free experiences.
  2. Many organizations lack the sophistication and talent to create the digital experiences that people want. In fact, 80% of APAC businesses are worried about this. To solve this problem, we’re going to see more companies experimenting with low code/no code software and other user-friendly machine learning platforms that make development and data science accessible to non-technical users.

Why do you think businesses must continue to deliver the ‘human touch’ even as their touchpoints become increasingly digital?

‘Human touch’ is non-negotiable when it comes to delivering exceptional customer experiences. Right now, many customers are craving the personal, white glove service that you can’t get from digital touchpoints such as QR codes or contactless check-in at a hotel. This is especially the case with high-end and luxury experiences, whether in hospitality, finance or wellness. 

Ultimately, people want the best of both worlds. They want technology that is convenient and easy-to-use, and they want a human available to answer their questions and make them feel at ease. This means businesses need to evolve the way they think about their products. The key is identifying which experiences technology enhances and which experiences technology disrupts.

How should businesses leverage data to create personalized and excellent customer experiences?

JB: Companies have been focused on digital transformation for decades, but the next step is digital optimization. To optimize, companies need insights into how customers are using their products – what they like about them, where they’re getting stuck, what triggers a purchase etc.

The problem is that right now most companies are operating blindly. They have no idea how their customers are using their products or if the product investments they’re making are worth the spend. They’re relying on legacy web analytics tools that only provide surface-level data about clicks and page views, but that’s not enough to understand today’s complex and diverse user journeys. And it certainly isn’t enough to make strategic product decisions.

Instead, companies need in-depth and first-party product data. I’m not talking about tracking your users around the internet – that might help your advertisements, but it won’t improve your product. Armed with this information, businesses will then be able to improve, mold and adapt their products to provide the personalized experiences their customers are looking for.

What key considerations should businesses take note of to strike a balance in the ‘phygital’ age of customer experience?

JB: While it is undeniable that reliance on digital products will increase in the foreseeable future, businesses must recognize that the digital touchpoints in products are unlikely to replace physical interactions entirely. The key for businesses is to provide a consistently tailored experience through digital and human touchpoints.

On the digital front, this involves leveraging the right data to have an evolving view of customers’ interactions on digital products and adapt services accordingly. In physical stores, businesses must be able to mimic the speed and convenience that customers would already be accustomed to on digital platforms.

Ultimately, the balancing act between physical and digital interactions in today’s phygital age will require businesses to provide customer experiences with the best of both worlds, no matter which channel they choose.