It’s no secret to us (or any of our clients) that advancements in experience and innovation are moving faster than almost every other aspect of business. In fact, spending on experience technologies jumped nearly 8 percent this year to $508 billion, and experts expect it to grow another 8.2 percent in the year ahead.

As companies raise the experience bar, we’re seeing major shifts in the way customers and employees interact with brands. If people can’t see a reason one brand stands out over another, they move on. In a world of practically limitless options, there’s always another choice.

Here are four ways we expect to see more companies – both B2B and B2C – shake up their approach to developing, launching and implementing better experiences.

1. Experience becomes the product, and vice versa.

It’s getting harder to differentiate an experience from a product and a product from an experience. Digitally native companies–especially those with a direct relationship to their customers – have led the way.

While it may be hard to define the “product” from a company like Uber, Spotify or Airbnb, these companies are monetizing experience. They understand that it is their primary commodity.

That means more complex experiences and a broader offering of products. It’s no surprise to companies in Silicon Valley, where companies like Slack, Glassdoor and PayPal have dedicated “product” teams versus “experience” teams. Legacy companies, including Adobe and Capital One, are also adopting this approach.

2. Jobs become talent incubators.

Unemployment rates, currently at a 50-year-low, are expected to stay that way in the year ahead, turning up pressure on employers who are increasingly desperate to find new workers. That means making even more significant changes in the employee value proposition, especially to attract Gen Z and Centennials. Unlike older workers, these younger people favor purpose-driven employers, with 60 percent saying they believe brands should speak up about social issues. They want to work for companies that align with their own values and expect employers to adapt to and support their changing interests and lifestyles.

They don’t see their first job as merely a paycheck but as a stepping-stone. To win these young workers over, employers need to position themselves as enablers of a career path, whether they are a professional services firm, a tech startup or a fast-food brand. And they need to do so regardless of whether their workers stay with them or not.

Starbucks led this trend back in 2015, announcing free tuition at Arizona State University’s online program. The company, which had already offered two years of free classes, expanded it to cover four years, offering an undergraduate degree to full and part-time workers.

McDonald’s is taking steps in this direction with a “Where You Want To Be” Campaign, a concerted effort to help employees connect the skills they learn on the job with education, tuition assistance and career tools to take the next step in their professional journey.

McDonald’s developed the program by analyzing generational segments, zeroing in on the soft skills and industries that matter most to these young workers, which include arts and entertainment, technology, entrepreneurship and healthcare, as well as restaurants and foodservice. It teamed up with five influencers aligned to each industry, offering a few employees once-in-a-lifetime first-hand work experience.

It’s all part of a larger “Archways to Opportunity” program, which offers a suite of career development services, funds and tools designed to help restaurant employees identify potential career paths and chart a course of action to pursue them.

3. Companies build CX portfolios.

Increasingly, we see companies like Bose take steps to formalize the customer-experience role. They’re adding operational complexities to several internal initiatives, managing broad portfolios of customer-experience moves. That includes moving from idea to concept to prototype to scale, but also fixing what’s broken, getting up to par and trying to become “best in class.” Mature companies can manage this broad portfolio by creating experience and innovation organizations.

As they begin to manage these portfolios better, they’re also bearing down on CX measurement. The more companies spend, the more the burden of proof rises. Mature organizations have built-in processes that calculate customer experiences’ contribution to business and brand results, such as increased consumer satisfaction or better conversion rates.

But many companies still get stuck measuring across multiple channels. It’s not enough to know how well an e-commerce site does. Companies are striving for metrics that encompass the success of the full experience. Marketing tools like Adobe are already working on holistic measurements, but we expect the year ahead to bring new players to the field.

4. Simplified design makes a comeback.

With their attention pulled in so many different directions, people are craving more focus. That means simplicity has a higher perceived value. As a result, we expect to see more products and services that streamline experiences and choices.

Some of our favorite examples include Spotify’s Wrapped and Netflix’s updated approach to recommendations and categorization. Shopify is a leader too, with its one-click ordering, chat-based commerce and AR tools. Essentially, the future looks exciting and inspiring for those who adapt and pretty deadly for those who don’t.

Want to learn more about how experience and innovation can transform your business? Hear from our team about why experience matters here or get in touch today. 

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