2020 — for many of us, it sounds like science fiction. Yet the future is Now. Is your business ready for the new demands and opportunities that are reshaping customer experience?

That’s what we keep an eye on. And each new year, our Beyond the Arc team shares predictions on what we’re seeing as pivotal issues that will gain importance in the coming year.

For 2020, we focused on three key areas…

3 top trends impacting customer experience
3 top trends impacting CX

digital payments The rise of invisible payments

Ordering coffee, catching a ride, buying tunes — increasingly, we meet our needs in a few taps without ever seeing a payment transaction. Apple, Uber, and Starbucks are embedding commerce into lifestyle activities to create seamless experiences, and it’s just the beginning.

But, how will this trend influence customer behaviors and expectations?

Embedded payments will continue to expand, driving a considerable shift in consumer expectations. According to Beyond the Arc’s Nina Katz:

77% of smartphone shoppers are more likely to purchase from companies whose mobile sites or apps allow them to make purchases quickly.1

Apps and voice commands that make it effortless to pay for parking, prescriptions, and a wide range of products. That means more and more consumers will see a purchase as just an invisible thing that happens while they get things done.

Amazon introduced a novel approach at Amazon Go stores. Soon we’ll see more embedded payments at supermarkets, gas stations, and local stores.

This trend may be a wake-up call for many businesses to evolve their mobile app experience. To stay competitive, companies will need to offer digital capabilities that reflect today’s busy lifestyles, giving customers simpler, faster ways to meet their needs.

In our work with fintech clients, we’re seeing a prime example of this trend. Facebook, Google, and Amazon are emerging as dominant players in payments. What started with a few innovators is becoming part of a ‘digital playbook’ for business. Gavin James sees this on the horizon:

As consumers are getting used to handling payments through their tech favorites, they’re growing more comfortable with the idea of turning to them for other financial needs. As a result, these tech giants are positioned to win new customers away from banks. Studies show 65% of Amazon Prime customers would open an Amazon bank account, and 74% of adults 18-24 expect to get financial services from a tech firm in the next five years.2

Banks and credit unions will need to really up their game to offer simpler, more compelling mobile experiences. That means designing for how people really want to control their money, with easy access to relevant tools and support, all in one place.

Of course, there’s always a flipside to progress. Embedded commerce simplifies transactions, but it may worry consumers as well, notes Bruce Johnson.

59% of consumers are worried about their personal information when using mobile payments.3

Digital payments are the new normal. But they’re also causing wariness, especially among older customers, the ones who often have the most disposable income. Companies may need to make special efforts to convince people that their money and their data are safe.

Educational outreach isn’t just for consumers. Businesses worry about protecting their customer data. For a top 5 bank’s merchant services division, we created engaging videos and infographics to help companies understand top fraud threats and how to protect their business and customer payment data.

These communications have a practical impact, and also help strengthen relationships by showing the bank is watching out for their customers’ best interests.

Where else can we expect to see these types of effortless, integrated experiences? Christine Matteo envisions opportunities in healthcare:

With numerous apps to track your vitals (heart rate, etc.), people may expect more proactive, personalized health tips from their doctor or care provider. For example, ‘We noticed your stress level may be high; here are some ways to reduce it’ or ‘We see you haven’t been sleeping well the last week; here are some sleep tips’.

Whether it’s invisible payments or personalized support – the future of mobile experiences is about deepening engagement and being there for customers in real time. And in brick and mortar business, deploying new payment technologies will translate into more friction-free retail experiences.

The promise of 5G

Easier, faster, better — that’s the customer experience holy grail — and 5G promises a turboboost. Lightning speed connections will decrease movie download times from 7 minutes to just 6 seconds. With 5G, consumers will save almost one full day per month of loading time for social media, music, movies, and gaming.4

When unprecedented speed and power transform what’s possible, what will it mean for how companies do business and how they relate to customers?

Companies will need to prepare for what faster connectivity means for customers, says Jacqueline Espinoza.

Businesses will want to analyze customer behaviors and anticipate their needs. Predictive analytics can help them plan for future products and services made possible by faster connections and computing.

It will also be important to manage customer expectations when 5G is rolled out, as it won’t happen overnight. That means delivering effective multi-channel customer communications – both to advocate new experiences and support customers who may not have access to 5G.

As 5G enables tech innovations and connected everything (like IoT), Gavin expects that businesses will also need to focus on telling complex stories in simple ways:

Even highly successful tech companies often struggle with how to communicate ‘why to care’. Yes, their business customers need granular details about new technologies, but first they want to understand the business case — how this new thing will impact outcomes and increase their competitive advantage.

Edge computing – which processes data on remote connected devices rather than first transferring it to a data center – will make a huge leap forward with 5G, notes Steven Ramirez.

5G will enable real-time predictive analytics and machine learning that takes place at the point of sale or impact, wherever that may be. Consumers can expect more personalized experiences and offers. And companies will be able to identify and adapt to rapidly changing conditions anywhere they operate. As a result, the global edge computing market is expected to grow nearly 33% annually over the next 5 years.5

But this shift will also introduce new challenges in data security and data management. It will be mission critical for businesses to have an effective platform to identify what’s useful vs. irrelevant data. And they’ll need the right data science strategies and tools to put actionable insights to work – whether it’s for predictive maintenance for smart city lighting, improving connected car service reliability, or uncovering shopping behaviors for proximity marketing.

5G may take time to roll out, but it will ramp up quickly. By 2021, it’s estimated there will be up to 100 million 5G connections worldwide, with spending on mobile infrastructure to reach about $2.3 billion.6

team collaboration Reinventing work

2020 could bring leaps in innovation — but only if companies start retooling how they make it happen. To keep pace with rapidly changing customer expectations, businesses face a growing need to rethink how they work internally. Steven sums it up:

As businesses work to transform their customer experience, they often run into roadblocks. Legacy processes and traditional ways of organizing people and projects are hindering their ability to drive measurable progress. 2020 is the time to think about what the ‘future of work’ looks like, and put it into action.

As an example, Nina emphasizes that focus on innovation can no longer be confined to small pilot projects and special labs — it needs to be infused into the company culture:

Embracing growth hacking, design thinking, and agile methodologies are all ways companies drive innovation with quick cycles of ideation and feedback, using data as a reality check. As teams test and validate more efficient and effective ways to achieve goals, the company can scale those approaches to accelerate progress.

Increasing employee engagement is key to making it work. Gavin notes that highly collaborative approaches help amplify employee motivation:

Unique models like agile marketing that bring together cross-functional teams often provide more rewarding ways to work. Getting all the right people together — engaging many diverse voices early and often — enables the team to generate more ideas, solve problems faster, and achieve results sooner. In large organizations where legacy processes can make progress glacially slow, we’ve seen it make a world of difference for both speed to market and employee satisfaction.

Being a statistics expert, Bruce reminds us that if companies want to change the culture of work, they need to demonstrate the value:

Success stories help convince businesses to change. For a piloted approach, show before and after time and money (e.g., costs of staff hours and compensation vs. business profits related to team labor). It can help make a convincing case, and justify the cost of changing how the business operates.

Beyond the practical aspects of working more efficiently, increasing collaboration is key for improving a sense of inclusion in the organization. While diversity of gender, ethnicity, and other factors has been an HR agenda for many companies, inclusion is now gaining importance for creating a better employee experience.

Building a more inclusive company culture will become a prominent theme, predicts Steven:

There’s increasing talk on how to make employees feel more comfortable and involved in how can they contribute. It’s hard when the people generating ideas or designing products don’t represent a multitude of ways to see the world. This year we’ll see companies striving to bring together a better diversity of people and ideas, to capture business value from inclusion.

Reinventing work is about creating a more empowered workforce. That means creating an environment where every individual feels noticed and welcomed – and given equal opportunity to do their best. High performing organizations will bring diverse people together to reimagine internal processes, innovate products and services, and improve customer experiences. As the future of work creates more unity within and across teams, more companies will consider incentives that acknowledge and reward teamwork over individual work.


As we dive into 2020, the pace of change continues to accelerate. Now is the time for fresh approaches to achieve more in less time, to innovate and collaborate – and most importantly, to really move the needle on your customer experience and employee engagement.


1 Think with Google, 2019

2 Amazon could become the third-biggest US bank if it wants to: Bain study

3 Mobile payments in the United States – Statistics & Facts

4 5G Will Save You Almost 24 Hours of Download Time Per Month

How edge computing will benefit from 5G technology

6 5G – Statistics & Facts

Images: CustomerThink.com; featured image: Pixabay.com