4 Trends in Digital CX Point to Some Progress

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Four digital CX and design trends have stood out in 2021, according to Forrester Research’s annual report on the subject.

As a result of these four trends, digital customer experience has improved, though it is “still far from great,” according to David Truog, lead author of the report.

Here are the most significant digital CX and design trends to emerge this year:


Based on Forrester’s 100-point scoring system, workflow and progress rose from 63 in last year’s report to 77 in 2021. Search and navigation also improved, running from 49 to 62. Forrester’s Customer Experience Index improved as about 25 percent of organizations made significant advances after several years of stagnation, Truog says. Considering the years of stagnation, this is one of the most surprising things he found.

The quality of content, the number of errors, trust, and perceived privacy all improved by six to nine points.

However, not all areas of digital experience quality improved. Digital accessibility is still sorely lacking, with all but 3 percent of the top 1 million company home pages possessing accessibility defects.

Those defects can cause problems for organizations and customers, Truog says. “If you go to a retail website to order a shirt and there’s a problem, you can just go to another retailer. But if you are on a website to schedule a COVID vaccine and it goes down, that’s another issue.”

Retailers with poorly designed websites could lose not just a one-time sale, but future sales as well, Truog adds. “The quality of the customer experience is what drives loyalty.”

Truog credited expansion and evolution of design teams for the improvements. According to a separate Forrester report, more than a third (38 percent) of companies planned to increase the size of their design teams this year. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of companies now have design teams, compared to only 55 percent a year ago.


The COVID-19 pandemic put a spotlight on companies (and customers) that were ready for the fast shift to digital and those that struggled to do so as commerce and communications moved quickly from other channels to digital.

“Consumers already in the habit of interacting digitally, often with many digital touchpoints, have predictably gone all in with relative ease as brands supercharge the digital aspects of the experiences,” Truog explains. It’s now common for retailers to offer online ordering with curbside pickup. Companies offering goods from furniture to makeup enable customers to use video, QR codes, and even augmented reality to get a feel for a product without ever walking into a physical store.

Consumers, including those who had typically shopped in person, have adapted to the change, though sometimes by necessity rather than by choice. But few expect most consumers to go back to pre-pandemic ways of shopping, so retailers, healthcare providers, and others need to adjust accordingly, Forrester recommends.


Consumers are using more devices to conduct business, with smartphones and even smart watches being used now for more than simple transactions and tasks.

Outside of convenience, use of these devices has grown due to the pandemic and consumers’ desire to avoid touching surfaces in public places. Similarly, many people are still reluctant to shop in physical stores if it can be avoided.

Truog notes that more consumers are trying chatbots, but they still promise more functionality than they actually deliver, despite improvements in the underlying artificial intelligence and improved conversational design.


With digital becoming increasingly important, poor design of digital touchpoints becomes quickly evident, according to Forrester. Though sometimes customers can figure out work-arounds, the problem becomes more evident as more people try to use the digital touchpoints and conversion rates sink or support calls to live agents increase.

Too often, companies experiment with various design-related solutions but fail to adequately monitor deployed solutions.

Many firms are attempting to combat these issues by adding people to their digital design teams and providing additional training for their digital project design and development teams. An increasing number of companies are hiring user experience, user interface, product, and service designers, as well as researchers, and others in related fields, preferring applicants who are proficient in collaboration, have proven experience, and are skilled storytellers, according to Forrester. 

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