In the future, the way companies embrace technology, drive speed to market and deliver and measure social impact will all play a bigger role in loyalty…This is already starting to happen today
The future of customer experience will be shaped largely by evolving technologies such as AI, machine learning and predictive analytics.
By 2030, for instance, consumers will cite mobile apps, high-speed access and ordering via smart home systems as the top three technologies driving loyalty.
Moreover, the majority of customer engagements will be done or completed by smart machines, according to a new global survey by Futurum Research.
The research, sponsored by analytics firm SAS, finds that technology will be the major driver behind the reimagined customer experience (CX) in the next 10 years.
Brands must rethink their customer ecosystems to keep pace with empowered consumers and evolving consumer technologies, says Futurum Research, which released the survey results at the annual Analytics Experience in Milan, Italy.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that there will be a rapid growth in the relationship between humans and machines over the next decade,” says Daniel Newman, principal analyst at Futurum Research.
73 per cent of consumers believe the use of their personal data is ‘out of control’
“Companies will have to strike a delicate balance between providing highly empathic human-like experiences with the instantaneous results that consumers have come to expect,” he states.
“Technology will be the bridge as data, analytics, machine learning and AI will enable machines to deliver this balance in a more humanistic way that satisfies customers and delivers increased efficiencies to the enterprise.”
Mind the gap: Trust
While the research notes how emerging technology will underpin brand success over the next decade, it also points out the biggest challenge brands are facing today - the ability to overcome the trust gap between them and consumers.
As consumers continue to use technology that opens their lives to others, they have dual expectations of businesses: Understand me as an individual and protect my privacy
“Consumers are wary of how brands treat their personal data and feel powerless to change it,” according to the report Experience 2030: The Future of Customer Experience.
“Only 54 per cent of consumers trust brands to keep their data private,” it states. “In fact, 73 per cent of consumers believe the use of their personal data is “out of control.”
“This is a challenge for brands as they work to balance the CX they can deliver as a result of the richness of the user data they collect with the trust concerns of the consumer,” says Newman.
Agility plus (extreme) automation
Futurum Research says it surveyed in May this year more than 4,000 panelists across a range of consumer, industry and government sectors, in three dozen countries.
By 2030, the brands surveyed in the study see a massive shift toward the automation of customer engagements.
Thus, the research anticipates that smart machines will replace humans and handle roughly two-thirds of customer engagement, decisions made during real-time engagement, and decisions around marketing and promotional campaigns.
According to the research, by 2030, 67 per cent of customer engagement between a brand and consumer using digital devices (online, mobile, etc.) will be completed by smart machines rather than the human agents of today.
Consumers expect to ‘visit’ remote locations or experience vacation and entertainment events through mixed reality devices by 2025
And by 2030, 69 per cent of decisions made during a customer engagement will be completed by smart machines.
“Building loyalty is a critical component for brand growth, and over the next 10 years we will see increased nuance and complexity beyond the traditional price, quality and service matrix that has long stood at the core of loyalty propositions,” says Newman.
‘In the future, the way companies embrace technology, drive speed to market (and consumer) and deliver and measure social impact will all play a bigger role in loyalty,” he states. “This is already starting to happen today, and its importance will multiply by 2030.”
Embracing emerging tech
The study finds 78 per cent of brands believe consumers are uneasy dealing with technology today in stores. Yet the study found that only 35 per cent of consumers expressed this unease.
This gap between the beliefs of brands and their consumers could limit these brands’ growth if they are not careful, the report states.
Only 54 per cent of consumers trust brands to keep their data private
In fact, the survey finds consumers are expecting to further embrace new technologies by 2030:
80 per cent say they expect to accept delivery of a product by drone or autonomous vehicle.
81 per cent say they expect to engage with chatbots
78 per cent expect to use an augmented, virtual, or mixed reality app to see how a product will look – such as how a piece of clothing might look on a shopper or how a piece of furniture might look in a home
56 per cent expect to be “visiting” remote locations or experiencing vacation and entertainment events through mixed reality devices by 2025.
8 out of 10 expect to use a smart assistant (such as Google Home, Amazon Alexa, etc.) to make an online purchase or control a smart home
78 per cent say they expect they’ll be controlling other devices with their wearables.
For brands, this level of consumer acceptance – and expectation – opens new opportunities for broadening consumer engagement. But to meet rising expectations on both sides, brands require new capabilities to close the gap between consumer technology and marketing technology.
“Tracing a customer through their journey entails a forensic understanding of the customer across endless journey permutations – customers want to be remembered and understood as they crisscross myriad channels, touchpoints and contexts,” says Wilson Raj, global director of SAS Customer Intelligence.
“Brands must reinvent their operating models to act at speed,” says Raj. “They need a holistic data strategy that they can personalise at scale, journey analytics capabilities that can adapt in real time, and enable a self-reinforcing cycle of tailored experiences.”
The ‘moving target’ conundrum
“The empowered new buyer is capitalising on emerging technologies and exerting tremendous pressure on the technology needs of marketing organisations,” notes Raj.
For CMOs, these forces create a “moving target” problem, he says. “It's hard to gain a leading edge on something that’s constantly advancing. And this is problematic because consumers expect ‘always-on’ access and service and to interact with a brand on their terms.”
The research asked brands what “futuristic” technologies they are investing in today to deliver new customer experiences and increase customer satisfaction by 2030.
The respondents believe that AI, machine learning and predictive analytics will play a large role in customer experience.
The study finds 62 per cent of brands are investing in voice-based AI assistants to improve customer engagement strategies and as a customer support asset. Another 58 per cent are investing in voice-based AI as an internal marketing and sales asset.
For augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), 54 per cent of brands are investing in it to help consumers visualise the look or use of a product or service remotely. More than half (53 per cent) of brands are looking at AR/VR tools to improve product use and self-help.
The study also found that 83 per cent of brands are investing or plan to invest in holographic technology for in-store advertising, interactive gaming and public events.
Businesses need a holistic data strategy that they can personalise at scale, journey analytics capabilities that can adapt in real time, and enable a self-reinforcing cycle of tailored experiences
All these emerging and more complex customer engagement technologies mean that brands must rethink their data management proficiency, analytical optimisation processes and automated decision-making capabilities, the report states.
“They must be able to use these new technologies to achieve tangible business outcomes. These new applications will be capable of ingesting, processing, analysing, designing and deciding how to deliver multi-moment marketing that will continue to resonate into the future.”
The research indicates that brands do understand the risks they face: 59 per cent of brands strongly agree that securing customer information is the single most important factor in ensuring a strong CX.
But are brands ready? The research suggests some challenges as 84 per cent are concerned about changes in governmental regulations regarding privacy and their readiness to meet them.
"As consumers continue to use technology that opens their lives to others, they have dual expectations of businesses: Understand me as an individual and protect my privacy. Therein lies the opportunity to achieve balance when crafting customer experiences," concludes Raj.
Divina Paredes attended the Analytics Experience in Milan, Italy as a guest of SAS
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