The fact that we’re living in the customer experience era is becoming evident to more and more people with each passing day. The idea that users define the relationships they establish with companies of all industries is now accepted as a norm, and brands are struggling to meet the increasing demands from their customers.
Yet, believing that customers are now tyrants that unilaterally establish the terms of their relationship with brands is wrong. If anything, consumers have risen to the same level as companies and both of them propose and accept ways of interaction in a back-and-forth game. In that dynamic, one of the best allies for businesses is emerging technologies. With them, brands can open new communication channels, bring new experiences to clients, and satisfy needs that not even customers knew they had.
In fact, the coming years will see some of these tech-based customer experience trends to the forefront. Here are some of the ones that will be among us sooner rather than later.
1. Augmented Reality will make its way into more stores
The use of augmented reality (AR) inside stores isn’t precisely a new trend. The fashion industry (with big retailers such as Timberland, Zara and Lacoste at the helm) has pioneered the in-store use of this tech to bring a new experience to their customers. This is very interesting, as AR can add a virtual layer to real objects to provide new information (such as seeing how a certain set of clothes would look on a naked mannequin).
The use of this technology by companies outside the fashion industry is already booming and getting into new kinds of stores. Cases like the Pottery Barn AR app or IKEA’s Place app, which help consumers see how a certain piece of furniture would look like in their current rooms and with their furniture around, are just the tip of the iceberg. As more companies discover how to embed AR in their stores, retailers will surely reinvigorate their spaces to bring back people and submerge them into an immersive experience that only needs a smartphone to work.
2. Artificial Intelligence will see more customer-facing uses
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is in the minds and mouths of every business owner out there and for a reason: this tech promises to disrupt every company across all industries by bringing actionable insights. But though a lot of brands are already leveraging the power of AI to make better business decisions and grow, AI-based solutions for customers are more scarce, with chatbots and virtual assistants being the most widely spread tools.
That’s about to change in the coming years and starting in 2020. For instance, facial recognition for content personalization is already taking its first steps and will see bigger advancements come next year. AI will also play a huge role in creating new in-store experiences that are way smarter and frictionless. Amazon Go is the perfect example of where retailers are headed, as the market uses computer vision and deep learning to keep track of the products taken by a customer and put in a virtual cart. The store charges everything on the cart as a customer leaves the premises, removing the need for checkout or cashiers.
3. Voice capabilities will become the standard
Just a couple of years ago, if someone overheard you giving orders to your phone, they likely thought you finally lost it. Today, having virtual assistants is quickly becoming a common thing, with one-third of the US population using them at least on a monthly basis. That’s why 88% of IT business decision-makers believe that voice technology will give them a competitive advantage in their customer experiences.
With the increasing adoption of voice technology, it’s only natural to see a vast improvement in voice apps and skills as well. As of now, voice apps are mostly basic when it comes to brand-related experiences. However, companies are already trying to enrich their experiences to boost their engagement. Take what Tide did with their Stain Remover skill for Alexa as an example. With it, anyone can ask for help to remove a stain and get a tutorial on how to do it. The brand uses such a skill to aid with a specific issue while also taking the chance to subtly market itself and its products.
4. The Internet of Things will breed more and more devices
The idea of smarter cities, homes, and devices is slowly but steadily becoming a reality. That’s thanks to the growth of the so-called Internet of Things (IoT), a vast network of interconnected devices that collaborate with one another to improve the customer’s comfort. Though still in its infancy, the IoT will receive a major push during 2020, once the new 5G mobile network generation is deployed in more places.
With the IoT, businesses will be able to develop new products and services that take advantage of their ever-connected users. Thus, there will surely be more smart devices out there that benefit from the constant interaction. A great example to understand where this trend is going is Fitbit, the popular exercise wearable that tracks the users’ activities, pushing towards better routines, offering results, and connecting them with their friends, which fostered the development of fitness groups, personal training programs, and clubs around it.
5. Blockchain will see more maturity and acceptance
Blockchain feels like one of those technologies that’s only accepted by an exclusive group of tech enthusiasts. However, the distributed digital ledger is breaking out of its ghetto and into big enterprises. In fact, a recent study found that 65% of companies with over 10,000 employees are considering or working with blockchain.
This tech is already gaining acceptance in private businesses that need a secure and quick way to handle its data. It’s also being accepted by governments that are seeing smart contracts as legal, using the tech to vote, and even trust it with health records. For consumers, the use they’ll most likely see in the near future involves blockchain-based payments that secure not just the money that’s being transferred on a specific transaction but also the personal data that travels with it.
6. Cars will open their doors to brands
Predictions estimate we’ll see nearly 10 million of these self-driving vehicles in 2020. Their introduction will mark a huge revolution in a lot of ways. For regular people, it’ll mean they’ll stop being drivers and become passengers in their own car. Such a context provides an opportunity for brands to engage with those new passengers.
What General Motors is doing with its dashboard screens of their cars is the best way to illustrate this. Those screens allow passengers to access a marketplace that lets them make purchases from Starbucks, Shell, Dunkin’, and others. 2020 will see more companies following GM’s lead but this particular trend won’t be reserved for automakers, as brands will start figuring out how to take advantage of those screens and the passiveness of the passengers to create new experiences.
7. Multiple-channel experiences will now be expected
There are several ways today in which a brand can engage with its customers, both actively and passively. From a website or app to a social media interaction, customers are now talking to companies through a lot of channels. The emergence of new technologies such as voice assistants will only deepen this trend – and customers will expect businesses to be available everywhere with a consistent experience.
The omnichannel nature of modern digital life has led to consumers seeking instant gratification for everything, from an insurance claim to a late-night purchase. Everything now is happening in real-time, which is why brands have to offer immediacy, personalization, and availability for their clients. The sophistication of the customer purchasing habits has to go hand in hand with the creation of an omnichannel strategy that engages with the clients everywhere, a strategy that can base itself on technology to achieve the best results.
Some final words
Technology has always changed society and will continue to do so. In a time where new technologies, solutions, and platforms appear every day, it’s perfectly logical to see changing behaviors and habits to accommodate them. Brands are already understanding that and are struggling to keep at the breakneck speeds of modern technological development.
That’s why 2020 will be a year where customers will see a lot of technologies popping up throughout the experiences they have with brands. From AI-assisted services to stronger brand presence in platforms that were missing them, next year promises to open the door for a revolution in the customer experience world.