Imagine a world where consumers don headsets at home to simulate the experience of walking through a fully stocked showroom of custom home furnishings.
Or consider a retail store where an AI robot assists a customer in picking out a few new sweaters to update her personal wardrobe for the season.
What about an in-car app that displays information about local establishments as you drive past them, including customer reviews and average price points?
All these scenarios are based on real technology trends. But how likely is it that consumers will embrace new ways of doing things? To varying degrees, these technologies are available now. And new research indicates that consumers are adopting new technology even faster than brands.
Consumers are ready for the future
In partnership with Futurum Research, we interviewed more than 4,000 respondents – consumers, executives, marketers and technology professionals – to understand what brands and consumers expect the next decade of customer experience will look like.
This research uncovered some interesting themes for the next decade of customer engagement. It’s clear, for instance, that technology will continue to be the major driver behind a reimagined customer experience. But in many cases, consumers are embracing technology at a faster rate than brands might expect or admit.
In practice, this means brands are often more cautious about trying and implementing new technologies than consumers. For example, 78% of brands believe consumers are uneasy dealing with technology in stores. And yet, only 35% of consumers said this was true. In-store technologies might include kiosks, AI assistants and augmented reality.
What other technologies are consumers ready to embrace? According to the research:
- DRONES. Already, 23% of consumers anticipate delivery of a product by a drone or autonomous vehicle within the coming year. By 2025, that number rises to 60%, and by 2030, 80% of consumers expect drones to be a part of their brand experience.
- CHATBOTS. This year, 36% of consumers expect to deal with chatbots to have questions answered or receive customer support about a brand, products or services. By 2025, two-thirds of all consumers say they will be engaging with chatbots, rising to 81% by 2030.
- AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES. By 2025, 29% of consumers expect to have ridden in an autonomous vehicle, with more than half (57%) expecting that experience to have fully arrived by 2030.
- AUGMENTED and VIRTUAL REALITY. By 2025, 60% of consumers say they’d use AR or VR as part of a brand experience. By 2030, that number rises to 78%. This includes the 56% of consumers who expect to be “visiting” remote locations or experiencing vacation and entertainment events through mixed reality devices by 2025.
- SMART ASSISTANTS. While only 34% of consumers regularly use two or more smart assistants within their household, 33% of consumers have no problems using these devices now to make online purchases or to control aspects of their “smart” home. By 2025, 65% of the consuming public expects to be using smart assistants in their daily lives to engage with sources of products, services or information. By 2030, 80% of consumers expect to be using smart assistants in their lives and for engaging with brands, organizations and governments.
- WEARABLE DEVICES. The future of wearables will evolve from personal use to include interaction with devices around us. Within the coming year, 34% of consumers already expect to use wearable technology to control other devices or apps. Almost two-thirds (64%) of consumers expect they’ll be controlling other devices with their wearables by 2025, and 78% anticipate that will be a reality by 2030.
Download free ebook: Customer experience - now and into the future
SAS partnered with Futurum Research on a research survey that revealed five key themes driving the evolution of customer experience, and some surprising gaps between brand and consumer views about technology and its uses, data privacy, what drives loyalty and more.
The way consumers view these technologies is often limited to the way they experience them today. However, in many cases, technology gets embedded into other systems that consumers are already familiar with, which increases the adoption rates even more.
For example, augmented reality and smart assistants could be embedded into other systems, such as automobiles, to change the way we engage with the world around us. Just as in-car GPS and infotainment systems have shifted the way we drive today, these newer technologies will do the same for the way we drive in the future.
For brands, this acceptance of technology creates a whole new level of opportunity for broadening the way they engage with consumers, from interacting with products and devices to having access to better services and conveniences as citizens. It also brings another level of data risk and security that must be addressed by every organization and its partners.
The future will belong to the brands that can make the most right moves with emerging technologies and divert quickly from the wrong ones.
Look at your customer data and use analytics to enhance or fail fast toward innovation. Use your analyses to bridge channels and track consumers in an omnichannel environment. Jenn Chase Senior Vice President, Worldwide Marketing SAS
Meet your customers where they are
Now that you know what consumers are embracing, how can you use that information to make the right moves and improve experiences for customers? I recommend taking these steps:
- Test out enriched, customer-centric technology experiences with customers and take the time to integrate customer feedback into those experiences.
- Look at your customer data and use analytics to enhance or fail fast toward innovation. Use your analyses to bridge channels and track consumers in an omnichannel environment.
- Learn which consumers visit physical or online stores – and why. When do they visit each and do what leads to a purchase? Now, what technologies could improve the experience both online and in the store?
- Don’t forget about privacy and security as you go to market. Trust is crucial to consumers when evaluating brands and new technologies. Your infrastructure needs to be as secure as possible, with data that can be used to deliver an experience that customers opt into.
As you think about applying AI and related technologies for chatbots or more automated engagement, use this data to see where you can be more active in marketing technology – and where you can see areas for improvement.
The customer experience is changing rapidly. While technology plays an ever-increasing role in brand interactions, humans will always be part of the picture. Customers want to be remembered and understood. They want technology to augment their experience with your brand, but they do not want it to replace humans entirely. The technologies that we create and implement can give us a more automated way to improve the customer experience, and we should all be excited to be at the forefront of this effort.
About the Author
As senior vice president of worldwide marketing, Jenn Chase is responsible for leading Analyst Relations, Corporate Communications, Creative, Digital, Events, Customer Contact Centers and Go-to-Market teams around the world. Her 20-year journey at SAS, spanning R&D and marketing, has earned her a reputation of being data driven – often referred to as analytically curious! Along the way, Jenn has guided the modernization of marketing, aligned regional marketing efforts and strengthened collaboration between marketing and sales while cultivating a strong customer focus. Her belief is that great companies possess an intense desire to deliver experiences that far exceed their customers’ expectations every day. Leading by example, Jenn strives to integrate data and analytics to create experiences that are purposeful and lasting.
- 3 ways to rethink retail forecasting and demand planning The pandemic has profoundly changed consumer shopping behaviors and experiences and the increasing pressure has retailers scrambling to improve their ability to precisely predict and plan for demand. If you don’t know where to start, here are three questions to ask as you rethink your forecasting and demand planning.
- The marketer's dream: Harmonic convergenceCustomer journey maps, strong internal partners and clear strategies for change can help marketers align organizational efforts to foster peace and harmony.