Over 4.75 billion people worldwide use at least one mobile device. This widespread acceptance has dramatically changed the way brands engage with their audience. People are always accessible. This accessibility allows brands to use mobile channels for marketing and communication, enabling real-time messaging to specific people.
The future will inevitably hold more technological breakthroughs that fundamentally change the way humans operate. Marketers need to ask themselves how they can make full use of new technology solutions, as they may end up growing to become a “force of nature.” At one point in time, brands struggled to see the potential in social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. That’s changed. Today, over 50 million businesses use Facebook in one way or another. In 2016, these companies spent a combined $26.885 Billion (USD) on Facebook advertisements. These technology platforms are here to stay.
But the mobile device and social platforms are not unique. Any technology with widespread adoption will change the way businesses connect with their audience. The ubiquity and versatility of the mobile device have allowed businesses to be creative with the mobile channel. Therefore, the big question is: How will emerging technologies affect the future of customer engagement?
1. Augmented Reality (AR)
Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that superimposes computer-generated imagery on a user’s view of the real world. The technology takes your location and builds a virtual world where you can digitally interact with real-life things that are around you. That means that something in front of you in real life (such as a bench in the park), will also be in front of the “digital version” of you. AR allows a computer-generated image to be added to that park bench, enabling you to see both the bench and whatever is laid on top of it, whether it be an animated monster or information about how to purchase that bench.
In 2017, AR is still in its infancy, with very few commercially successful applications of the technology to date.
Pokemon Go, an augmented reality game created by Niantic and the Pokemon company, introduced the average consumer to the technology. As businesses and individuals continue to work with the technology, successful commercial applications will continue to be developed.
There are still some things need to be worked out for AR to enter the mainstream. Wearable devices that can overlay graphics into the user’s field of vision need to be developed. Using a smartphone to access AR features may still be too much work for the average person to adopt the technology fully. Once the required infrastructure for the wearable technology is in place, nothing can stop AR from taking off.
Augmented reality has a larger number of non-entertainment applications compared to virtual reality (VR). AR can be used to overlay graphics into real-world situations, melding physical and digital spaces into one.
So how will AR affect how businesses engage with customers and how will it influence the overall customer experience?
From graphics overlaid on real world images (and video) to immersive “worlds” that seemingly change the way buildings and other objects look, the possibilities are endless. The technology is already being used in games such as Pokemon Go. It’s only a matter of time before another non-entertainment industry begins to adopt it.
There are several potential applications for AR, including applications that can increase customer awareness and motivate sales.
A financial advisor could use future AR applications to place a picture of themselves and their contact information near their real world office. That would allow anyone using the technology (whether it be through their smartphone or another AR-centric wearable) to see information about the business while walking past.
A retailer could use AR to showcase their products around their brick-and-mortar location. Potentially peaking the interest of those passing by and lead to an increase in sales. With AR still in its relative infancy, it’s hard to imagine what the fully mature technology will look like.
2. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is another technology solution that will play a key role in the future of customer engagement. Major tech companies are working to create more intelligent algorithms that can make complex decisions, and evaluate human language.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is defined as:
“the branch of computer science concerned with making computers behave more like humans.”
There are many avenues for the future of AI, and no single method looks like the clear route right now. The end goal of AI researchers is to create machines or algorithms that can take real-world inputs such as “vision” or sound and make decisions based on those inputs.
The future of machines with human-level intelligence is still quite some time away, but it’s clear that the technology will eventually become a core component all nearly all commercial activities. Understanding what consumers want, and when they want it, will help businesses make more timely offers to customers, increasing satisfaction and revenue while decreasing friction in the buyer’s journey.
AI will lead to fewer interruptive ads, higher-quality content, smarter suggestions and smarter use of an organization’s resources. In combination, these effects can increase the cost-effectiveness of marketing and sales departments by reducing wasteful expenditures.
Artificial intelligence can reduce friction in transactional relationships and streamline decision-making by using data to make offers that will be better received by customers. As the technology matures, AI will be able to target recommendations, content and offers to motivate action. AI solutions will eventually know more about your customers on a second-to-second basis than we ever thought possible. These recommendations will eventually allow real-time marketing to become a legitimate practice. It will allow brands to engage their customers at critical moments in the buyer’s journey and recommend actions that will increase profitability and customer satisfaction.
3. Voice-Computer Interfacing
So far, 2017 has been the year of the digital assistant. Google has Google Home. Amazon has Alexa and the Amazon Echo. Microsoft has been working steadily to improve Cortana. And Apple has potentially the most famous of the bunch in Siri. Major tech companies are fighting to sell you an assistant that will recognize voice commands to help you interact with your computer (and other connected devices).
Continued improvements in AI will need to be made for voice-computer interfacing to reach maturity. Currently, most digital assistants have limited use-cases. The only applications and processes that are available are pre-programmed. For voice-computer interfaces to reach their full potential, improvements to their flexibility will need to be developed. Users need to be able to access anything they want through a voice request. Significant improvements need to be made to get to that point.
Consider the progress made by search engines over the last 20 years. With continued improvements, companies like Google have eliminated fraudulent and dangerous websites from their results. They have enabled users to search various parameters (images, videos, etc.), and are working to reduce inaccurate results from its rankings. 20 years from now, voice search could be just as ubiquitous and advanced as text searches are today. Marketers will need to prepare for voice-optimized digital properties.
Technology advances to new, unseen heights every day. It’s hard to imagine how these technologies will change the customer experience.