This year has seen rapid advancements in technology. With the rise of Voice, artificial intelligence and better personalisation and automation technologies, a lot has changed in 2017.
Customer experience, however, remains a key differentiator as consumers continue to vote with their feet.
So what does 2018 have in store? We picked the brains of leaders in the industry to find out.
Multi-sensory, contextual experiences
Increasingly smarter technology will allow brands to provide truly personalised, unique customer experiences.
Dan Fischer, Senior Manager, Digital Experience & Services at Qantas suggests, “The rising popularity of data management tools and smarter experience management platforms will see more brands marry location with rich data to create serendipitous experiences that are unique to the user and the moment.”
But with the rise of new technologies like voice and facial recognition, Nima Yassini, CEO, New Republique suggests we’re heading into the era of ‘the Internet of Eyes and Ears’.
“With Apple X introducing facial recognition and Google home slowly becoming common practice, in 2018 we will see the internet leaving contained environments (devices like laptops and mobiles) into an always-on, all places dimension,” Nima says.
Luke Brown, CEO at Affinity believes that although smart homes are on the rise, full communication between appliances and voice tech is not quite there yet.
“We won’t see this being especially useful yet though. Much of the technology is still at novelty stage and is struggling for a genuine use case that sets it apart from just doing it yourself!”
“What will get better in the next 12 months,” he says “is the clever use of AR by home brands to help consumers literally picture new products and changes in their home with the mere swipe of a finger.”
Nima agrees, “In 2018, we will see much more mass reach and commonplace for AR. We will move from innovation to practical usage.”
As consumer trust declines, peer and social influencers rise
This year has been a tumultuous one for the industry. Issues around viewability and brand safety as well as the emergence of fake news have left consumers a little shaken up. They are now turning to peers for recommendations of products and services, rather than trusting brand communications.
In fact, Taryn Williams, CEO of TheRight.Fit says, “71% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on a social media reference.”
And so, a new trend has emerged over the last few years, leading to everyday people becoming powerful influencers over social media.
“Savvy millennials are becoming Micro influencers with anywhere between 1,000 and 100,000 followers and carry more clout among a committed audience,” says Nima.
Taryn strongly believes that influencer marketing is here to stay.
“Influencer marketing is a trend I think will continue to grow in 2018, with a move towards content co creation, brand ambassadors, and a move away from the 'scattergun' approach of booking a large volume of influencers for one-off posts that don't resonate with consumers or move the needle on sales and give ROI to the brand.”
With businesses generating $6.50 for every $1 they invest in influencer marketing on average, it’s not hard to see why this trend is here to stay.
Artificial intelligence has been a hot topic in 2017, with an increasing number businesses investing in the technology.
Dan from Qantas says this is likely to continue in 2018.
“Drawn to the operational cost-saving potential, more businesses will turn to AI-powered chatbots and voice integrations for customer service and the momentum will drive the technology to eclipse the quality of some human interactions.”
In 2018, we will also see more practical and sophisticated applications of AI and machine learning that will significantly improve customer experience.
Luke from Affinity says, “AI and machine learning will uncover more meaningful and customised personalised events for customers. Smart marketers will use these triggers to improve the overall customer experience and perception of the brand.”
Jodie Sangster, CEO of D+TC agrees, “Without a doubt, AI will be the biggest trend for 2018. Brands will extend the use of AI powered solutions to improve the customer experience via voice applications, chat bots, computer vision technology and further experimentation with augmented and virtual reality applications.”
Although advances like AI will assist in quickening the pace of marketing, Eyal Mekler Managing Director ANZ at Tealium warns this could also amplify issues within systems.
“If the data flows are broken, AI will simply exaggerate the broken-ness. There might be a couple of spectacular customer service fails from over enthusiastic AI implementations before the less-sexy ‘get your data basics right’ ideology is truly understood,” Eyal says.
Less-than-perfect customer experiences are inevitable
The combined power of data and technology are allowing brands to create truly personalised customer experiences. However, just because a technology works for one brand, it doesn’t mean it’s going to work for every brand.
Chatbots are a clear example according to Luke from Affinity
“Chatbots do have major appeal to some segments of many categories, but the reality is that they have very limited utility currently and ultimately if overhyped by marketers we will see examples of #chatbotfail as surely as there is a bitcoin bubble,” he says.
“This will be where customers have a negative experience because businesses try to push chatbots beyond their current technical capabilities.”
Data also plays a key role in gaining customer favour and loyalty. Well-established brands with years of consumer data have a clear advantage, however they’re not guaranteed to win.
“Customer experience, fuelled by a complete data profile, will always trump a price race to the bottom. [But]every department, not just marketing, has to be able to access the right data at the right instant to deliver the right experience,” Eyal says.
“The pain of less-than-perfect data flows to all areas of the organisation will become more intense. Customer experience across any and all channels will suffer and demanding customers aren’t going to take it anymore. More organisations will break down the organisation and data silos so data can flow to every customer interaction point.”
Digital spend to increase
Digital is proving to be the fastest growing sector in marketing and advertising.
“Digital advertising spend is predicted to overtake traditional TV advertising by 2018. In Australia, the numbers are conclusive - from $11.8 billion in 2010 to a predicted $16.4 billion by 2019,” says Taryn.
But with increasing spend comes increasing scrutiny, says Jodie at D+TC.
“CMO’s will have much closer scrutiny of their digital marketing spend and the results it drives. This will also lead to digital and marketing teams being educated and upskilled to utilise the correct data and measures to truly understand the effectiveness of digital marketing efforts.”