Streaming! Blockchain! Instagram! It’s impossible to name all of the major technology developments that have occurred over the past few years that have revolutionized the way people experience everyday life. One thing is certain though: in just a decade, organizations have embraced new technology headfirst and completely redefined how they communicate, serve and understand their audiences.
From self-driving cars to personal voice assistants to cloud computing, it can be challenging for businesses to stay up to date with the latest tech trends and distinguish significant digital innovations from the flash-in-the-pan shiny gadgets. Rather than buy into every single new platform and analytics tool and end up with a bloated, incompatible tech stack, organizations need to strategically focus on the key technologies that allow them to deliver the experiences their customers want now and will continue to expect in the future. As we approach 2020, we’re looking back at the biggest digital transformation predictions to see which ones came true, which missed the mark and which still have the potential to make an impact in the decade ahead.
Prediction: Chatbots are out and humans are in
Last year, Acquia spoke to digital leaders to see which trends they didn’t expect to stick around in 2019, and many saw chatbots as a passing fad. Citing the lack of personal understanding and struggles to communicate with many early chatbot models, digital marketers largely expected this channel to be obsolete and for more real person-to-person marketing tactics to crop up in its wake. In its 2019 Predictions series, Forrester claimed: “Customers will lead a community-based revolt against corporate chatbots.” This was echoed by Joakim Ditlev in the Content Marketing Institute’s 85+ Predictions on Content Marketing in 2019, who believed that “2019 will be the year content marketers start to value creativity over technology...Chatbots will self-destruct, and we’ll get back to basics.”
So, in the ongoing battle of human vs. machine who actually came out on top?
Verdict: False, chatbots and AI are here to stay (and so are people)
The answer, not surprisingly, is both! With the recent surge of voice tech devices and boom in businesses leveraging messaging apps to engage customers, the chatbot trend is here to stay. According to 2019 Salesforce research, “53% of service organizations expect to use chatbots within 18 months — a 136% growth rate that foreshadows a big role for the technology in the near future.” However, even the best AI communications require a human touch. Marketers need to deeply understand their consumer base in order to teach automation platforms to deliver personable, empathetic customer service.
Hopefully, 2020 will put an end to false creative/analytical dichotomy. If there’s anything to be learned from digital efforts, it’s that both human instinct and analytics are required to build digital experiences that connect with customers. While people want streamlined, 24/7 solutions, they also want to feel as if they are being listened to by a real person. This requires marketers to spend time gathering customer data and glean insights into the preferences of different audiences throughout their journey. Our latest, Customer Experience Trends report found that “77% of marketers intend to make AI and machine learning part of their marketing strategy in the upcoming 12 months.”
Once marketers understand how their customers prefer to engage with their brand, whether that’s via social, voice or chatbot, they can then utilize AI and machine learning tools to deliver the right messaging at the right time. AI also frees up marketing, sales and customer success employees to focus on solving more complex issues like mapping out an overarching brand tone or purpose.
Prediction: Personalized customer experiences will take priority
Mere decades ago the idea of a brand knowing your name, favorite color or location sounded like some Big Brother Orwellian nightmare. However, today, customers don’t even bat an eye when Walmart greets them like an old friend. In fact, they expect it.
Marketers have been sending out basic “personalized” email campaigns since the early 2000s, hoping that by including simple details like calling a subscriber by their name or referencing a past interaction, they’d be able to foster longer-lasting, authentic relationships. Today, personalization is everywhere. We commute to work listening to Spotify playlists carefully curated to match our exact music preferences; we pick a spot for lunch by Googling “food near me” and letting geotargeting do the rest and we wind down at night by scrolling through what’s new in our Netflix recommendations.
Verdict: True, but we’ve got more work to do!
In just a few years, personalization has gone from a “nice to have” to a requirement for brands who want to deliver valuable customer experiences. According to Acquia’s recent CX Trends Report, 83% of marketers say, “personalization for customers and personalization for potential customers is part of their marketing strategy for the next 12 months.” That said, brands need to grow their personalization efforts from the basics, like offering content based on location or device type, into more multifaceted personalization efforts that take into account ongoing behavior, predict a customer’s next actions and offer content that makes sense with where they are in their journey.