The digital space is an increasingly crowded marketplace, with new competitors and disruptive technologies driving customer engagement online and offline. Get your business to stand out with these top trends in capturing your audience and keeping them engaged.
1. Mobile is mainstream
Technology breakthroughs are happening increasingly away from the desktop. Mobile now encompasses more than just smartphones. Wearables like smartwatches are maturing, and many of us have our technology needs serviced completely in the cloud.
Mobile is also more than just our digital hub. In 2017, smartphones are blazing a trail as gateways into the real world as well. When it comes to e-commerce retailers and brick and mortar stores, consider the fact that not only are shoppers buying more on their mobile, over 80% also use their smartphones to look up product reviews in-store. More than any technology device out there, mobile is the platform driving consumers. Companies must take into account the power of handheld devices if they strive to compete in a busy online marketplace.
2. Augmented Reality
When the “virtual” meets the “real” we engage with augmented reality; realspace assisted by networked digital experiences designed to better help us engage with each other and the world around us. While the concept of augmented reality is still being fleshed out, there are already examples helping to drive customer engagement in 2017.
Going full auto
Automakers continue to push the boundaries with technology assisted driving. Head-up display (HUD) technology in the modern automobile augments the reality of vehicle performance both on the road and in service. As cloud powered Big Data provides better analytical tools to understand vehicle health maintenance, we’ll also see live vehicle health checks empower the vehicle owner by making them an active participant in the service and maintenance of their vehicle.
3. Democratised storytelling
Also referred to as story-doing, democratised storytelling is a rising trend in customer engagement that acknowledges the widespread ability of consumers to make and share their own content about brands and experiences.
Towards open storytelling
Companies who prefer to exercise a high degree of control over their storytelling run the risk of being left behind in 2017, as consumers continue to contribute to brand awareness through their own content creation. This ties in with the production of more bite sized content – short videos, images, and memes can both popularise a product and change its existing perception, all largely driven by consumers.
Brands that ride the wave of this trend will show a willingness to co-create with their communities, bringing more creators to centre stage as creative enablers. Done right this approach is non-cynical and embraces the people that empower the product.
How does this actually benefits brands?
Democratised storytelling can:
- empower customer engagement organically
- allow the brand story to change and evolve with customers
- lower the budget needed to exercise strict brand control
- spread a product message through diverse communities of customers.
Democratised storytelling is more than just a trend. For many brands and industries, it’s part of the content driven experience of social media that is defining and shaping industry expectations. In 2017, companies that ignore the shared experiences of their customers are missing one of the best and most cost effective opportunities to drive customer engagement.
4. Personalisation plus
Can technology build on analytics to provide customer experiences that are both personalised and automated? The humble website cookie remains a powerful tool for understanding the unique behaviours and desires of your digital guests.
Over half of all online shoppers are happy to provide their personal information if it leads to better sales, but 77% say they would trust retailers more if they were more transparent about how personal information was used.
The trend towards personalisation continues, but it will be companies that leverage new technologies and cost effective methods that ultimately see a strong ROI.
5. Artificial Intelligence
According to MyCustomer, we are entering a period of “mass experimentation” when it comes to leveraging artificial intelligence. In store, this might be the the use of “AI robots” to assist customers when no staff are available. In other areas, this intelligence is more amorphous, powering the customer journey via apps and cloud enabled web technologies.
Big technology companies are already rolling out AI tech. Fortunately for many brands these technologies are open to brand engagement, rather than directly competing with them. Consider Google Home or Amazon Alexa. Both devices utilise AI to power an assistant who listens for verbal instructions and provides rapid, accurate answers.
But AI can be more than just an information tool. Machine learning will power automation across a broad spectrum of industry. 2017 will be a year of ups and downs for AI technologies, but ultimately this experimentation will lead to closer connections and better customer engagement for those who are bold enough to make the right moves.
6. Engagement through Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) leverages cloud technology and AI along with low cost sensors and networked devices to create connected homes, efficient workflows, and provide more accurate data on a range of subjects, from customer behaviour to the temperature of food storage fridges on the other side of the work.
This technology is also helping drive customer engagement. A “Digital Twin” is a persona that leverages IoT to better anticipate your needs, both through and beyond the customer journey.
IoT platforms might help a brand make better microwaves but it can also be used to understand the personal eating habits of an owner, sending messages to the customer when there are special deals on their favourite meals, or preheating food to be ready and at a specific time.
Just as the relationship between brands and customers now more closely resembles partnerships, the way we relate to products is also changing. The IoT turns every device into a communication tool, fundamentally altering how we interact and the value we place on our devices.
7. Ecosystem division
The big players in ecosystem dominance should be familiar to every business online. Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft have already conquered the online environment. Fortunately, the tools these big players offer to other brands help drive commerce and customer engagement, although at a cost.
But as each ecosystem matures new considerations emerge that ultimately divide each platform into it’s own walled garden. These conditions pit ecosystems in competition with each other. Brands must make choices where to focus their efforts, and the impacts of pursuing (and not pursuing) particular avenues.
When titans clash
For example, Facebook Business and Facebook Video are in competition with Google’s Youtube and AdWords services. Cortana, Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant all want to be your home AI, and Chromebooks (Google) and Windows 10 Cloud both want to be your lean computer for work and play.
For brands looking to leverage ecosystems there are already many considerations for customer engagement. Does your brand need apps for both iOS and Android? Does Facebook Advertising or AdWords provide better ROI? Ecosystems might not be exclusive, but budgets and work hours are always tight, and the question of where to allocate resources can be a tricky one.
While the day when you can’t share a YouTube video to Facebook will likely never come, the impact on partnered businesses from ecosystem division will be hugely impactful on customer engagement throughout 2017.
8. Customer service is social / digital
Over the past few years, the social media landscape has matured. There’s less space for new players and incumbent platforms are providing more business-like features to help brands monetise their online presence.
One of the fastest growing trends on social is customer service. Social media has the capacity to focus organically driven attention to your brand, both positive and negative. With customers expecting to be able to chat to someone online from the comfort of their smartphone, almost no company can afford not to have social media customer service.
Tagove has collected a number of eye-opening statistics about social media customer service.
- A call center interaction is about six times more expensive than a social media interaction
- Customer service requests fielded on social media can lead up to 40% more revenue per customer
- One third of customers prefer social media interactions to telephone enquiries.
Brands that take advantage of customer service requests via social networks not only have more opportunities to delight their customers, they also have more control over their reputation, which is no easy thing online.
9. Chat Bots to replace manual queries
In 2016 Google launched Allo. While the chat app didn’t make a dent in the user base of the incumbents, it did come with a striking new feature. Allo let you talk with Google Assistant – the same cloud based AI that powered Google searches on mobile.
With a simple @google you can request anything from movie times and driving directions to answers to trivia questions like “Who was the first dog in space?”
While Allo might not have set the world on fire it did show the path for a new(ish) type of customer engagement tool. The chatbot.
Benefits of self service chatbots to driving customer engagement include:
- accurate, consistent information
- low cost to scale
- easy to disseminate new or changing information
- ability to feed directly into big data.
Brands looking to provide a broad toolset to their customer experience will leverage chatbots to replace manual queries, tackle common questions and provide front line assistance so customer service agents can focus more of delivering customer success around complex situations and solutions.
10. Multichannel conversations
A logical extension of cross channel marketing and storytelling and a solution to ecosystem division, multichannel conversations are simply the ability for brands and customers to continue a conversation over multiple platforms.
Why is this important?
API builder Nexmo points out that to a customer, the medium they use to engage with brands is irrelevant. A customer may want to reach out to you via text, then continue to conversation on the phone, and see the results of the conversation reflected in their customer profile on your app. That is, after all how most people use technology to communicate with friends and family. It’s incumbent on brands to provide the same level of interaction to keep up with changing expectations.
If you’re not ready to meet the challenges of engaging customers through technology, it’s time to talk with Kiandra about how we can help you improve customer engagement online.