Study: What will customer experience look like in 2030?

By 2030, 69 per cent of decisions made during a customer engagement will be completed by smart machines

A new study has found, by 2030, 67 per cent of customer engagement will be handled by smart machines. However, will this simply be trading empathy for efficiency?

As marketers know, technology can be a great enabler of human customer experience, but it should not, as yet, be a replacement for it.

Experience 2030: The Future of Customer Experience by Futurum Research and sponsored by SAS, found technology will be the major driver behind the reimagined customer experience (CX), and that brands must rethink their customer ecosystems to keep pace with empowered consumers and evolving consumer technologies.

By 2030, the brands surveyed in the study see a massive shift toward the automation of customer engagements, and anticipate smart machines will replace humans and handle roughly two-thirds of customer engagement, decisions made during real-time engagement, and decisions around marketing and promotional campaigns.

By 2030, 69 per cent of decisions made during a customer engagement will be completed by smart machines, yet 78 per cent of brands believe consumers are uneasy dealing with technology today in stores.

Along with this, 80 per cent of consumers say they expect to accept delivery of a product by drone or autonomous vehicle, 81 per cent say they expect to engage with chatbots, 78 per cent expect to use an augmented, virtual, or mixed reality app to see how a product will look, 56 per cent expect to be 'visiting' remote locations or experiencing vacation and entertainment events through mixed reality devices by 2025.

Also, eight out of 10 expect to use a smart assistant (such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa) to make an online purchase or control a smart home, and 78 per cent say they expect they'll be controlling other devices with their wearables.

"It is becoming increasingly clear there will be a rapid growth in the relationship between humans and machines over the next decade," principal analyst and founding partner at Futurum Research, Daniel Newman, said.

"Companies will have to strike a delicate balance between providing highly empathic human-like experiences with the instantaneous results that consumers have come to expect. Technology will be the bridge as data, analytics, machine learning and AI will enable machines to deliver this balance in a more humanistic way that satisfies customers and delivers increased efficiencies to the enterprise."

The research asked brands what 'futuristic' technologies they are investing in today to shepherd in new customer experiences and increase customer satisfaction by 2030. Per the study, 62 per cent of brands are investing in voice-based AI assistants to improve customer engagement strategies and as a customer support asset. Another 58 per cent are investing in voice-based AI as an internal marketing and sales asset.

For augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), 54 per cent of brands are investing in it to help consumers visualise the look or use of a product or service remotely. And 53 per cent of brands are pursuing AR/VR tools to improve product use and self-help.

The study also found that 83 per cent of brands are investing or plan to invest in holographic technology for in-store advertising, interactive gaming and public events.

"The empowered new buyer is capitalising on emerging technologies and exerting tremendous pressure on the technology needs of marketing organisations," global director of SAS Customer Intelligence, Wilson Raj, said. “For CMOs, these forces create a 'moving target' problem: It's hard to gain a leading edge on something that's constantly advancing. And this is problematic because consumers expect 'always-on' access and service and to interact with a brand on their terms.

"Tracing a customer through their journey entails a forensic understanding of the customer across endless journey permutations – customers want to be remembered and understood as they crisscross myriad channels, touchpoints and contexts.

"Brands must reinvent their operating models to act at speed. They need a holistic data strategy that they can personalise at scale, journey analytics capabilities that can adapt in real time, and enable a self-reinforcing cycle of tailored experiences."

Consumers also said mobile apps, high-speed access and ordering via smart home systems as the top three technologies driving loyalty by 2030.

"Building loyalty is a critical component for brand growth, and over the next 10 years we will see increased nuance and complexity beyond the traditional price, quality and service matrix that has long stood at the core of loyalty propositions. In the future, the way companies embrace technology, drive speed to market [and consumer] and deliver and measure social impact will all play a bigger role in loyalty. This is already starting to happen today, and its importance will multiply by 2030," Newman said.

However, only 54 per cent of consumers trust brands to keep their data private. In fact, 73 per cent of consumers believe the use of their personal data is out of control. This is a challenge for brands as they work to balance the CX they can deliver as a result of richness of the user data they collect with the trust concerns of the consumer.

And 84 per cent of brands are concerned about changes in governmental regulations regarding privacy and their readiness to meet them.

"As consumers continue to use technology that opens their lives to others, they have dual expectations of businesses: Understand me as an individual and protect my privacy. Therein lies the opportunity to achieve balance when crafting customer experiences," Raj added.

Futurum Research surveyed more than 4000 panellists, spanning three dozen countries across a range of consumer, industry and government sectors from May 2019.

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