Predicting the future, even at the best of times is a venture fraught with hazards, doing so in these volatile times even more so.
But there are trends that one can discern that have the potential of an interesting interplay between technology and consumers.
But before that two megatrends that are already there or around the corner:
What is physical; What is virtual?
As the cliché goes, the pandemic has been a great reset. One area, the reset has been more apparent than most others has been the impact of technology in communicating with each other and not just in functional communication but also to foster real emotional connects.
This trend is all set to solidify and amplify.
With the effective deployment of AI , there comes a real ability to connect people at a human level and drive them closer to each other, even when physically they’re apart. What this interestingly translates into is the forever disappearance of the physical- virtual boundary wall, which existed earlier.
Global events from G-8 summits to rock concerts have fully digital alternatives.
Coupled with this though, will be bigger concerns about data privacy and confidence amongst consumers that they are in a safe space. These concerns aren’t going away in any hurry and brands will be hard-pressed to ensure users have anything less than full transparency and control over their data.
The physical: digital blur does not end with just communications. This is expected to spur a whole bunch of “services”, from virtual try-on dressing rooms to virtual museums extending all the way to the metaverse as a natural logical extension.
5G is here
The 5G rollout, post a successful auction process in the country is set to bring in interesting shifts.
From delivery services to industrial IoT, 5G has the potential to power and alter many an industry landscape.
Low latency 5G networks would resolve our country’s notorious lack of network reliability and potentially allow for more high-capacity services like telehealth, telesurgery and ER services.
5G coupled with a surge in manufacturing activity in India means that we are slated to see some high-value add initiatives including smart factories, real-time monitoring, and content-intensive services.
The imminent roll-out of 5G means that we are at the cusp of services and products that are currently not even in our collective imagination.
The Operation mini trends:
Data and Big Data
The amount of information produced in a digital world is truly staggering.
The real power of data being unlocked has led to far-reaching and rather interesting consequences for consumers. The real-time nature of insights that brands can discern from data now allows companies to be potentially agile, providing brands to keep up with customer desires and expectations to stay relevant. As technology provides the higher capability to do more with data, brands will seek to arrive at the holy grail of consumer insight that of understanding context.
AI and conversations
According to McKinsey, three-quarters of online customers expect “now” service within 5 minutes of making contact online and almost two-thirds of buyers expect a response within 10 minutes to any marketing, sales, or customer service inquiry. The extremely high-cost structure and a real lack of resources mean that it is a near impossibility to expect a Human resource to deliver at this speed.
Chatbots. You will be hard-pressed to find a customer service interaction without encountering a chatbot. Admittedly these are early days yet for chatbots, who currently are decision trees. As capability in machine learning and natural language processing get enhanced, the conversational bot will become more and more effective at simulating human interactions.
Voice assistants. These AI-enabled personal assistants are fast gaining traction. Readers are familiar with examples such as Alexa. There is much to come in this space.
The World of Personalized Interactions; You are unique or are you?
Mass audience is an anachronism in today’s day and age. Every consumer is unique, customer engagement has become more individualized. Indeed, our studies show that upwards of 80 percent of consumers indicate that they are only likely to engage with a brand if it has been personalized to reflect their previous interactions.
Data makes this eminently possible.
AR is the new R
Augmented Reality is the new Reality for brands.
AR has significant potential to enrich experiences for consumers.
As the cost and resources required to deploy AR reduce, we will see interesting applications, allowing consumers to “touch”, “feel” and wear products.
The potential for AR to deliver multi-sensory experiences is the direction of interest to consumers and this will be exploited as we go along.
The Connected Device World
In days gone by, interactions between brands and customers only happened at the point of sale. This translated into a limited scope of insights into the on-going behaviour of consumers.
Along comes IoT , the Internet of things, something that interconnects devices, users and processes. But scalability challenges coupled with bandwidth and security concerns meant that IoT came to be seen as a “nice to have” as opposed to a “must-have”.
Now with 5G around the corner, the true potential of IoT is all set to be unleashed.
Business Insider projects that there will be more than 41 billion IoT devices by 2027, up from about 8 billion in 2019, and the possibilities for customer engagement seem almost endless.
So what do all these shifts mean to enterprises?
First and foremost, a re-think and a re-imagination of what really necessitates a physical experience versus a virtual one or a “hybrid” one. This is a big one.
Brands are unused to this mode of thinking and much re-learning will be undertaken.
Secondly, get personal. Get that data insight right and get that emotional context correctly identified.
Get real-time. IOT, AR.AI can all be designed delivered and scaled for consumer engagement, speed and revenue. Know which is which. Choose the best tools not because they are the “flavour du-jure” but because they make sense to better deliver goods and services to our customer.
(The author is Dr. Anil Pillai, Director, Terragni Consulting and the views expressed in this article are his own)