Imagine a world where you can sit next to your customers and have a one on one conversation about their expectations from your brand with every interaction, and deliver on their expectations Every. Single. Time.
Seems like a utopian dream?
As we move forward in the digital era, this might be the reality for the brands, where businesses get the opportunity to win their customers’ heart with every single interaction.
The evolving technologies are opening up such opportunities for brands, and these opportunities will only increase as these technologies evolve. Smartphone is the magic wand which will make this dream a reality for brands and new-age technologies will power this magic wand.
Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality are two such technologies, which will show the most potential in connecting with consumers in 2018 and will rule the technology landscape.
How AR will augment mobile apps and customer experiences:
There has been a lot of buzz about AR and VR technologies from a few years now. However, the popularity of PokémonGo placed augmented reality on the pedestal for businesses. In fact, the combined market of AR/VR is expected to reach $108 billion by 2021 of which investments in AR will contribute more than three-fourths to this market.
The key reason behind this trend is that, compared to virtual reality, which needs a hardware device like Oculus Rift, it is fairly simple to implement augmented reality. It only needs a smartphone and an app.
Since the entry barrier is low, today’s tech-savvy consumers do not shy away from experimenting with the technology, and for enterprises, it only requires a thought-through AR-based app. Further, with tech giants like Apple, Google, Facebook making it easier for developers to build AR-based apps for their platforms, it has become easier even for smaller businesses to invest in augmented reality.
Industries like retail, healthcare, travel etc. have already created a lot of exciting use cases with AR. With technology giants Apple, Google, Facebook etc. offering tools to make the development of AR-based apps easier, 2018 will see an upsurge in the number of AR apps being released.
For instance – real estate enterprises offering consumers to have a 360-degree view of properties making it easier for them to choose or retail companies like IKEA allowing shoppers to see how a piece of furniture would look in their house setting are real tangible benefits that AR technology can provide.
This year Honda is sent personalised AR holiday cards for hospitalised children at Children’s Hospital of Orange County. In this case, the brand is trying to marry AR to its annual Happy Honda Days promotional event.
While using AR based apps looks like an enticing opportunity for brands to engage with their customers. Enterprises will have to ensure that the AR experiences either enhance their brand communication through innovative content or create real, tangible experiences for their customers.
Artificial Intelligence will make brands more intelligent:
Today, every business is investing in AI in one form or the other. The success of intelligent bots like Siri, Alexa etc. have provided enough evidence of the potential of the technology to connect with their customers. According to ‘Gartner Hype Cycle’ of emerging technologies in 2017, AI will be the most sought-after technology for the next five years. When it comes to smartphones, AI-based apps and bots will become smarter, and as per reports, as the ability of digital assistants to recognise individuals by face and voice refines further, these smart agents will facilitate 40 percent of mobile interactions.
However, brands have to think innovatively and leverage the power of AI to personalise users’ experience beyond bots and make life simpler for their customers. For instance – Starbucks released their AI-based ‘My Starbucks Barista’ app. Users could tell the app what they want, and the app placed the order for them.
Smartphones have access to a great deal of users’ data in real-time with inbuilt features like GPS tracking, camera, microphone etc. AI can help brands develop an app which can learn from this data and built personalised and meaningful interaction with the user. The benefit is that these interactions will also change basis the change in user behaviour as the algorithms will keep learning from changing user interactions.
While the potential of AI seems lucrative, enterprises will have to decide whether they are ready for it. According to Forbes, 80% of enterprises are investing in AI. However, a lot of these investments aren’t thought through. Therefore, while the technology will grow business leaders will need to make sure that they set realistic goals and identify clear objectives and scope of their AI investments to derive true benefit from their AI projects.
Bringing technologies together to enhance both online and offline experiences:
Today consumers possess more than one smart device and access internet across these. Further, they are open to experimenting with innovative technologies that enhance their experience with a brand both online and offline. For instance, most millennials experience products in brick and mortar stores but buy them online owing to discounts they get.
What does this trend means for brands?
Brands will have to make sure that they are taking care of customer experiences on both online and offline channels. Brands are leveraging technologies to enhance the customer experience in offline channels as well. For instance, retail brands using AR apps to lead customers to products or bots simplifying placing an online order which can be later picked offline are some such examples. Businesses will have to think innovatively and integrate various technologies to create an omnichannel experience for their customers.
While technologies can be enablers for businesses to connect with their customers they will need to build compelling storytelling, tangible value and engaging interactions to win the customers’ hearts.
While Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality is going to rule the technology world in 2018, will brands be able to use the potential of such technologies to the fullest and shift the way they interact and connect with their customers? That remains to be seen.
Some of the views expressed in this post are a part of the article: Beyond mobile trends: technologies that will shape the digital landscape in 2018.