There’s nothing certain about the future, but by analyzing common trends, we can attempt to visualize where we are going. When referring to customer engagement, there is one trend that remains steadfast year-over-year. Can you take a wild guess what it is? If you guessed “personalization” then congratulations, you’re thinking like most marketing professionals today. The need to better personalize content and offers in a timely way, is an integral part of an effective engagement strategy. The future of customer engagement must see greater personalization; and with the help of new innovations it will get there. For example, artificial intelligence and voice activation technology will play a large part in the future of customer engagement. But in order to fully understand where we are in our progress towards personalization, we must first explore the current state of customer engagement, and how close we are to making these advancements.
What Technology is Influencing Customer Engagement?
Today, consumers and businesses alike expect convenient, relevant, and responsive engagement across every interaction. Here we will outline 5 major marketing technology trends, and how they impact the future of consumer engagement:
1. Artificial Intelligence
In a survey conducted by Quantcast and Forbes Insight, 51% of marketers saw an increase in customer retention after using AI in their marketing efforts. To unlock the data needed for personalization at scale, marketers are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence (AI). AI is now the number one use case for personalizing the overall customer journey.
“In today’s digital environment, attribution continues to be a challenge — businesses are still piecing together data points from different platforms and many are still struggling to understand the full path to purchase — which marketing channels are driving revenue? What kinds of content help retain customers and at which stage of the customer journey? Where are customers falling out of the funnel? AI can sequence that customer journey together and identify when a customer comes to a company’s site and leaves without converting,” — Unbounce CTO and co-founder, Carl Schmidt
This year, many organizations are on the path to adopting AI, leading to content personalization and in turn, higher consumer engagement.
2. Voice Assisted Devices
According to eMarketer, in 2019, 74.2 million people in the US will use a smart speaker, up 15% over 2018. Additionally, by the end of 2019, 26.8% of US adults will use a smart speaker at least once per month. Sales are not slowing down any time soon either. Amazon has reportedly sold over 100 million Alexa devices and as of last month, Google Assistant is available on over one billion devices. Marketing professionals have an opportunity to leverage this technology to reach consumers in new and exciting ways. Voice-led marketing is expected to follow a more radio-type model, but with a direct link to the retailer. And, just like traditional media, voice-activated ads will need to be original and come off as genuine. The first brands to do this, and do this well will win, and 2019 could very well be the year this happens.
3. 5G Networks
The idea of 5G is one that many of us gloss over; it’s just faster Internet right? Who cares. Well, this newly supercharged mobile landscape will change the game for marketers in 2019.
5G’s ability to process data more swiftly is predicted to supercharge marketers’ capabilities around personalized content and real-time ad targeting at a more granular level, as well as power the evolution of connected devices like cars, speakers and wearables. An October Intel and Ovum study forecasts that video will comprise 90% of all 5G traffic in 10 years, signaling major opportunity for marketers to develop quality mobile content and better engage audiences.
Moreover, 5G makes virtual reality viable. Streaming video with no buffering will become a reality so brands will be able to finally explore immersive media formats such as VR and AR and start creating totally different creative.
So, for those ignoring the shift to 5G; you’ll be missing out big time this year!
4. Conversational Commerce
72% of respondents ages 18-34 say they would be more likely to be loyal to a brand that replies to them, compared to those companies that stay comparatively silent. For respondents aged 45 and up, 47% feel the same way. It’s difficult for humans to keep up with the amount of online traffic B2C brands experience; which is why chatbots are becoming great way to engage and retain consumers.
According to Gartner, by the year 2021, 50% of enterprise companies will spend more on bots and chatbot creation than they will on traditional mobile app development. As the app market becomes more saturated, it makes sense for larger organizations to focus on AI-powered workflows for their business strategy.
If you’ve yet to develop a strategy to engage consumers using bots, then 2019 is definitely the year to start.
5. Live Video
Live streaming services are growing in popularity on Facebook, Instagram, and other popular social media channels. Research indicates live streaming encourages more audience engagement and retains viewers longer than prerecorded video.
Given the ease of shooting videos with smartphones, marketers are discovering the value of lead nurturing and customer communications by sending personalized video messages instead of calling or sending email. The notion of using a 1:1 video approach can apply to following-up on an inquiry, offering content, delivering support, simply saying thanks, or practically any application.
Plus, AI and the use of closed captions are making video content more searchable. AI can transcribe the audio tracks of video with voice recognition to make video searchable. Google even recently announced the addition of video previews to the video carousel that appears in search results.
Live video is going to rule the roost for consumer engagement in the next year.
Money Out, Money In
As 63% of CMOs expect their budgets to increase in 2019, we can expect these technologies to be top of mind. In fact, global retail sector technology spending will grow 3.6% to reach almost $203.6 billion in 2019. So, what does this all mean for the future of customer engagement? In short, it means that 2019 will be a huge year of transformation for both consumers and marketers. We are nearing a turning point in consumer engagement, and data activation will be leading that change. Although there is still work to be done, complete personalization is not too far out of reach.