It’s always a leap of faith to predict trends but with the undeniable pace of change in behaviour driven by technology one thing prevails – customers that like your business will continue to engage your brand, but only if you keep pace with the world you inhabit.

As commoditisation across industries becomes even more prevalent, the importance of differentiated experiences increases. Even for brands as large as Coca Cola, personalisation and customisation are favoured approaches to meeting needs and building shareable experiences. They’ve transformed from a ‘nice to have’ to an expectation.

Whether it’s retail, banking, cab service, travel, prescription drugs, or anything else tomorrow’s consumers will derive comfort from knowing they’ve interacted with a brand or business before, but a lack of differentiation leads to a lack of loyalty. The next company that appears at the right time and on the right channel and makes it faster, easier and possibly cheaper will get their business.

This is particularly significant for our true future customers – millennials – who demand transparency and highly relevant social content.

In a world where we have self-driving taxis roaming the streets of Singapore and Pittsburgh, desk chairs from Nissan that tuck themselves under the desk after use and self-lacing trainers being introduced by Nike, the concept and personal message of “just do it” seems to have radically changed its meaning within a single generation.

Mobile is fully centric to this story – a brand’s role will still be to provide inspiration and ideas with content, but if their mobile site experience is not enhanced by insightful imagery and inspiring video then their engagement opportunities will be limited.

With over 50% of their site traffic coming from mobile, Swarovski focused on developing mobile content that was visual, inspirational, and easy to navigate. The brand’s interactive Style Finder offers ideas for how to accessorize a look for work, that special date night, or even just by their mood. By meeting customers on mobile as they search for inspiration, Swarovski has grown its online sales by 50% year over year, with mobile sales growing more than 150%.

Despite all this in the future, we won’t be talking about a single device or media type. Smarter consumers will be able to initiate contact in any number of ways, knowing that a business will instantly know who they are and what previous interactions they’ve had so they can respond or proactively address their needs. Everything is becoming integrated at the point of interaction but of course for the desired outcome technology needs to work – seamlessly.

For all their perceived faults in the world of corporate tax contributions there’s no denying that Amazon, Google and others have radically reshaped what customers expect from technology.

Indeed, traditional marketers are becoming technologists and data scientists with companies aiming to connect better by email, social media, and paid, owned, and earned marketing strategies – and they must incorporate technology to implement, support and crucially to measure it. The measurement of customer data analytics will become centric to all business decisions connected to profit, revenue, customer retention, and of course satisfaction.

To achieve the holy grail of ‘satisfaction’ when the consumer meets the human face of the brand they will now expect smarter, better equipped and, frankly, happier customer service agents and experts. To meet customers’ increasing expectations for fast, effortless and personal service, service based employees will need to be more empowered, more knowledgeable, and have the right tools or they may rapidly find themselves replaced by non-human digital assistants (Artificial intelligence).

Bringing many of the above trends together, this isn’t just Sci-Fi. It’s becoming reality with seamless two-way engagement with customers via text or phone becoming an expected norm for brand communication that achieves the all-industry aspiration of real time customer service driven at all times with perfect knowledge of price and product and at all times 100% consistent, which is and always will be the ultimate metric, both now and in the future.

 

This article was written for ‘The 2017 Customer Outlook’ which can be downloaded here