Just for the fun of it, I tried to count the number of times the word “experience” popped up in 2020 trend reports from some of the leading industry analysts. Without exaggeration, there were too many to count. And it wasn’t only because I singled out customer experience (CX) as a sub-topic. Experience was pervasive because that’s what matters most to us in our personal and professional lives. Here’s a sampling of top trends that will shape our future experiences.
Combination of technologies transform the experience
Artificial intelligence (AI), backed by an alphabet soup of groundbreaking technologies, is at the heart of what amounts to an experience revolution. Combine them together, and the possibilities are endless.
IDC analysts predicted 65 percent of consumers will extend physical and digital experiences using voice, images, and augmented reality (AR) to interact with brands on their mobile devices by 2023. By the following year, these analysts said 25 percent of international brands will contract with AI and human translation platforms to provide a multichannel localization and personalization experience that is contextually relevant.
Forrester researchers unfurled a lengthy list of macro forces they predict will fundamentally change CX. They were far more optimistic than last year, to wit, “CX will become as it was planned: the core expression of brand and basis of differentiation . . . Companies will go to market knowing that customers expect graceful and seamless journeys across the ecosystem in the same way they expect it across the enterprise today.” Maybe that’s why IDC analysts predicted the customer experience technology market will total over $600 billion by 2022.
Silos are out, people-centricity is in
Experiential wonders aren’t confined to consumers. IDC predicted that by 2022, 35 percent of organizations will run active employee experience programs that “incorporate modern and enjoyable digital experiences and support brand affinity.”
Gartner analysts predicted at least one-third of enterprises will deploy a multi-experience development platform to support mobile, web, conversational and AR development by next year. They also said 70 percent of enterprises will experiment with immersive technologies for consumer and enterprise use, and 25 percent will deploy them for production by 2022.
Here’s my favorite quote from Gartner, though: “The model will shift from one of technology-literate people to one of people-literate technology. The burden of translating intent will move from the user to the computer.”
Being this people-centric takes a new kind of connected intelligence. Gartner analysts predicted that “the multi-touchpoint aspect of the experience will connect people across edge devices, including traditional computing devices, wearables, automobiles, environmental sensors, and consumer appliances.” Similarly, IDC research forecasted that “AI will become the new user interface by redefining user experiences where over 50 percent of user touches will be augmented by computer vision, speech, natural language, and AR/VR by 2024.”
To be clear, it’s the combination of technologies like machine learning, natural language processing (NLP), and robotics that lets companies, (in Gartner’s words), “industrialize the digital customer and employee experience by connecting those interactions directly to automated back-office operations and supplier ecosystems.” This kind of intelligence is based on an understanding of the context of what’s going on, allowing the company to continuously adapt “in real time” interactions with customers and partners based on business goals.
Forrester researchers also touted the value of connected intelligence. They predicted business, technology, and CX leaders will develop “holistic automation, AI, and robotics game plans” touching every part of the organization, not just the customer experience. They expect more boards and CEOs to tear down silos, within companies and channels. It’s the best way forward in a customer-led market.
Trust is foundational to the experiences we value
Not surprisingly, trust loomed large in all these predictions. Gartner analysts expected digitally trustworthy companies will generate 20 percent more online profit than those that aren’t – by 2020. Forrester analysts cautioned that next-level consumer experiences, driven by AR/VR, could backfire if they’re not accompanied by strong risk and reward management programs. CX leaders could struggle with everything from bad test data to uncontrolled market backlash. IDC predicted that 35 percent of global brands will factor the impact of controversial company positions in social, environmental, or political causes into their experience strategy.
Companies will increasingly know what we want and how we want it so they can bring us the experiences we value most. Whether or not we revel in those experiences depends on how much we trust those companies.