SAS Study: High consumer expectations for tech drives innovation in customer experience

In the decade to come, technology is set to play an even more important role in customer experience, according to a newly released study.

SAS’s “Experience 2030: The Future of Customer Experience” research study (which was produced in collaboration with Futurum Research) highlights that by 2030, 67% of customer engagement between brands and consumers using digital devices will be completed by smart machines rather than by human agents. Furthermore by 2030, 69% of decisions made during a customer engagement will also be completed by smart machines.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that there will be a rapid growth in the relationship between humans and machines over the next decade. Companies will have to strike a balance between providing highly empathic human-like experiences with the instantaneous results that consumers have come to expect,” said Daniel Newman, principal analyst and founding partner at Futurum Research.

In future, customers will be more comfortable with handling technology in stores. The study has found that only 35% of customers thought this experience would be a problem in 2030, compared to the 78% of customers facing issues with the same problem now.

As for future technologies; 80% of respondents said that by 2030 they expected to accept delivery of a product by drone or autonomous vehicle and 81% said they expected to engage with chatbots. On the customisation side, 78% expected by that time to be using an augmented, virtual, or mixed reality app to see how a product will look, such as how a piece of clothing might appear on a shopper or how a piece of furniture might look in a home.

Other key findings of consumers embracing new technologies include eight out of 10 expecting to use a smart assistant (such as Google Home, Amazon Alexa, etc.) to make an online purchase or control a smart home, and 78% saying they expected to be controlling other devices with their wearables.

In a slightly closer future, 56% of respondents expected that by 2025 they’d be able to “visit” remote locations or experience vacation and entertainment events through mixed reality devices.

“Brands must reinvent their operating models to act at speed. They need a holistic data strategy that they can personalise at scale, journey analytics capabilities that can adapt in real-time, and enable a self-reinforcing cycle of tailored experiences,” said Wilson Raj, global director of SAS Customer Intelligence.

To meet customer expectations for the future, 62% of brands stated they were investing in voice-based AI assistants to improve customer engagement strategies and as a customer support asset. Another 58% were investing in voice-based AI as an internal marketing and sales asset.  54% of brands were investing AR or VR to help consumers visualise the look or use of a product or service remotely, and 53% of brands were pursuing AR or VR tools to improve product use and self-help.

The research has also examined consumer loyalty. Respondents said that by 2030, mobile apps, high-speed access, and ordering via smart home systems would be the top three technologies driving loyalty. 58% of brands cited high quality as the top factor likely to drive consumer loyalty, but most consumers cited low costs or discounts as their current top driver.

However, though using more technology offers convenience, it also draws concerns over privacy. Only 54% of consumers believed that brands kept their data private, while a majority 73% of consumers believed the use of their personal data was “out of control.”

“As consumers continue to use technology that opens their lives to others, they have dual expectations of businesses: Understand me as an individual and protect my privacy,” Raj commented.

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