Consumers now expect their interactions with brands to be flawless and engaging. In this ‘Age of the Customer’, as Forrester refers to it, they will simply take their custom elsewhere if these expectations aren’t met.
It’s therefore unsurprising that 71% of B2B businesses have made it a top priority to improve customer experience, according to Forrester.
When it comes to the customer experience, brands need to adapt to the increasing preference among customers to interact with them without going offline or contacting a call centre.
This is why emerging technology like virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) are being explored as ways for brands to differentiate themselves and meet changing customer expectations.
Recent Oracle research found that 78% of EMEA brands plan to be using VR in their customer experience by 2020, with 34% having already implemented the technology in some way.
AI and automation are also gaining momentum, with 80% of brands planning to use chatbots for customer interactions by 2020 and 88% planning to use automation technologies to enhance sales, marketing and customer service.
Brands using VR
Chinese eCommerce giant Alibaba has already begun using VR. Its recently-showcased Buy+ virtual shopping experience allows consumers to browse clothing as if walking through a store by simply putting on a low-cost cardboard VR headset that works with their smartphone.
Thanks to integration with Alipay, users can even pay for goods with a simple nod of their head.
For its part, McDonalds launched a promotion in Sweden in which children’s meal boxes could be converted into VR headsets that work with any smartphone. Over Christmas, US retailer JC Penney set up virtual reality experiences at four locations and transported customers to the North Pole via an Oculus headset.
Innovation is crucial, but brands need to make sure they get this right if they are to genuinely improve the customer experience.
Spending millions on developing a virtual reality application without knowing if it will deliver what customers want simply isn’t good business.
To ensure they don’t get stuck with CX white elephants, brands first need a deep understanding of their customers.
And for this, they need to ensure they are drawing insight from customer data. In fact, 41% of brands agree that a smarter analysis of customer data will have the biggest impact on their customer experience.
Unfortunately, many companies are struggling to unify, organise and process the increasing amount of customer data being produced.
Oracle found that 42% of brands collect a great deal of data from multiple sources, but are unable to extract customer insights from it. Worryingly, 60 percent don’t even include social or CRM data in their customer analytics.
Value from data will be vital
Without a complete view of individual customers, the experiences brands deliver are unlikely to provide the kind of personalised and seamless service that people today crave. If brands are to make virtual reality, chatbots and automation count for customer experience, they must first take steps to organise and get value from the data at their disposal.
This data must be accurate and relevant, and it needs to include social media, CRM, sales and service data, as well as information on each customer’s previous interactions with the business.
Achieving this requires technology that pools multiple data sources and allows information to flow freely between marketing, sales, and service so that it can be quickly acted upon.
If they can achieve this, brands will be able to identify potential issues before they occur, spot sales opportunities and deliver relevant marketing materials at the most effective time.
They will also be able to offer personalised, relevant and helpful customer experiences.
Brands that move early to implement VR and AI could well reap the rewards, but first they must be able to engage customers and that comes down to the way they make use of data.
Only then will they be able to reach the right people at the right time on the right channel, and delight them with innovative technologies.
Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo and Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam and explore the future of enterprise technology.