In my job as Worthix CMO, podcast host, and blog editor, I've been blessed with the opportunity to speak to some of the most brilliant minds in Customer Experience, Marketing, Market Research, Technology, Design Data Analytics, and Behavior Science.
As 2018 draws to a close, I've decided to reflect on everything I heard and read throughout the year and predict what I feel will be the Customer Experience trends for 2019. To do this, we must take a long hard look at the past year.
2018 has been quite the year for Survey Tech and Experience Management. In August, SurveyMonkey IPOed at $12 a share, maxed out at $17 and is now averaging $13.45. Not bad for the very first Survey Tech to make a public offering!
On November 11, Qualtrics shocked the market by announcing that it had been acquired by SAP pre-IPO for a whopping $8B. Only 2 weeks prior, Qualtics had acquired Temkin Group, a research institute, to consolidate what they refer to as "Experience Management", or "XM".
The acquisition of Qualtrics sent ripples through the market, boosting SurveyMonkey's shares in the process. The 2019 venture capital and investment market are HOT for Survey Tech! Who's next?
Here are my trend predictions regarding technology and innovation in CX and overlapping industries for 2019.
Big Data has been strong for some time and 2019 will likely see a continued interest in the CX field, with the focus on combining Big Data with Predictive Analytics and Market Research. Some new players that are taking on giants such as AWS and Azure are startups KnowledgeHound, iDatalabs, and DataDecisions to mention a few.
In Customer Experience technology, the market has seen big innovations in how we collect, process and manage Voice of Customer feedback. Tech Startups like Worthix, Wizer, and Chatter have introduced A.I., Machine Learning and NLP into surveys, making it possible to process and manage feedback data at unprecedented speed and accuracy.
For 2019, self-adaptive surveys advance A.I technology by diving deeper into customer insight. These smart surveys are able to detect key decision motivators in consumer responses by eliciting further response from customers on what truly matters to them in their experience.
"Do It Yourself" is a wonderfully accessible alternative for startups and SMBs which would otherwise not be able to afford market research and surveys. At a recent DIY conference I attended, I heard representatives from millennial oriented startups such as PopSugar, FabFitFun, and Buzzfeed describing some pretty cool projects with their client base that are done entirely in-house.
For enterprise and large organizations, I see DIY as a powerful tool for internal use since it cuts through red-tape and budgetary issues, giving researchers and data scientists the power to conduct surveys on any given issue.
The problem seems to lie with bigger, more important projects that are tied to financial accountability, and senior leadership projects. In those cases, across the board, practitioners prefer to bring on vendors with more robust methodologies and sample sizes to back up claims and numbers.
The one thing that we cannot forget while performing DIY market research is that we're still dealing with a scientific methodology, and the person or people conducting the study should be proficient in the field.
Understanding the 'why' behind decisions, or what motivates your customers to buy is, in my opinion, the most important insight a company needs in order to maintain customer loyalty and reduce churn.
When you understand the reason someone chose your product or service over the competition, it's a lot easier to focus your efforts and investments on multiplying those key experiences and making positive decision drivers consistent. The same concept applies when you uncover why they DIDN'T choose you. These experiences require your immediate attention in order to constrain churn.
Sephora's "Virtual Artist" app recently debuted an update that allows customers to try on makeup with augmented reality. In addition to trying on makeup and testing shades of lipstick, the app also provides users with virtual tutorials on contouring, highlighting and nailing your winged eyeliner.
Other apps, such as Wayfair, are using AR to improve online furniture purchases by allowing customers to "see" how that sofa would look in their living-rooms. Ikea has also launched a VR Kitchen shopping experience and Alaska Airlines is testing a VR option for pre-selected first-class passengers that allows them to experience an alternate scenario during their flight. Just imagine hanging out on a beach or skiing down the slopes at 33,000 feet.
Some futurists like Adobe's Tamara Gaffney believe that the old malls and bankrupt department stores of today will, in the near future, channel Spielberg's "Ready Player One", becoming "experience centers" where users will be able to live new experiences through VR technology.
When it comes to Market Research and Surveys, some specialists have already begun to explore AR/VR tech for control groups and qualitative studies. Product placement, packaging, and retail design are some early adopting areas for this technology.
According to a Wikipedia page, Facial Coding is "the process of measuring human emotions through facial expressions. Emotions can be detected by computer algorithms for automatic emotion recognition that record facial expressions via webcam"
Facial Coding is used in Market Research as a way to understand people's emotional response when stimulated via video, question or action. For surveys, it can be used alongside traditional questionnaires to gather unbiased and unfiltered responses to stimuli. Some companies that are developing this tech are Affectiva and EyeSee.
By combining facial coding algorithms with A.I., the machine is able to identify and process countless human emotions remotely at an amazing speed. It's not perfect yet, and human coding still outperforms the machine, but the time is rapidly approaching when the tech will be perfected.
2018 was the year of the Alexas and Google Homes. We have definitely seen strong advances in Voice tech, and the tendency is for the trend to continue strong. Consultants and tech companies insist that 2019 and 2020 will herald an age of predominantly voice purchase and web search. IoT has made it possible to give voice commands to home appliances like the Alexa Microwave and we're sure to see more and more of these appliances hit the market next year.
I also believe we will begin to see Voice Recognition combined with Facial Coding for Market Research purposes.
The speed of change is faster every day, and new technology has a shorter adoption life-cycle than ever before.
While it is not necessary for companies to adopt all new technology as soon as it comes out, nor is it healthy to chase every new trend the market hurls at you, what is crucial is to listen to how your customers' expectations are changing with each new innovation, and how this impacts their perceptions of your brand.
If you fail to live up to your customers' new expectations and don't adapt to the innovate they crave, your days may very well be numbered.