In 2017, chatbots and artificial intelligence were in the spotlight of all the Tech, eCommerce and Marketing media, so where are we at on the subject at the beginning of this year? What should we expect in 2018? What are the customer experience and marketing trends? Here’s a glance at the latest four customer engagement trends. For a more comprehensive overview I invite you to download our report entitled “Customer experience trends for 2018”.
#1. Conversation is the new marketing
The end of complex interfaces
Online trade was born more than 20 years ago. And for the past 20 years, we have been conducting research, we have been visiting various websites in order to compare product pages, we have been completing complex contact forms with several steps… However there’s a change under way, in 2018 we will see the rise of intuitive and natural conversational experiences online, which will ensure the consumer will not have to do any of the ‘heavy lifting’.
Messaging has become universal and in 2018, no company will be able to bypass this trend. Messaging apps account for more than 5 billion monthly users. Millennials as well as baby-boomers use them because they serve the primary form of communication, conversations.
Messaging to help advertising
At the end of 2017, major advertisers such as Mars and Lidl announced their intention to boycott YouTube after a Times Investigation claimed ads were being served against “inappropriate” and “exploitative” content. In late October, Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest advertiser, cut 40% of its online advertisement.
Marketers are increasingly questioning the display’s return on investment. Other critical parameters such as the user experience and brand image are now taken into account.
At the same time, web users actively fight intrusive ads by massively installing adblockers (32% of US internet users use adblockers with a 34% increase each year). If we are not about to see the end of digital advertising in 2018, we should witness the rise of messaging, which encourages interactions that are more authentic and less intrusive. 2018 will see the rise of Conversational formats!
Emojis, gifs, images, documents… They are a sign that conversations between a brand and customers can be as warm as a personal exchange. These tools, available for brands to use, are intended to create an authentic and highly personalised exchange with customers. They are not simple promotional tools or tools only aimed at sharing information. 2018 will be the year of hyper personalisation.
#2. Artificial intelligence: advances and limits
We will undoubtedly hear more about artificial intelligence (AI) in 2018. In 2017, artificial intelligence was everywhere, in every industry: economy, transportation, medical industry, etc. And the customer experience has not been left behind. Artificial intelligence is so promising that it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between fantasy and reality.
Technical advances in terms of voice recognition are numerous and, in 2017, they enabled us to continue to improve personal assistants on connected objects such as Siri, Cortana, Echo, Home or Clova. Thousands of hours of conversations have trained the neuron networks of the largest university and company laboratories. In February 2017, a team from Microsoft announced that they had surpassed the human intelligence for the comprehension of phone conversations with only a 5% error.
But the very large majority of both written and spoken virtual assistants do not use artificial intelligence. They give the impression to their interlocutor that they understand them. How? Thanks to the talent of scenarists who pre-write their responses. In 2018, AI will be, first and foremost, a tool destined to enhance the performance of human agents thanks to these suggested responses for example.
#3. Chatbots: what can we expect from them in 2018?
In 2017, many companies have tested conversational robots – more than 200,000 have been created on Messenger.
Implemented with precaution, they have dedicated bots for specific objectives and utilise them for one single and unique channel: application or website, pre-qualification or the resolution of commonly asked questions, etc. This trial phase will enable to expand uses in 2018 and create multi-channel chatbots.
But companies must keep one thing in mind: if the dialog you can have with a robot is, indeed, conversational, it’s far from being able to offer conversations as rich in emotions and intelligence as conversations held between two human beings.
Thus, you will need to think bots as elements of a global strategy and connect them to platforms that enable you to manage online interactions. Bots can replace human agents for low added value tasks, collecting information that will enrich your database. Above all, the technology must be able to seamlessly transfer a conversation to a human agent as soon as the chatbot is no longer able to provide a satisfactory response. This transfer must be smooth and preserve both the user and agent experience (same discussion thread or window, access to information shared within the conversation, etc.).
#4. Authenticity, trust and conviviality: key values for brands in 2018
Because we, consumers, are increasingly more informed and knowledgeable about the goods and services we wish to consume, we expect brands to be authentic and transparent.
In 2018, communities and independent ambassadors will continue to embody these values and will become the face of brands which will win their customers’ trust.
Internet users don’t want to be sold products, they want to be advised on buying a product or service that will be personal and relevant to them. Also, they feel more confident when they talk to their peers.
Thus, brands will rely on independent and savvy sales forces, which embody this authenticity, but which are also flexible to face the ubiquity challenge: to answer everywhere online, at any time while controlling costs.
Customer Lifetime Value: the indicator you should follow in 2018
Being authentic and collaborating with ambassadors means betting on a long term customer relationship. And that’s a good thing: the probability of selling a product would be between 60 and 70% for an existing customer against 5 to 20% for a prospect. This data speaks volumes on the importance of investing in customer loyalty. To monitor this data and determine your actions’ return on investment, the Customer Lifetime Value should be the indicator guiding businesses in 2018. The calculation of this indicator relies on your customer segmentation and analysis of their behaviour.
The Customer Lifetime Value is not a static concept. Businesses will need to constantly remain attentive, be available where their customers need them and personalise the interactions they have with them.