We are entering a new phase of technology disruption that will rival the changes in the 1990s when the internet transformed the world forever. New tech trends are poised to make the internet seamless and transform the way we work, live and play. This next phase of disruption is going to make technology invisible, making the way consumers get their information and buy products easier and integrated into their everyday lives. The following are a few technologies that are going to make this a reality.
- The Conversational Web
The conversational web is all about expanding the way we interface and interact with the web. Until recently, most interaction online has been in the form of text search. However, with chatbots and virtual assistants, we are now accessing information with conversational interfaces that are seamlessly integrated into a variety of applications.
- Chatbots: Chatbots are the first step in this transition. Primarily text-based computer programs, chatbots simulate conversation with people or applications using artificial intelligence. Integrated into messaging applications, chatbots make it easier and more convenient for customers to engage with brands by streamlining customer interactions. E-commerce, customer service and call centers have adopted chatbots to perform simple tasks and typically provide a specialized service such as helping you troubleshoot your cable box or collect relevant information before sending you to a live human in customer service.
- Virtual Assistants: Gartner reports that by 2020, 30% of web browsing sessions will be done without using a screen but rather through voice. The introduction of voice-activated digital assistants such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana now enable us to use speech as the primary web interface to search the web and get answers to everyday questions. Using voice and eliminating the need to use your hands and eyes for browsing, voice extends the web experience during activities such as driving, cooking, learning, working, etc.
Voice activated technology is only the beginning and it is already changing the boundaries of how we communicate. New products are seamlessly integrating voice with other technologies to expand the ways we communicate. For example, the new Amazon Echo Show uses voice-activated Alexa to initiate web activity and integrates voice activated video for two-way conversations, remote monitoring online learning and entertainment. The new Amazon Look also uses Alexa and seamlessly integrates a voice-activated camera and social media so that you can instantly post your photos.
You would expect this Jetson-like, highly integrated technology to be marketed with a “cool factor,” however Amazon has done just the opposite. It was introduced as almost utilitarian – just something, you need in your everyday life.
- Rise Of The Botnik: There are more ways to interact on the web beyond chatbots and virtual assistants on the horizon. Jeff Pulver, futurist and founder of the future of the conversational web conference MoNage, believes the term chatbot is limited and proposes the term botnik to encompass all conversational interfaces such as voice, biometrics, augmented reality, virtual reality, and some other forms of reality yet to be defined — including, one day, perhaps, a direct interface to the human brain. Elon Musk’s new company Neuralink is exploring the brain to computer interface.
- Convergence Of Social Media, Influencer Marketing And E-Commerce
Social media is changing the way we receive our information. We now have influencers on social media who are passionate about specific topics and have created a significant following on social networks. These people have a greater-than-average share of voice within a certain market segment and brands are leveraging them to promote products.
At the same time, consumers want more ease in purchasing products. When consumers see products they want to purchase on social media, the process is not seamless. In fact, it can be quite frustrating. This is starting to change as Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook have introduced discreet buy buttons that help consumers buy what they see. We can expect that we will see this extend to video too. As influencers promote brands using live video, consumers will be able to buy instream seamlessly.
- Internet Of Things, Data And Analytics
We have not yet realized the impact of the Internet of Things (IoT), data and analytics as it relates to the customer experience. E-commerce is a dominant force in retail today and it is undergoing a major disruption as IoT continues to be deployed throughout the supply chain. Data from IoT connected devices will be used to gain more insight from lifestyle habits so that marketers can build personalized shopping experiences and more importantly, create a seamless, omnichannel shopping experience between online and brick and mortar properties.
Why does this matter for marketers?
Each one of the trends will develop over the next few years individually, but as the technology matures, you will see all three of these trends converge to create a seamless customer experience. The customer’s buying journey will change and there will be fewer touchpoints during the buying process, thus providing fewer opportunities to engage with your brand. Marketers need to consider the following:
- Build a brand that can be easily found. SEO will become even more important as search will change when the new conversational web continues adoption. Conversation keyword and phrases will become important.
- Online reviews essentially will become “virtual word of mouth” and will become more important than ever. Marketers need to put an emphasis on building a happy and loyal following that will share reviews and recommendations.
- Exemplary customer service will be rewarded as people will buy from organizations that put the customer first.
- Build a trusted brand. When all other things are equal (and even if the price is higher), people will buy from the brand they trust.
This article was originally published in Forbes.