It’s a new year, and you know what that means: new annual predictions. ‘Tis the season for companies to publish their thoughts and plans for 2019, including us. And we’re betting on big changes, like the growing importance of the customer experience and artificial intelligence (AI).
Our forecasting is based on research and deep knowledge of industry trends. But technology is always evolving—sometimes by leaps, but often by tweaks—so it can be difficult to notice incremental changes. That’s why we find it helpful to glance back over our shoulders to see just how far we’ve come.
Take the iPhone, for example. A decade ago, the smartphone was a year and a half old and only beginning to infiltrate schools, offices, and dinner tables. Now, the technology is ubiquitous. It’s hard to imagine life before—or without—smartphones. In 10 short years, Apple has had a tremendous impact on society.
We believe that AI has the potential to create a paradigm shift at the same level. So instead of looking to the past, let’s fast-forward a decade into the future and consider how AI could transform the buyer’s journey by 2030.
Search and Discovery
Picture Jane, a buyer. In 2019, Jane’s interaction with AI may be limited to chatbots that answer basic questions. At home, she might use digital assistants that learn from her preferences and offer personalized recommendations.
By 2030, AI’s power to collect and analyze large quantities of data will drive ever-improving customer experiences. Companies will be able to create a comprehensive picture of Jane based on her browsing preferences and past purchasing behavior. Her smart assistant will learn from her habits, then base its interactions and buying suggestions on those patterns.
AI will also completely change how marketers interact with customers. When Jane goes online to search for products, she’ll engage with a fully cognitive website. Every aspect of her search will be tailor-made just for her. It will be assembled from hundreds of pieces of microcontent and built-in real-time based on what resonates with her.
In the next decade, AI will make product search and discovery more frictionless—and Jane will feel heard and understood. Companies, by extension, will need to do less work to convert that feeling into a transaction opportunity.
Research and Review
While the early days of AI brought advancements like machine-powered image recognition and responsive retail, by 2030, we’ll have moved into the era of predictive commerce.
With more customer data available than ever before, AI will be able to evaluate trends and behavior patterns for every stage of the buying journey. Companies will have a much fuller grasp on what occurs during the research and consideration phase and will be able to create smarter funnels that lead to greater conversion. Every action Jane takes—from what she purchases to what she doesn’t purchase—will add to a growing knowledge base about her and audiences like her.
In 2019, we see first-name personalization in emails. By 2030, we’ll also be using information like what platforms Jane uses, the depth of her brand relationship, her location, and her social identity to facilitate AI-guided decision making.
From Jane’s perspective, these advancements will help her research and pick the most relevant products for her needs. Things like product recommendations and personalized offers delivered through email or new modes of communication will entice Jane without overwhelming her, as AI will make irrelevant sales pitches and marketing messages a thing of the past.
Marketers will also use AI to integrate insights from across all their tools. CRM data will combine with marketing automation and customer service information to create one extensive dataset. By breaking down silos, AI can unlock the true power of these tools and create a more comprehensive picture of customers like Jane.
This will give marketers a deep understanding of preferences and intent, allowing every contact with her to feel like it’s one-on-one. And with a granular understanding of the products available based on her location, AI will continue to create increasingly better recommendations for Jane. It could even actually predict what she might need next—and where she can find it.
In 2030, buying products will be faster, more customized, and even predictive.
Retailers will help Jane find products in her precise moment of need. In fact, AI may offer targeted products before Jane even recognizes the need herself. If she’s shopping online for party supplies, like balloons and paper plates, a retailer might anticipate that she’ll also need gift wrap. AI will do the hard work for her by instantaneously sorting through the data, like current price trends and local inventory, and offer her a selection of wrapping paper that she can bundle into her current purchase.
This degree of forecasting relies on identifying patterns within massive datasets that are always changing. AI will help marketers match Jane’s purchasing history and product preferences to local product location, pricing, and inventory for a seamless, intelligent shopping experience.
According to the Baymard Institute, nearly 70% of online shopping carts are abandoned. How many of those will become completed purchases when AI transforms “I’m just browsing” into “You knew just what I needed”?
Service and Support
No two buyers—and no two buyer journeys—are exactly alike. Just as AI will provide the tools to create intelligent websites and marketing campaigns, the evolution of AI-powered customer service platforms will ensure completely personalized, always-on customer care.
Currently, it can be difficult to evaluate how well customer support is functioning. Complex and disparate chains of logistics, like call centers, repair shops, and customer service departments, mean that cohesive information may be lacking. But in the next decade, AI will use data to standardize, measure, and optimize processes, ensuring buyers always receive top-notch service.
For Jane, this is great news. Holidays, time zones, and language barriers will no longer impede service. If Jane is assembling a piece of furniture and needs help at 10:00 p.m. on a Sunday, AI will make assistance available through advanced chatbots that can resolve complaints and answer questions 24/7.
And when the on-demand and predictive elements of AI meet, Jane will be alerted to products of hers that need upcoming support. She won’t have to remember when her car needs service, because AI will—and it will offer to book the appointment for her, too.
2030 is Right Around the Corner
Eleven years will pass in a flash. In fact, we’re already seeing some of these AI capabilities in marketing today. As the power of machines continues to expand exponentially—and the price of these tools continues to decline—AI, automation, and machine learning will completely change the face of marketing by 2030.
We owe it to ourselves to start thinking about what this future will look like now so we can play our own role in reshaping the marketing industry with AI by our side.