New research from Adobe and Goldsmiths University of London has looked at the future of customer experience, with some surprising findings on machine-learning, IoT, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Virtual Reality (VR).
‘The Future of Experience’ report was published yesterday, with its findings revealed at Adobe’s Cross-Channel Marketing Forum in London. IoB attended the event to learn more about the report.
The report reveals new rules of engagement when it comes to brands creating great experiences using a range of emerging technologies, such as VR, AR, AI, wearables and the IoT.
Goldsmiths University of London worked with Adobe on qualitative online research with over 2,000 adults in the UK, as well as workshops with technology experts, and the resulting report identifies five new dimensions for brands to think about when creating experiences for the future.
Empathy: Creating deep and meaningful relationships
The research found that newer technologies, and especially VR, create “more immersive and deeply private environments that impact on both physical and mental states”. As a result of this, researchers say brands will need to practice extreme empathy.
Participants felt that these technologies have the unique ability to lend themselves to developing more meaningful (cited by 32 percent of respondents) and personal (19 percent) experiences.
Serendipity: Using technology to aid discovery and surprise
The study found that emerging technologies should be used to create experiences that fuel imaginative thinking.
All participants, regardless of the technology they used, reported their potential in making them more creative as well as allowing them to discover new things. 64 percent of the adults surveyed online said that a good digital experience allows them to discover new and unexpected things that they like and love.
Adobe and Goldsmiths says that elements of serendipity in an experience will build authenticity and, as a result, trust in brands.
Privacy: Technology enabling people to experience private moments
In one of the more surprising findings, 52 percent of those polled agreed that a good digital experience empowers them to use technology to not only connect to the world, but to disconnect from it.
Speakers at the event proclaimed that ‘VR is the new privacy’, and the report reaffirms this by suggesting that VR and wearables will empower consumers to create their own private digital worlds, where they choose the brands they interact with.
Chris Braur, director of innovation at Goldsmiths University of London, backed this up: “Where do you get a private moment in everyday life now? These technologies allow people to escape a world they wouldn’t otherwise be able to.”
This view somewhat chimes with that of futurist and venture capitalist Robert Scoble, who has previously claimed that privacy will disappear in the rise of newer devices and experiences.
Reciprocity: AI has the ability to radically change experience, but we need to teach it
The research also found that participants were excited about the possibilities Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications offer, particularly in helping them to improve their lives.
Over half (52 percent) of the survey respondents said they would be happy to help ‘teach’ a machine if the feedback resulted in life improvements, such as personal health, social services and decision-making around purchases.
The report suggests that people will accept AI into their lives as long as the applications offer helpful, practical, personal and progressive experiences.
Adaptability: Using technology as an enabler for seamless experiences
“Participants testing IoT and AI technologies were excited about their potential in terms of making life easier, but frustrated that the experiences were not as straightforward and seamless as they wanted,” reads the report.
“Brands must therefore adapt to provide seamless, integrated experiences, not only across many different channels – both offline and online – but across products and services, and even entire markets.” This multichannel requirement was highlighted in the retail space, where 35 percent of adults surveyed online said they preferred making transactions in person, with 30 percent saying via a personal device. 32 percent had no preference between the two.
At the event, Adobe’s head of EMEA marketing, John Watton, said that the industry is “hurtling on an endless road to consumers providing all their information to brands, and brands knowing all about the customers.
“It’s an open, connected playing field with an automated and yet personalised experience.”
Braur added that today’s customer is hooked up almost like they would be to an ECG machine, with regular signals indicating how they feel, and what experience they’re having.
Yet, while some have expressed reservations — particularly around privacy — on new technologies, Braur is unconcerned. He believes that VR, AI, wearables and IoT “offer a pathway to a more meaningful experience.”
The academic also dismissed the notion that technology is the barrier to new experiences, despite the rise of ad-blocking software, instead suggesting that technology will increasingly act on our behalf. The study suggests people are open to machine-learning and AI, but Braur stresses this will only happen if the customer gets something meaningful in return. As such, we will be relying on technology to make choices on our behalf.
“These technologies will increasingly be the filter between brands and people,” said Braur.
He discussed the idea of people offloading their sensitive thoughts to AI chatbots – although perhaps not to Microsoft’s recent attempt – and of us teaching machines to disseminate our thoughts – and act upon them.
Yet he believes that the chance of some kind of Terminator-style takeover is highly unlikely.
“We’re not heading down a dark pathway of automated society, where machines are just grinding away. Nothing about what we found in this research indicates that that pathway is reality. It’s a potential pathway but only if we don’t hardness these technologies to offer opportunities for brands and people.”
The full report can be found here.
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