Marketers know you can’t have marketing technology without experimentation. There has to be a clearly defined use case, and that involves customers. So, as we look ahead to all the potential breakthroughs in the year to come, we can’t forget about customers and how they will respond to the shiny new toys marketers find under the tree.
Late in 2022, AI chatbots made a splash with the release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT. It became a source of countless Tweetable back-and-forths, comic relief to the seriously unhinged decrees and layoffs enacted by Elon Musk, Twitter’s newly installed ruler. Content creators would feed the AI bot creative prompts and ChatGPT would spit out precocious, jazzy riffs in response.
Is there a marketing use case for ChatGPT? It seems that currently it’s all about how sneaky smart the bot is, not about how it can help lead customers to discovering your brand. Like other conversational AI applications, it likely will have the best success in answering specific questions that your customers have about products and services.
How will bots help marketers in the year to come? And what other inroads will be made in customer experience for retailers and brands? MarTech’s predictions for 2023 continue below.
AI for improved experience and operational efficiencies
In 2023, companies will use advanced analytics, often powered by AI to scale it, to make better use of their customer data.
“Smarter, progressive organizations will continue to invest in advanced analytics and AI to connect more closely with their customers, anticipate behaviors, and identify issues and opportunities in real time,” said Helena Schwenk, VP, Chief Data and Analytics Officer for analytics database management software company Exasol.
Here’s where conversational AI comes in. Marketers need to continue to understand their customers better through analytics. The data that their customers provide come through actions they take — what links they click on, purchases they make, emails they open, etc. — as well as the messages they give to brands through email, social media, and even what they say to chatbots. So improved AI chat technology can lead to greater insights about customers’ needs, and these insights can be used to improve overall customer experience (CX).
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“In 2023, transcription accuracy of omnichannel customer-and-brand interactions will transition from a ‘nice-to-have’ to a critical capability,” said Eric Williamson, CMO of conversation analytics company CallMiner. “The most successful organizations in the coming year will be the ones who understand the direct connection between transcription accuracy and the quality of customer insights, and that by gaining better intelligence they can drive even greater CX value.”
As chat technology improves over the next year, it will also be considered by organizations looking to improve operational efficiencies.
“The tough economic backdrop will mean a greater focus on operational efficiencies, driven in part through automation,” said Schwenk. “For example, we expect to see a rise in conversational AI and chatbots as the front line of customer support and service by automating high volume, repetitive processes.
She added, “At the same time, the use of AI will increase demands for trustworthiness. The need for openness and transparency about the workings and application of AI will also increase.”
In the coming year, marketers will be keeping AI chatbots and other conversational technology under close watch. Economic pressure and increased competition provide the motivation for more automation in customer experience and customer service in 2023.
Retailers will take a headless approach to commerce
“In 2023, we’ll see more retailers adopt technology that powers checkout on any digital and physical channel to meet shoppers where they are most engaged,” said Jay Myers, cofounder of Bold Commerce. “As part of this, we’ll see retailers moving to take a headless approach to commerce, to offer shopping experiences beyond the limitations of their traditional ecommerce platforms.”
Flooding customers with too many abandoned cart messages is one thing. Customers will buy when they’re ready. And when they’re not, those messages can be off putting. But when they are ready to purchase, they don’t want to have to figure out how the retailer wants them to buy, they want to “buy now.”
So next year, look for retailers to continue to convert any and all marketing channels into buying channels.
“The data collected and connected in a headless commerce system is what drives rich customer experiences,” said Rob Daynes, VP strategy for experience marketing cloud company Cloudinary. “It enables marketers to access deep customer insights with less effort and create immersive customer experiences that foster conversions and sales.”
He added, “As developers try to create these experiences quickly and at scale without any downtime we’ll see a move away from legacy technologies and move toward headless architectures which will allow teams to integrate new features and capabilities without jeopardizing the user experience during the development process.”
“We’ll see brands introducing customized digital shopping on channels that weren’t originally designed to cater to completing a purchase, such as packaging, videos, or even fitness equipment,” said Myers. “For example, consumers will be able to make purchases while on Instagram or while cycling on their Peloton — all without being redirected to an ecommerce site. Consumers will have quicker, more accessible options to make a purchase on all the channels [where] they’re already engaging with brands.”
SMS marketers will have to hold back or get unsubscribed
“Shoppers want to receive SMS messages from brands because it’s quick, easy and accessible,” said Sarah Cascone, VP of marketing for retail technology company Bluecore. “The problem is that brands aren’t sending the right messages and it’s causing shoppers to unsubscribe.”
The returns on SMS can be big, but there are also risks, since it’s such a personal channel for customers.
“When brands are communicating with shoppers on their most sacred and personal form of communication — their phone — shoppers are less tolerant of mass messaging as they would be with another channel. In 2023, we’ll see shoppers unsubscribing from SMS messages at a higher rate and retailers seeing a decline in SMS revenue — unless they decide to move away from batch-and-blast and heavy discounts and promotions.”
In-store experiences will become more omnichannel
During pandemic lockdowns there was pent-up demand for in-person and in-store experiences. As the world opened back up, retail stores were ready to experiment. A lot of it had to do with integrating in-store with the mobile habits that had solidified during consumers’ long hours indoors.
HBO Max turned a digital demo of their programming into an immersive in-store experience. In 2022, Samsung turned their flagship store in New York into a portal for in-store/metaverse simulcasts. In-store locations will continue to outdo each other in the coming year.
“‘In-store omnichannel’ represents all the different touchpoints — both physical and digital — where the brand can engage with the customer,” said Alexios Blanos, UK business director for digital engagement company M-Cube. “Adopting an omnichannel strategy can unlock a consistent brand message and identity across the entire customer journey.”
He added, “These touchpoints actually start from outside the shop — from the physical signs, building design, window displays, social media channels and ecommerce. When entering a store, customers are met with in-store digital signage, mobile and tablet devices, specifically designed shop layout and product placement, interactions with in-store staff, interactive screens and checkouts, to name a few. The retail space is also becoming much more multi-sensory, interactive and immersive, with soundscapes, social media posting zones and VR technology being used by brands to create ‘more than a shopping experience.’”
AI will also be used to personalize these experiences for individual shoppers.
“In 2022, we witnessed the pendulum swing back as consumers returned to many of their long-missed physical experiences,” said Josh Campo, CEO of Razorfish. “In 2023, physical manifestations of brands will continue to be important, but those that prioritize making these moments feel continuous and intentional will succeed.”
Augmented reality personalization
In the coming year, brands will be leveraging AI to personalize across channels. This includes breaking ground by personalizing augmented reality (AR) experiences.
“AR is key to driving personalized experiences,” said Pradip Lal, ecommerce lead for Cloudinary. “Seeing the product in the environment it is designed for helps consumers visualize the end results and helps drive engagement and sales.”
It’s one thing to see an engaging 3D visual of a new product. Even better when it’s a product or category that the consumer has shown interest in previously.
“Consumers are able to see product shots in high definition and view videos seamlessly,” said Lal. “Likewise, tools such as 3D and 360-degree spin-sets give consumers that lifelike experience, bringing them closer to the product and brand.”
He added, “Consumers expect a consistent high quality experience regardless of device or location. Being able to deliver these product-based immersive experiences across any device and any platform is key to building customer loyalty.”
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