The Experience 2030: The Future of Customer Experience report – prepared by Futurum Research and sponsored by analytics software vendor SAS – was based on input from 2000 brands (companies, organisations, governments) and 2000 consumers from Asia Pacific and four other major regions of the world.
A major finding was that "consumers don't use digital, they are digital," according to Futurum founding partner and principal analyst Daniel Newman, who was the report's lead author.
For example, 55% use more than three social apps, 85% use at least one banking or finance app (and 29% use three or more), and half of consumers search for product information at least three or four times a week (and almost a quarter do this five or more times a week).
This widespread acceptance and use of technology isn't really understood by brands. Only 35% of consumers believe their peers are uneasy dealing with technology in stores, 78% of brands thought that is the case.
Conversely, brands' perception of consumer acceptance of specific in-store technologies is much higher than consumers themselves feel. For example, 48% of consumers think AI assistants such as Alexa and Siri are a good way to get information about products, but brands thought the figure was 79%. 51% said they would prefer automated payment systems that avoid the usual checkout process (a la Amazon Go), but 80% of brands thought that would be preferred by consumers.
The report suggests that part of these differences may be explained by a trust gap, noting that "brands that cannot provide a high level of trust cannot provide a high level of customer experience."
76% of consumers are concerned with the amount of data brands gather when they search for or purchase a product, and 73% are concerned with how brands are using their personal data to the point where they feel it is out of control.
Indeed, 50% believe brands are hiding “bad things” they’ve done with user data and privacy.
Looking at particular industries, the three most trusted are healthcare providers (trusted by 51%), grocery and food (46%), and restaurants and fast food (44%).
At the other end of the spectrum, almost half of consumers (47%) distrust social media; news, advertising and publishing (42%), and government and public service (41%).
The figures for Asia Pacific were somewhat different. In particular, this is the only region where governments and public sector institutions are generally trusted (by 52% of consumers, putting it in third place).
It's clear that most brands are aware of this problem, because 77% said they sometimes implement programs that aren't as secure as they should or could be, in order to achieve a faster time to market.
"As consumers continue to use technology that opens their lives to others, they have dual expectations of businesses: Understand me as an individual and protect my privacy. Therein lies the opportunity to achieve balance when crafting customer experiences," said SAS global director of customer intelligence Wilson Raj.
Loyalty is another issue. 90% of brands say they provide the highest level of satisfaction, yet 42% of consumers say only three or fewer brands actually deliver that.
Looking ahead to 2030, consumers say mobile apps, high-speed access and ordering via smart home systems will be the top three technologies driving loyalty. Brands agree, but also plan to use AI, machine learning and predictive analytics to help generate loyalty.
“Building loyalty is a critical component for brand growth, and over the next 10 years we will see increased nuance and complexity beyond the traditional price, quality and service matrix that has long stood at the core of loyalty propositions," said Futurum co-founder Daniel Newman.
"In the future, the way companies embrace technology, drive speed to market (and consumer) and deliver and measure social impact will all play a bigger role in loyalty. This is already starting to happen today, and its importance will multiply by 2030.”
According to Raj, “Tracing a customer through their journey entails a forensic understanding of the customer across endless journey permutations – customers want to be remembered and understood as they crisscross myriad channels, touchpoints and contexts.
"Brands must reinvent their operating models to act at speed. They need a holistic data strategy that they can personalise at scale, journey analytics capabilities that can adapt in real time, and enable a self-reinforcing cycle of tailored experiences."
The report is available via https://sas.com/experience2030 (registration required).
Disclosure: The writer attended SAS Analytics Experience 2019 as a guest of the company.