2021 Results And Outlook For 2022

December 9, 2021  |  Mark Hillary
It's great to be talking about some of the trends that we've observed this year.

Clearly, this is an enormous topic. There could actually be many different subjects, but I think that one of the clear changes that we have seen is the digitization of consumer behavior.

This was largely driven during the pandemic when a lot of industries like retail had to pivot and change very quickly so that customers could actually obtain their products using e-commerce platforms or direct-to-consumer platforms. What we’ve noticed is that a large percentage of consumers that were forced to use these platforms because of the pandemic is now sticking with those platforms. So we’re now seeing a lot of areas like e-commerce has had a dramatic boost that has come in the last 18 months. That kind of change in behavior is one thing. But I think we’re seeing this across a wide array of industries. Even if you look at things like grocery and food delivery, apps like Uber Eats, Deliveroo, Grubhub – all these kinds of services are growing at a very rapid rate.

There’s clearly digitization of consumer behavior. This is also being enhanced by the Internet of Things and the adoption of smart speakers in the home. During this year, smart speakers like the Google home, the Amazon echo have been selling about 40 million units each quarter. So, each 12 weeks we’re seeing tens of millions of new homes adopting this technology. That just reinforces this idea that you create an Amazon shopping list. For example, you can just speak to your device and then tell it when you want your shopping delivered. So again, we’re seeing consumer behavior being shaped by technology.

Another area that’s been very important has been cloud computing this year, but not in the sense that businesses are using cloud to support their own functionality. Without the cloud storage and cloud capabilities, we wouldn’t have been able to have office workers working from home or the sort of hybrid working options that are allowing people to move between the office and the home. I think that there will be a much greater focus on cloud technologies that allow people to work more flexibly, as well as cloud storage technologies.

One final point that I’ve observed this year is in the area of customer service where we’ve seen a merger of this cloud technology, allowing us to build virtual customer service platforms and combine that with work from home and you can create a gig economy environment for customer service. This Gig CX is going to become much more important as we start to look forward. This year, we’ve certainly seen companies taking that option seriously.

I’ve probably got five or six different areas where I would say we should be focused on, as we move into the next year. I think that definitely AI will become much more significant this year. Certainly, in the area of interacting with customers we’re seeing Predictive Analytics as really becoming very important and this is because brands can use insight into customer behavior to know when you want something or when you might order something, what you’re likely to respond to in terms of offers and deals, but also to be able to proactively intervene. It should be possible to determine when you’re likely to cancel a subscription and then to intervene to keep that customer remaining loyal. I certainly think that there’s some very practical application of AI that we’re going to see.

I mentioned Gig CX as an area that is being proven and I suppose it was very nascent in the past year but I really believe that as we go into next year, it won’t just be a nascent technology anymore. It will be a platform that all of the major customer service specialists are using. That’s quite a complex mix of cloud-based services, security services being able to deploy a large global workforce of people based at home. It involves payment systems, so people can be paid as they work rather than collecting a salary. That’s going to be a major change in the next year and not so much because we will even call it gig CX but I think it will become something that’s very much blended with more general customer service solutions.

I think that wearables will be more important in the coming year and that’s more to do with what we’ve seen in the pandemic with the inability to engage with health services.

We will see technology playing a much stronger role in proactive health monitoring and control of health conditions. We’ve seen people doing things like using fitbits or measuring their steps on their smartphones. I just think that we’re going to take that to the next step and actually have direct links with health services. Potentially, in the countries with nationalized health services like the UK or Canada, there could be a more proactive prevention strategy, preventing illness rather than just treating it. So I think that medical technology is definitely going to be a big growth area.

Metaverse is something that’s also going to be extremely important moving forward. I think that the way Facebook has described the metaverse at present is very much looking several years into the future. I don’t think that we will all be engaging using avatars just yet, but I think that what you will start to see in the next year or so is sort of the early adopters and early-stage investors getting into this world and just trying to find out how we can build a sort of parallel universe using technology that can actually engage with people.

A good example might be retail. If you could imagine visiting a department store virtually where you could try out anything. You can just pick things off the shelves and you can try them out and you can use them, and you can test stuff out before you actually go ahead and buy it in the real world. Smart brands possibly in retail first will be thinking about this technology and thinking about how does this moves on from traditional e-commerce, which is essentially just a searchable list of stock online. We can move on and make the sort of online experience to another level so that you can actually use the products before you buy them.

Finally, I think that there could be greater regulation around technologies, around things like social media platforms. The Federal Trade Commission in the US is already talking about a breakup of Facebook into the component parts like making WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook are all separate companies. Clearly, there’s a lot of opposition to that. People are saying that this kind of service already exists in China. So it’s becoming a sort of a geopolitical fight about who’s going to lead the future of the internet and technology. Is it the US or is it China? The fear of a breakup may lead companies like Facebook to really accelerate how fast they are developing many of their services.

We will see things like cryptocurrencies being included within WhatsApp messaging and things like this. The deeper they can get into the lifestyle of the consumer, the more unlikely it is that this type of services can be broken up in the near future.

That’s a sort of a summary from CX across AI to the metaverse. I hope that’s a good few areas for 2022.

 

Continue discovering what the future will be like. Peter Ryan is one of the foremost experts in customer relationship management and in this vlog, he shares the results of 2021 and ideas for the next 2022 in business and technology.

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