We live in a world where technology blurs the line between the physical and the digital. This always-on environment gives emerging companies the chance to break long-held monopolies.

It’s a world of incredible opportunity and innumerable pitfalls.

In this fiercely competitive environment, the expression “innovate or die” rings true for all brands. Innovative leaders need one key trait to stay ahead of the competition: flexibility.

Brands have to change with the times as technology transforms the way humans live and behave.

Disruptive trends are emerging in the digital space. This will not only affect business operations, but transform the way we communicate with and market to customers.

Innovating Business Processes with Transformative Tools

We predict that chatbots, data practices, AI, and more have the potential to completely transform business practices for innovative companies.

Chatbots

Chatbots bridge convenience and science. But as of 2018, most customers had frustrating experiences working with chatbots.

The good news is that developers are making huge strides in chatbot technology.

Chatbots are now better able to:

  • Process natural language
  • Analyze user sentiment
  • Recognize other important contextual clues

While they still have a ways to go, chatbot technology will completely shake up the service industry.

Think about all the services we can provide without humans: fast food, loans, job recruiting, and even news reporting can be done with chatbot technology.

Forty percent of large businesses will adopt chatbots by the end of 2019. It’s clear that this transformation trend will save brands time while streamlining customer experiences.

Chatbots will likely be one of the most disruptive customer experience mechanisms in the near future.

Data

If you aren’t using data, you aren’t getting ahead.

Data is key for making good business decisions. Innovative companies use data to learn, develop insights, and strategize about products, services, customers, hiring, and more.

It’s clear that data is the future of innovation, no matter your business. However, there are two problems with modern data collection:

  1. We have too much data
  2. We don’t know how to use the data

Humans have created 90% of the world’s data in the last two years. But of that data, we’re only using 1% effectively.

Why do we bother collecting so much data if we don’t put it to good use?

Brands of the future know the importance not just of gathering data, but of putting it to its best and highest use.

Companies like Microsoft, SAP, Salesforce, IBM, and Amazon are leading in the data-driven business analytics space.

With cost-efficient cloud storage and processing, digital leaders will invest more in analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to get more out of their data.

Data privacy

We can’t have a conversation about data collection without addressing data privacy.

In recent years, companies have suffered thousands of data breaches and privacy violations. As a result, users are rightfully wary about their personal information in the hands of brands.

Businesses of the future embrace privacy rights. However, regulatory action, like the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, often forces brands’ hands anyway.

GDPR was introduced to provide added layers of data protection for users in the EU, but it set off a global chain reaction for businesses.

Many websites across the world adjusted their privacy settings to comply with GDPR, predicting that it would soon become the mandatory gold standard.

But, in reality, about a third of all companies subject to GDPR aren’t following it. In fact, about 1,000 U.S. news sites aren’t available in Europe because they didn’t prioritize GDPR.

Informed consumers can see which companies care about their data, and which ones don’t.

While your brand may not have to comply, the movement is a warning to companies. It’s better to build genuine relationships and trust with customers as a way to sell product instead of abusing data in the name of selling.

AI and Machine Learning

AI, or artificial intelligence, refers to technology that can perform smart tasks.

Machine learning is an offshoot of AI, where technology mimics the human learning process. Through machine learning, technology processes data and uses it to adjust its behavior, with zero human intervention.

Analytics and Reporting

As we’ve seen, brands are often overrun with data. Fortunately, AI and machine learning enable brands to make the most of their existing data. The result is better insights and faster innovation.

Machine learning is transforming how we develop, interpret, and share analytics.

Thanks to augmented analytics (AA), which use the power of machine learning to make data-driven connections, brands are able to quickly visualize and generate innovative decisions.

Why is this trend so innovative?

Because machine learning has the potential to eliminate tedious tasks that brands previously spent hours performing.

This will help agencies of the future focus on big-picture strategy and innovation instead of the minutiae of data.

AI Development

Web and app development is a time-consuming but necessary process for innovation. Fortunately, AI can lend a helping hand to development efforts, speeding up the pipeline for increased efficiency.

Eventually, brands will be able to generate code through AI. We’re already seeing promising outcomes from AI-generated testing tools and model generation.

Gartner predicts that data scientists and app developers will soon collaborate on projects together.

The data scientist can help the developer create AI-enhanced solutions, which work independently once predefined models are in place for the brand.

There’s a good chance that people without developer skill sets will be able to develop, thanks to readymade AI coding tools.

“Tools that enable non-professionals to generate applications without coding are not new, but we expect that AI-powered systems will drive a new level of flexibility,” said Gartner’s Vice President David Cearley.

By 2022, Gartner says at least 40% of new application development projects will have AI co-developers on their teams.

Customer-focused efficiencies

At the heart of digital transformation is the customer.

Innovative companies transform how they interact and communicate with their customers. Innovation is about developing ways to harness technology for great customer experiences at every touchpoint.

5G

On the customer side, 5G technology is making waves. While few devices used 5G in 2018, moving forward, many devices will make the switch.

By 2020, the majority of smartphones will be on 5G.

This is a big deal for mobile web traffic. With more customers on their mobile devices, 5G promises incredibly fast speeds and reliable connections.

In an ever-connected world, this gives customers more opportunity to connect with each other and the brands they love.

C-suite practices

CEOs, CMOs, and other C-suite executives have shifted to a customer-centric mindset and culture. As leaders of this change, the C-suite must be the first to embrace and drive Digital Transformation across the organization.

This is accomplished in many ways, but it starts with hiring the right team members. Everyone from customer service to marketing to IT should be focused on the customer experience.

For transformative agencies, every part of the business is aligned to the customer. When the right team is paired with the right technology and practices, digital transformation thrives.

 

The Modern Crucible: Competition Through Innovation

As exciting as they can be, these procedural trends are just the beginning.

Digitization has increased competition in the business world. Now you’re competing on a global scale, even if your business operates a niche market.

It’s never been more important for companies to learn about their rivals’ strengths and weaknesses.

The result? Companies are stuck in a never-ending game of innovation.

Here’s how major players are investing in innovation without upending their entire business model.

Startup collaborations

Established brands can amplify their agility by collaborating with a startup.

Large companies are recognizing the startups’ enormous predictive potential for new market trends and customer needs.

Startups recognize that specialized focus and market knowledge are key to success. However, large companies can’t invest in micro-interests as startups can.

This is why many enterprises have begun acquiring startups.

For example, a 2017 PWC Global Fintech report found that 88% of legacy banks felt threatened by new financial technology. As a result, 82% of legacy banks said they’re collaborating with emerging fintech startups.

This shows that, even in conservative markets, enterprises are partnering with startups to create more innovation.

Mobile Brainstorming

Your employees aren’t sitting at their desktop all day. They’re on the go, checking email between meetings or collaborating on slides during a networking lunch.

A 2016 study conducted by Fierce TechExec found that 71% of workers spent over two hours a week accessing company information via mobile devices.

Use this mobile technology to your advantage. Embrace mobile technology in your day to day operations.

Encourage employees to use mobile devices for collaboration. Provide mobile technology, like smartphones and voice assistants, to help your employees work more efficiently.

Innovation can only happen when you move quickly, and mobile is the best way to iterate with speed.

Phygital innovation

The Internet of Things, or IoT, is on fire. However, IoT has transformed into what we call a “phygital” phenomenon.

In other words, phygital technology is merging the physical and digital into a cohesive experience.

Phygital technology is usually implemented in a retail setting.

For example, a retailer could integrate brick and mortar locations with their eCommerce experience, like smart mirrors.

But you don’t need to be in retail to optimize your business with phygital technology.

For example, Boeing uses augmented reality to help its employees interface with equipment more safely.

Or consider what PTC is doing to shake up the industrial and manufacturing world by using AR in the workplace.

The AR industry is estimated to be worth $120 billion by 2020. Think of how this technology will change your business for the better.

Phygital technology also bridges the gap for customers who like to shop in-store and those who want to shop online.

For example, Tiffany & Co. released an Engagement Ring Finder app that enables shoppers to preview different rings through their smartphone.

Phygital and AR go hand in hand. Get creative and embrace the phygital, whether in how you sell to customers, train employees, or conduct business.

Exceeding expectations

According to Google’s consumer insight researcher, Natalie Zmuda, today’s customers are “more curious, more demanding, and more impatient.”

When you’re competing for impatient consumers, innovation is everything.

Brands of the future have to understand the mind of the customer, especially in a fast-paced digital environment. This helps you meet customer needs while exceeding their expectations.

Use these tools to design innovative solutions that deliver on customer expectations.

Empathy mapping

Empathy maps are a tool for predicting people’s changing behavior. They help determine what customers might think, feel, say, or do in response to your marketing.

Use empathy mapping to identify customers’ beliefs, needs, wants, perceptions and pain points. Resolve these pain points with innovative messaging that addresses and helps them overcome their barriers to your brand.

Online collaboration tools

It isn’t enough to think you understand the customer. You need to hear information directly from the customer.

That’s why certain web design companies are so successful. They conduct real user testing to determine whether their user experience (UX) is up to snuff.

Why can’t your brand operate like a web design firm?

Use online collaboration tools to glean feedback from your customers and even your employees. It’s never been easier for you to collect feedback.

Have the courage to build the solutions your competitors are too afraid to address thanks to direct feedback systems.

Source: https://boagworld.com/audio/customer-journey-mapping/

Customer journey map

The customer journey map is a visual representation of how the customer will interact with your brand.

Once you understand the customer’s point of view, map out where your message will take them.

Create your current journey map. You need a large amount of data to create accurate journey maps.

However, these maps are crucial to inform your business on how and where to invest in innovation,

Next, build your ideal journey map.

Where are the differences between the two maps? Where are the gaps? Where are the weaknesses in workflow, delivery, or messaging?

Customer care, perspective, and data will play a critical role for brands of the future. Invite your customer to have a seat at the table to foster real innovation.

The Bottom Line

Transformation isn’t easy. If it were, everyone would be doing it.

But the payoff is too great to ignore. When you embrace transformation, you’re fundamentally changing the way you look at your customer and the way that you do business—forever.

Become a brand of the future by embracing modern tools, trends, and practices that complement your business practices.

Read what Trendline has been doing to drive Digital Transformation, Innovation and next generation email marketing.

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Andrew Kordek