2019 Predictions: Khoros Executives on the Future of Digital Customer Engagement

Phil Garbrecht

We saw exciting developments in the digital space this year: AI tech capabilities have continued to grow, and brands from every industry have begun using AI, from incorporating bots into their customer care plans to creating unique customer experiences, like personalized recommendations for customers. As 2018 comes to a close, we’re looking toward the coming year with excitement. In 2019, we expect big changes in the digital and social media landscape.

We pulled together 2019 predictions from top brands in a free tipsheet, and below, Khoros (earlier Spredfast + Lithium) executive leaders share their predictions for the coming year (find even more on this topic in our in depth whitepaper Operational Digital Care: 10 Best Practices You Need To Know Now):

#1: Increased consumer privacy protections are coming to the U.S.

The General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, is EU legislation that became effective in May of this year. Its goal is to protect the personal data of consumers living in the EU. While we don’t yet know how successful the GDPR legislation will be, EU companies have adapted to the regulations quickly, and governments and brands beyond the EU are following suit. California passed the Consumer Privacy Act in June of this year, and research from Janrain found that 69% of American consumers would like to see privacy laws like the GDPR enacted in the U.S. In 2019, local and state governments will enact their own versions of the GDPR without waiting for federal regulation.

— Raju Malhotra, CTO

#2: AI will augment, not replace, humans

AI is meant to empower customer service agents, not replace them. And their assistance is needed: Each year customers expect more direct interaction with brands and they demand quick responses, but 94% of tweets at brands still go unanswered. In 2019, we will see brands truly embrace the chatbot-agent relationship to automate the mundane and leave agents free to focus on customers.

— Raju Malhotra, CTO

#3: MarTech consolidation will continue

2019 will be the year brands and agencies retire ad-hoc fixes for different areas of marketing and care in favor of platforms with a single view of the customer. Forrester found that 58% of B2C marketers want to reduce the number of vendors they use, and less than one-fifth believe they can get everything they need from a single vendor. It’s clear from the Brandwatch and Crimson Hexagon merger in social listening, and Spredfast and Lithium merger in marketing and care, that the market is responding to this need. Consolidation will allow brands to have all their tools in one place, be more efficient, and pay less for it.

— Raju Malhotra, CTO

#4: Brands will recognize the need to own their customer interactions

The ever-expanding reach of technology companies has resulted in growing privacy concerns from consumers. At the same time, consumers are expecting brands to meet them wherever they may be across digital platforms. With the spotlight on privacy and data as the new currency, smart brands will find ways to bring their customer engagement off of other platforms and onto their own. In 2019 we will see enterprise companies shift focus to owned platforms where they can manage risk more closely while maintaining control over the insights from customer data, cutting out the middlemen.

— Katherine Calvert, CMO

#5: Customer capital will be the new currency

2019 will be the year brands leverage their social capital with consumers to help drive sales, answer questions, and act on the brand’s behalf in times of crisis. Just as greater amounts of economic capital can lead to more opportunities, higher amounts of social capital can lead to a more significant impact on a brand’s audience. When a brand has more social capital, its community members are more likely to act on the brand’s behalf — think expressions of brand loyalty and communications that promote brand awareness.

— Katherine Calvert, CMO

#6: Influence will become democratized

Consumers crave authenticity and brands must deliver that authenticity if they hope to create real, meaningful relationships with customers. In 2019, brands will use the strength of their communities to turn their superfans into micro-influencers. By building and promoting places for superfans to create content, share stories, and shout brand love, companies will secure brand loyalty from the ground floor.

— Katherine Calvert, CMO

#7: B2B customers will expect a B2C customer experience

Gone are the days when B2B customers expected a simple transaction. A recent McKinsey report found that 8 in 10 business buyers want the same experience as when they’re buying for themselves. In 2019, B2B customers will expect the same depth of experience as B2C customers have become used to, and smart brands will need to adapt to these changing user expectations.

— Virginia Miracle, CCO

#8: Customers will expect transparency

At this point, social media users understand that brands are gathering their information and using it to connect with them more meaningfully. In 2019, customers will demand transparency in both what brands know about them and, also, how the knowledge brands are gathering will benefit the customer.

— Virginia Miracle, CCO

#9: Social care and marketing will finally converge

Though marketing and care remain separate silos at most brands, customers don’t see a difference between marketing and care when they’re interacting with brands, especially online. Gartner found that by 2020 more than 40% of all data analytics projects will relate to an aspect of customer experience. In 2019, brands will break down the walls between marketing and care by using insights from care engagements to personalize how they market to customers. The key to a seamless customer experience lies with brands learning from the data they already have.

— Pete Hess, CEO

More strategies on this topic can be found in our whitepaper: Operationalizing Digital Care.

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