As another CES passes, do we have a clear view of the future of consumer technology, and more importantly, how this will impact businesses? The consumerisation of business technology continues apace, but how does this impact workers as their experiences develop?
Research from Applaud indicates that DEX (Digital Employee Experience) is increasingly using hyper-personalisation to intentionally design a better DEX, helping them keep hold of their employees and attract the best talent. However, despite the known benefits of this type of personalisation, 63% of organisations went as far as to reveal that they offered no individual personalisation in their DEX whatsoever.
Duncan Casemore, CTO and Co-Founder, Applaud, says, “The past 18 months have seen the world of work evolve. It’s become one where hybrid and remote working have rapidly become the norm and where everything now revolves around the experience you provide your employees. As their wants and needs continue to develop, businesses need the right technology in place to provide hyper-personalisation.”
Casemore continued: “HR leaders must be able to act with agility and proactivity when it comes to communicating with and updating employees over the coming year. The ability for HR teams to deliver personalised and relevant information to employees through their work tech will become even more important than ever this year.”
How businesses use technology can clearly learn a great deal from the consumer tech market that has spent decades developing UI and UX to enhance how we all use technology in our daily lives. But as work changes, business processes are altered, and workers themselves look for a better work/life balance, how do these drivers influence the technology environment businesses and consumers all inhabit?
Peter Wallace, Managing Director of HR Solutions, Capita comments on this trend, “Consumerism of the employee experience and a digitally mature workforce, are all challenging organisations to think differently about how to achieve efficiencies. Smart organisations realise that a workforce engagement strategy is built on doing the basics brilliantly. The employee experience of key events such as joining, being promoted, and even payday, should be effortless and efficient. Personalisation is vital: one size does not fit all. Use of AI in the HR process can help embed this.”
Consumers are business
Many digital technologies that became commonplace across business began in the consumer space. The next few years will once again see massive technological changes in the consumer channel that will feed into companies.
“Gartner forecasts that worldwide, 5G network infrastructure revenue is on pace to grow to $23.3 billion, making it the fastest-growing segment in the wireless network infrastructure market,” Mijo Soldin, Director of Operator Partnerships and Strategy at Infobip, told Silicon UK. “With higher bandwidths and lower latency, there’s no doubt that 5G offers exciting opportunities for communication and consumption across a range of connected devices beyond a mobile phone. But businesses need to prepare now, so they’re ready for this widescale availability and its impact on customer expectations. What’s more, telcos will need to support rollout to accommodate new digitalisation demands from businesses.”
Of course, mobile technologies will continue on their development journeys. For Cyrus-Gilbert Rolfe, CRO at EVRYTHING believes mobile will enter a new age: “The transition to mobile first was pretty much completed prior to the pandemic, and if anything the last two years has seen the return of the bigger screen and keyboard. However, there is no way back for discovery. All new challenger brands are reaching the market via social media feeds, and transaction processing in that context will only continue to get more sophisticated from here. The promise of people carrying out trades in virtual environments outside nation states using tax free crypto currencies is still so niche as to not show up at all, but maybe that is the direction of travel?”
And Yan Golaz, Senior Vice President, Global Innovation Offer, Schneider Electric, sees consumer and business tech as one development environment: “Tech solutions for the everyday consumer and businesses alike are slowly merging. The need for automated technology and IoT devices that are also sustainable speak to both, customers’ and businesses alike. As a result of the pandemic, these two worlds have collided, and it is no longer a conversation of what consumers or businesses need but instead a matter of developing solutions that can be adapted to both. A technology with an open protocol that allows for scalability and sustainability is needed for consumers and businesses.”
The prosumer tech space has always been connected to businesses that could see the trends in this landscape bleeding into their business environments. For example, BYOD was once a challenge, but the pandemic has forced enterprises to evolve those concepts to welcome consumer tech into their enterprise tech stacks.
Ericsson‘s report on consumer trends to 2030 states, ‘your brain is the user interface.’ We are already witnessing a massive expansion of sound as the podcast waves show no sign of crashing. Audio content and interfaces will continue to rapidly evolve and become an essential component of the working environment.
Touch interfaces have moved through massive development as the pandemic took hold and will continue on their trajectory to becoming a key part of every user interface. But perhaps other senses will also be digitised, such as taste and smell. Facebook’s vision of the Metaverse would seem to make these developments inevitable.
The future of consumer tech is irrevocably connected with the continued digitisation of our daily lives; whether these are private or in business, a hybrid approach to the technologies being used will deliver the benefits and advantages all companies are looking for.
Silicon Head to Head
Mike Rhodes is CEO of ConsultMyApp, a leading global app marketing company, which has been instrumental in driving the digital evolution of some of the world’s top brands – including Pure Gym, O2 Priority, Tide, Virgin and Deliveroo.
How has the pandemic changed the consumer tech space?
“The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly accelerated the digital transition and brought about drastic changes to the way businesses operate. Overnight every aspect of our lives, from work and socialising to exercise and shopping, shifted online. As a result, even companies that traditionally resisted embracing the digital era have had to adapt and create new ways to connect with consumers. This has created an explosion of activity in the consumer tech space.
“In the UK alone, online shopping soared to account for 30% of retail sales in the first month of the pandemic. Digital banking has also seen a significant increase in uptake, with 73% of British consumers embracing e-banking offerings during the pandemic.
“In line with this shift, businesses have quickly woken up to the potential of the mobile app market, and, as a result, apps are becoming increasingly important within the consumer tech space. According to a recent global report, apps were downloaded 230 billion times in 2021 at a consumer spend of $170 billion. In addition, individuals are now spending a third of their waking hours on mobile apps.
“Whether for transactional, educational or social reasons, the public is becoming more engaged with the consumer tech space than ever before, and these new digital habits are set to outlast the pandemic.
“Whilst this increased demand is regarded as a win-win for businesses, consumers have also developed much higher expectations from the technology they engage with. Businesses must constantly review user interests, sentiments and requirements, and develop their digital offering, if they are to remain relevant and meet consumer demand.”
Will 2022 be the year IoT and 5G make significant inroads into consumer tech? Are businesses prepared for the new products and services that will emerge?
“From enhancing our ability to communicate with friends and family, to improving our health and modernising our homes with smart appliances, the Internet of Things (IoT) is already re-defining the consumer tech space and driving forward the digitisation of society.
“Moving into 2022, we are set to see the demand for and potential of IoT grow, especially as the trend for smart appliances and more advanced ways to consume content and interact with devices grows. In fact, it is estimated that the market for smart home devices will reach $53 billion this year.
“This shift to working from home and other practices adopted during lockdowns over the past two years have accelerated IoT adoption among the consumer tech space. Now with 5G capabilities advancing, we expect this momentum to continue.
“As the 5G network evolves, price points are set to become more accessible within the consumer tech space, and this will become a key driver of expansion in IoT. As with all significant developments, some businesses will be more prepared to hit the ground running than others. At the end of the day, adapting to 5G capabilities and the enhancements it can bring to IoT will be a gradual process.
“There is no doubt that IoT and 5G will reshape the consumer tech space over the next few years. If businesses want to remain industry leaders throughout 2022, then they need to start adapting to new products and services sooner rather than later, or risk losing their market share.”
How do you expect CX to evolve in the consumer tech space?
“The influx of consumer tech over the past few years has provided start-ups and tech developers with a virtual goldmine of user data – enabling those in the space to build a customer experience that aligns with what modern users want and needs and bolster user retention in the long run.
“Looking ahead, the focus towards mobile-first will be palpable. Businesses are already embracing the potential of the mobile app market, appreciating that they can go direct-to-customer via the technology in the palm of their hands. Moreover, by allocating resources to ensure that mobile-first offerings are market-leading, businesses will further evolve the customer experience. For example, the food industry has started capitalising on this shift, with grocery apps surging by 200% throughout 2021.
“As the competition for users intensifies, businesses will have to be smart about the way that they acquire new customers, but also how their mobile app and tech offerings work to sustain engagement with established users. With the consumer tech space becoming increasingly saturated, businesses will need to work to constantly evolve and improve the customer experience to ensure consistent user retention.”
What tangible (if any) business opportunities do you see as the Metaverse develops?
“The Metaverse is very much an imperfect science so far, promoted by companies like Meta and Microsoft. The idea of an entirely virtual world where businesses and brands alike can compete for marketing and reach their customers in a new format has left many wondering how best to utilise this offering.
“I believe true value will ultimately come to brands and businesses that can deliver new and interesting customer experiences over this virtual platform. However, it does have a long way to go. As a relatively new concept to the mass market, initial execution of the Metaverse will be critical in this day and age when apps and start-ups fail at the first sign of trouble or UX issues.
“I think we will see the metaverse start to gain real traction when greater investment is made into AR and VR technology – for instance, in ‘smart’ contact lenses. We’ve already seen that Ray-Ban is collaborating with Meta for smart glasses, and it is these sorts of collaborations will propel the technology forward. The need for this level of engagement will also open new business opportunities for brands that appreciate what consumers want and how they want to engage with the Metaverse in both a social and professional capacity.
“As for now, given last year’s backlash to Meta, Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg, the Metaverse is fighting an uphill battle and those looking to collaborate are having to weigh up the potential negative cost to their reputation in line with the financial boost.”
Are we now in the digital (especially mobile) post-privacy space? Do we have legislation and security environments to protect consumers using the new digital tools in development?
“Data privacy and security will always be a concern among individuals, especially as more businesses turn to personal data collection to enhance the consumer experience. However, with the right agreements in place, individuals can protect themselves, and mobile app companies can ensure that customers are fully aware of how their personal data is being used.
“So long as consumers’ consent agreements are transparent and comprehensive, individuals can be fully aware of the type of data being tracked by companies before giving their consent. For new digital tools to succeed, consumers must know what the platforms can access and for what purpose. By putting the power back into the hands of the consumer and offering the option to opt-out of sharing specific data points, data security risks can be mitigated, especially in the mobile space.
“With this, consumers gain confidence as well as trust in the company as new digital tools are launched. If companies can show consumers that they can use the personal data they have shared responsibly and to offer them a better experience, then individuals will continue to seek this service. However, if businesses abuse this position and exploit the customers personal data for their own gain, then they will quickly fall out of favour.”
Is the future of consumer tech all about connectivity and integration across devices, services and digital environments?
“As consumer technology becomes more affordable and accessible, consumer expectations are being reshaped. As a result, we will only become more connected in terms of how we communicate, shop, socialise and live our daily lives.
“With that sentiment in mind, we’re increasingly seeing consumers merge their mobile devices with their environment, aiming for a more integrated and efficient experience. We have already begun to see a rise of smart homes, allowing people to control all functions of their home appliances, lights and security through their mobile phones.
“Google, Apple and Samsung have been at the forefront of producing consumer-grade products that integrate with all their devices and services without any hassle. They provide a smooth user experience, crucial in today’s ever-evolving, technology-driven world. In the future, we’ll see more companies adopt this integration and connectivity as well, building their own ecosystem setup.
“However, it doesn’t stop there. There is still room for more integration and connectivity across devices, services and digital environments – for instance, the next frontier for App markets will be the paradigm of communal apps. There are still many popular apps that provide a very singular experience on a mobile phone – but why not broaden the function to make it even more communal? For example, gathering the family around an Apple TV to book a holiday. The future of consumer tech will be about broadening functions and making apps more communal.”