Customer preferences and behaviors change constantly. But because technology is also evolving at such a rapid pace, people will increasingly be unprepared for and unsettled by new options designed to streamline their lives.
We’ve seen it happen already, to an extent: People have been reluctant to share personal information online, slow to buy a cell phone (or upgrade to a smartphone), overwhelmed with choices, annoyed when they don’t have Wi-Fi access, or nervous that a robot will one day steal their jobs.
Concepts such as the gig economy, on-demand everything, artificial intelligence, and more are quickly becoming realities with many unforeseen consequences, for better or worse. A new report by brand consultancy Lippincott, Customer of the Future, explores the conflicted emotions people will experience as a result of these concurrent technological advancements.
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“These technology changes won’t just change the customer experience, they’ll change how the world works — how people connect, create, escape, accomplish, work, unwind, understand, stand out, fit in, get smart, get well, get money and simply live,” the report states.
While many of these innovations sound like they belong in a dystopian, sci-fi future, if business leaders keep the possible pitfalls in mind, they’ll have an immense opportunity to adapt and innovate to stay relevant to customers in this changing world.
When looking toward the high-tech future and its potential, “look for the emotional triggers that you can innovate against,” said Dan Clay, a senior associate in Lippincott’s Innovation Practice, in an email to Entrepreneur. The following sections explore six emotions that people will experience as they grapple with new technologies.
1. People will face uncertainty because of increased flexibility and freedom.
By 2020, 40 percent of people may desire the option to work as contractors or gig workers where and when their skills are needed. They may forego owning possessions and homes in favor of renting and sharing: In an international survey, 68 percent of respondents said they would be willing to share assets. People will be more mobile, and trips to the office, doctor’s office, and store will be merely optional.
It may be difficult to juggle working various jobs and borrowing so many items. The internet will be available everywhere to make all of these options possible at any given time, but it also could result in a constant pursuit of more work to make ends meet or an obsession over the reputation or ratings that will be at the center of a person’s livelihood.
Businesses will be able to help people fill the gaps and mitigate stress if they make options abundant, accessible, and easy to manage — and give people the information they’ll need to swiftly make the decision that’s right for them.
2. People will face anxiety from living a transparent existence.
People will live more and more of their lives online. In doing so, they’ll share more information about themselves and their experiences and be rewarded with more discounts on products that their documented activity suggests they might want or need. This happens now on social media, but it will go deeper in the future. For example, people who demonstrate that they always wear their seatbelts might be rewarded with lower insurance premiums.
Consumers will have access to more information about a product — or a mate — before committing. By sharing what they buy and do, they’ll benefit from social validation and feel like they’re part of a larger whole. People will constantly be anxious about the impressions they’re making on others, especially when their actions and purchases can be quantified so easily. Because of this, they’ll demand high quality, and companies will have to step up their game — and take steps to understand and predict wants and needs. As we see today with online marketplaces and crowdsourced review sites, companies know high ratings can make or break them.
“A deeper understanding of their changing needs, fears, and desires will help focus future innovation,” Clay said. “There are so many relatively inexpensive ways to do digital research these days — digital ethnographic research, tapping into customers on social media, etc.”
3. People will face fatigue from customizing everything to their needs.
In many cases, the world around us will be automatically customized, from better-targeted advertising on social networks to store displays that change based on the customer. There will be countless ways to collect data about individuals, and that data may affect personalized product recommendations, medical care and even the price of an item based on factors such as local stock availability.
Mass-produced items will no longer suffice. However, constant decision-making could become exhausting and create pressure to always make the perfect choice. It all comes back to companies giving people the information and resources to make informed and personalized decisions — but without overwhelming them. Not to mention, they’ll lose customers if they guide them to decisions that don’t satisfy them.
4. People will face instability when everything is available on demand.
Mundane tasks such as scheduling, grocery shopping, and communication will be coordinated by smart virtual assistants in the future, the Lippincott researchers predict. They will happen automatically, instantly, and even invisibly, but humans will also spend a lot of time managing the systems that do their work for them.
It sounds ideal, but it will be difficult for many people to keep up with. It will also throw people for a loop if there’s ever a time when they want or need something immediately and for some reason can’t get it.
“Any experience that forces a customer to wait requires unnecessary effort, or causes boredom is ripe for disruption,” Clay said. “The customer of the future’s threshold for these dimensions is getting lower by the minute and the winning businesses will be the ones that make their experiences instantaneous, fun, and easy to use.”
It took the Chinese company WinSun 24 hours to 3-D print 10 houses in 2014. People will soon be able to custom design and 3-D print items, rather than retrieving them from a store. However, they may not want everything to be so streamlined. Some people may still enjoy browsing at a brick-and-mortar store, for example.
5. People will face self-doubt as artificial intelligence proliferates.
Just as products and services will be available on demand, so will information. A lot of that information will take the form of crowdsourcing as more and more people share their opinions and experiences online. It will also come from artificial intelligence, which increasingly will be able to quickly synthesize large amounts of data to determine trends and patterns, make recommendations and identify problems.
Computer processing units (CPUs) are on track to reach the same level of processing as the human brain by 2025 — and they may surpass it thereafter. Many people will feel inadequate when so much intelligence is externally available. But they’ll know where to get the exact information they need, which will create a lot of pressure to always find it — especially before making a purchase. The number of people with access to the same information will dramatically increase worldwide, leveling the playing field while increasing competition.
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With so much information out there, brands will have to compete to be discovered and heard. When artificial intelligence bombards individuals with say, healthy lifestyle suggestions, it will have to rise above the noise in order for individuals to heed any one particular bit of advice in a world that is constantly offering recommendations.
6. People will face the fear of security breaches.
The Lippincott researchers explain that augmented reality, virtual reality, and digital identities will enhance people’s existence by allowing them to transcend the limits of the physical world. “Our reality is enhanced by digital overlays, our world expanded by digital access, our identity broadened by digital connections,” the report states.
An underlying theme explored in many of the sections above is the concept that people will be unequipped when the new systems they’ve grown to rely on fail. The global augmented reality market is expected to grow by 76 percent by 2022. “Map overlays will guide our hikes, perhaps encouraging us to explore more of our world,” the researchers explain. On the other hand, if those overlays fail, people may get lost. People will rely on digital tools to navigate everyday life.
The stakes will be higher when it comes to the possibility of being hacked, because so much personal information will be digitized, and people’s access to information, products, and services will be directly linked to the digital identities they have curated for themselves. They’ll demand reassurance that their identities will not be compromised.
“As we race to the top of Maslow’s pyramid (self-actualization), we can’t neglect the base (safety),” the authors argue. “Smart identity management will be an essential skill and the table stakes of trust in the future.”