Four ways customer connections will change by 2020

customer connections Technology is changing the way we buy, fly and try. It’s also going to be changing our customer connections. Dramatically. In general, this probably is how you connect with your customers today:

  • Your website provides them a clear way to find what they’re looking for. It’s optimized for perfect viewing whether your customers/prospects are looking at it via a laptop/desktop or smartphone/tablet (it’s optimized, isn’t it? Smartphones and tablets generated more than 50 percent  of eCommerce visits in January 2015, an 18 percent increase from January 2014.
  • You provide them with meaty, highly informative, engaging content on your website, as well as blogs, video, podcasts, and pins. You distribute this information via your social media feeds and probably pay to boost it through ads.
  • As you connect with your customers, you’re separating them into specific segments so that you can provide them with the tailored information they crave. You and your marketing team are diving into your prospects’/customers’ needs, lifestyle and motivation.

Let’s compare that to the “norm” just five years ago in 2010 …

  • Most people searched online via a laptop or desktop, since smartphone adoption had risen to only about 20 percent.
  • Paid search pretty much meant only pay-per-click on Google and Yahoo. There really were essentially no ads on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • E-mail marketing was just taking off in a huge way.
  • 2010 was the year everybody thought QR codes would be the rage.
  • What is this thing called podcasting?

And this brings us the future. Making predictions at this rate of change is difficult, but there are certain things I think we can know with confidence …

1. It’s all about you.

Here’s one thing I know: 2020 will mean even more personal, individual, “it’s all about YOU” connections with your customers. You and your customers are going to be interacting as if you are intimate friends.

Privacy and personalization will continue to blur. The advantages to having companies anticipate our needs in real-time will create value so great that our customers will happily relinquish their right to even the most personal data, including text messages and other private messaging. Would people allow a smartphone provider to analyze their text messages if they received a free, updated new phone every year?

The ability to dive down into a new level of personal and private information like health status, finances and relationships will create entirely new business models, new services, and real intimacy in how you will be able to connect to customers.

Much of these connections will be automated (but not in a creepy way). In five years, it will difficult to distinguish whether that is a person or a computer on the other side of the conversation. In most cases, we will prefer the computer.

2. Connection will be ubiquitous

Technology will become even more ubiquitous, but behind the scenes. Worrying about Wi-Fi will be a thing of the past. It will be everywhere, allowing your customers to buy, sell, communicate, rant, and praise anytime, anywhere, to anyone.

While Google halted sales of Google Glass in January, don’t rule out the probability that wearable technology will be mainstream by 2020. Several major companies have announced new augmented reality headsets in the last 60 days and more are on the way.

Perhaps the most interesting development is Facebook’s Oculus technology. The company has hinted at pushing into workplace applications and this headset would allow customers to interact with us in an immersive virtual world. Tremendous opportunities for research, marketing and customer service.

3. Big Data will just be “data”

In order to provide your customers with the highly personal connection and customer experience they will demand in 2020, you’re going to be embracing Big Data in a huge way.

Your challenge – and you’ll have to accept it – is making sure you can figure out what data is most important to your marketing needs without being a) overwhelmed or b) completely confused. By 2020 you’ll have implemented cognitive data reporting to help you easily find extremely detailed answers to even the most complex questions.

We’re already starting to see programs that will crunch huge amounts of data and not only give you answers, but tell you what questions you need to be asking. Cognitive computers will combine real-time data from all over the world to answer extremely complex questions like “why are customers buying more blue dresses this month?” or “which customers drove past the competitor’s store to visit our location today?” In other words, in the background, computers will be turning Big Data into more usable Little Data.

4. Security is the new black

The Internet grows with malignant complexity, leaving more and more holes for hackers to exploit. The number of breaches have grown, and will continue to grow, until weakened consumer confidence will force companies into unusual schemes just to stay connected with their customers.

What is even scarier — 40 percent of IT professionals working in the field don’t think their current security systems can fully protect their customers. Following a security breach, Home Depot offered its customers free identify protection services. Will we live in a future where every company will offer this as a standard service, as common as a product label or list of features? “Buy this product and we will guarantee your credit card safety for a year.” A promise of this kind might very well be a prerequisite to customer connection by 2020.

What’s your take on connection with customers in 2020? What did I miss that you know will be true in five years?

This post was written as part of the Dell Insight Partners program, which provides news and analysis about the evolving world of tech. To learn more about tech news and analysis visit Tech Page One. Dell sponsored this article, but the opinions are our own and don’t necessarily represent Dell’s positions or strategies. Illustration courtesy of Flickr CC and Laura Dineen

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