2019 Technology Trends and Potential Impact on Customers and Businesses

Parna Sarkar-Basu

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Each year, I look forward to the deluge of technology predictions from analyst firms as they help me better support my clients' businesses—from positioning and launching new products, to developing narratives, to boosting brand awareness. These predictions also give me insight into how a trend will impact a company's bottom line.

In particular, what I look for is how the nuances of some of these trends will change the way we do business and interact with customers. With this in mind, here are a few thoughts on what to look for with some of 2019's top trends.

Digital Transformation Will Continue

Digital transformation is the mother ship of technology trends. It spans across departments and technologies, designed to deliver real-time customer response and help companies stay competitive. The important thing to understand is that many companies are already well on their way to adapting their businesses and customer experience (CX) delivery through digital transformation.

In Gartner's 2019 CIO Agenda survey of more than 3,000 CIOs and IT leaders, results show a tipping point toward digital business initiatives, with 49% of chief information officers (CIOs) reporting that their companies have already changed their business models or are in the process of changing. The same survey found that 33% of respondents have evolved their digital initiatives to scale, up from 17% the previous year.

There are multiple drivers for digital transformation initiatives, from making existing processes incrementally more efficient and putting in place new digital business models to being discovered by job seekers and business prospects. The lesson behind this digital transformation uptake is that those companies that haven't yet launched initiatives or haven't scaled up their efforts risk being left behind by competitors. After all, customer engagement is today's competitive edge, and one of the reasons companies leverage digital transformation is to take customer engagement to new heights.

Having been involved with the world of artificial intelligence (AI) and robots, I can now say that people have finally stopped thinking about The Terminator when we talk about intelligent machines. People are starting to realize that machine learning and AI systems are prevalent today—for predicting business outcomes and driving marketing programs to talent discovery and finding missing people.

AI is now a business imperative. Granted, not all smart systems have a human-like look, nor do they resemble toys. AI and machine learning implementation are constantly assessing transactions, workflows, demand indicators, and consumer interactions in touch points like call centers or chatbots.

Among predictions presented at the 2017 Gartner Symposium/ITxpo conference, Gartner analysts forecasted that, by 2020, AI will create more jobs than it has taken. For example, while 1.8 million jobs will be lost to automation, 2.3 million will be created, especially in education, healthcare, and the public sector. AI will also provide value by making companies more closely engaged with customers, not just by figuring out how machines should engage with objects.

Humans Will Prevail over Bots

The human brain is a highly complex organ. It's our intelligence that separates us from animals. It's arguably our empathy that makes us human. And it's humans who go to school to get degrees, not robots.

It's humans who have created computers and AI systems. While robots are becoming more autonomous and sensor-driven, rather than having to be programmed for specific movements, they remain best suited for narrow work tasks. Robotics systems are able to sense and learn movements by watching humans versus being preprogrammed. It's true that robots are getting smarter but mainly around narrow tasks and without the ability to innovate and show compassion like humans.

As long as people are creating intelligent systems to make our lives easier and safer, we will continue to prevail over smart machines. At the same time, the companies that will get the most out of smarter machines are those that can blend them as a resource with our knowledge-driven decisions and digital business models. In fact, I believe 2019 will be more about cobots where humans and AI systems will work together to drive better customer engagement and business value.

Consider These Trends with a Word of Caution

Often, companies will jump on the buzzword bandwagon to become relevant in the industry. It's easy to say marketing technology is AI-driven or the solution is helping boost efficiency in the digital world. But are these technical advantages used in products?

Hot trends are great to talk about. But if the technology doesn't sync with the systems and services, customers will be misled, which, in turn, will cause a loss in credibility in the market and with journalists, and it can take a business downhill fast.

So, despite the urge to leverage buzzwords, make sure the product does indeed have the technology you're betting on.

This article was originally published on Forbes.

Parna Sarkar-Basu is VP of marketing for WITI and CEO of Brand and Buzz Marketing, LLC.

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