In any business, communication is key. But as technology evolves, so do the ways we reach our customers—ideally, for better. Will new technologies help us keep our connection with customers personal, and if so, how do we avoid sacrificing service for efficiency?
To find out, I asked 11 entrepreneurs from the Young Entrepreneur Council what they think the future of real-time communication technology will look like for businesses around the world. Here's what they had to say:
1. The Physical World Will Be Used to Reach Customers
As mobile becomes better at interpreting the physical world around us through augmented reality, RFID, iBeacon, geolocation, etc., and as speech recognition continues to evolve to a basic functional lexicon (Siri and Google), we will be able to literally talk to the objects, find out more about them and then connect to people regarding those objects. Whether it is stores, products, landmarks, etc., the physical world will be interpreted to create real-time conversation.
2. Brands Will Use Online Platforms to Listen to Customers
Brands used to work on marketing programs for months before launching their messages to the world. Now, brands need to learn to adapt to real-time communications, which means every brand should be listening to its customer base (and the customers of competitors) to find relevant messaging and engagement opportunities.
3. Current Platforms Will Further Improve Customer Engagement
An expansion of current platforms such as Skype is likely, and savvy small business owners will incorporate Skype (as well as other services) into their strategy to further improve customer engagement. One promising idea is the expansion of live video chat. The ability to have a customer call in and receive information and product demos from an actual person via video is sure to serve a budding business well.
4. Instant Messaging Will Be A Game-Changer
Communication will become more on demand and permission based. There are too many emails and unsolicited calls happening at the moment. Also, instant messaging will become a game-changer in the business world and will replace emails because they are faster and allow for an instant response.
5. Communication Will Take An Omni-Device Approach
As technology evolves, consumers will move across devices even more frequently. Whether interactions occur while consumers are in front of their desktops at work, running in between meetings with their iPhones or sitting on the couch with an iPad and watching TV, brands will need to access and optimize these interactions with consumers accordingly. Using pattern recognition, technology will continue to evolve, optimize and improve each individual's content based on the time of day, location and device type.
6. Brands Will Deliver Instant Gratification
With the combination of wearable technology, faster data aggregation and processing and consumers sharing their desires more openly, major brands will focus on delivering instant gratification. Brands will compete by delivering both customized messaging and offers at the exact time of consumer demand. It will be very convenient (as well as creepy and weird) when Hugo Boss shoots me a discount on a formal suit because I am in New York and just received an invite to a wedding in my inbox.
7. Brands Will Use More Local Targeting
In communication, it's important to be reaching the right people with your message. I believe brands will get better at using services that allow targeted local promotions to reach more relevant audiences. For instance, a promotion in Seattle won't do you much good if the people in New York City see it. Hint: use Facebook's location-targeting tools for your Facebook page updates.
—Russ Oja, Seattle Windows and Construction, LLC
8. Consumers Will Determine The Offers They Receive
Real-time communication is useless if it interrupts dinner and serves something people don't want. Consumers, not brands, will determine the type of offers they receive based on category, frequency or even service requests. Communication that's customized to meet consumer interests is really in the best interest of brands -- a safeguard against wasted marketing investments and negative consumer engagement.
9. Brands Will Need The Right Context
Real-time communication technologies necessitate real-world context. In the future it will not be enough for brands to reach consumers at the right time because they will need the right message as well. Matching message and timing requires smart data collection and technology to really personalize each communication with each consumer at scale. Having context that feels real and human will be key to brands successfully reaching consumers in real time.
10. Customers Will Talk To Brands With One Click
Talking to a company and other site users will become as simple as a click of a button. This type of communication will rely less on phone numbers and more on Internet-based communication technologies. WebRTC is a great example of an emerging technology that is making this possible.
11. The Timing of Messages Will Be Optimized
Our phones and computers capture a lot of information regarding how and when we interact with these devices, and advertising entities are going to use this information more and more to optimize the timing of each delivery. Habits and calendars will help personalize opportunities.