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SAS study finds COVID-19 accelerated customer acceptance of immersive tech

A new study from Futurum Research and sponsored by SAS titled “Experience 2030 Pulse Report: The Acceleration of Digital Engagement, Personalization and Trust,” has found significant pandemic-induced shifts in consumer behavior and opinions including changes in loyalty drivers and acceptance of immersive tech.

“The Experience 2030 global study, released in late 2019, clearly indicated that brands are planning to invest heavily in immersive CX technologies and AI-fueled automation over the next decade,” said Wilson Raj, global director of Customer Intelligence at SAS. “This Pulse report stresses that organizations have not changed these priorities, but urgently stepped up these investments to respond to the pandemic and ensuing disruptions. Brands have chopped timeframes in many of the areas identified in Experience 2030.”

The new research is an update to the 2019 research Experience 2030: The Future of Customer Experience. In June and July 2020, Futurum Research surveyed more than 600 global consumers, executives, marketers, and technology professionals.

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In the original research, consumers expressed acceptance of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) becoming part of the consumer process over the next decade, but that has been greatly accelerated in 2020.

  • Drones. Last year 23% of consumers expected delivery by drone or autonomous vehicle in the coming year; now 60% expect it by 2022.
  • Smart assistants. Last year 65% of consumers expected to use them by 2025, but now 70% plan to use them by 2022
  • Chatbots. Last year 36% of consumers expected to use chatbots to have questions answered or receive customer support about a brand, products, or services. Now 54% want a live person, and not a bot, available to talk to them.
  • AR and VR. Sixty-nine percent of consumers surveyed expect to use AR and VR to sample products in 2021 while 63% of consumers are willing to use AR and VR to visit remote locations, up from 56% in the previous survey.
  • Telemedicine – 67% of consumers are open to telemedicine.

In response, one-third of brands surveyed are speeding up investments in technology over the next two years. The top immersive tech areas that brands are prioritizing are:

  • Voice-based AI assistants for sales and marketing.
  • Holographics for customer support or instruction.
  • Voice-based AI assistants embedded in products or services.
  • AR and VR for customer instruction and support.

Technology solutions

Six out of 10 brands report that they’re unable to deliver their regular products to their customers with 28% of brands have been unable to adjust and adapt and are riding things out until “normal” returns.

Overcoming these challenges, and meeting increasingly tech-infused consumer expectations, requires an agile mindset, the right technology solutions. Brands have had to accelerate tech development and deployment in many more areas than immersive tech as consumers seek greater digitization to ensure safety and convenience. Brands have accelerated development and deployment in the following areas:

  • 66% – online consumers tracking systems for behavior and habits.
  • 64% – mobile apps for customer engagement.
  • 68% – shared customer records for cross-departmental use.
  • 64% – real-time product or inventory awareness systems.

More than half of all brands surveyed reported they have accelerated plans and initiatives involving alternative payment apps, offline consumer intelligence (behavioral tracking), AI and predictive analytics, automated subscription or delivery plans for consumers, chatbots, 5G, encrypted communications and/or distributed ledgers (blockchains).