As 2017 draws to a close, we’ve done some research in partnership with OnePoll to help you better understand some of the most talked-about customer experience (CX) technologies. And as we saw last year, we’ve found that those views often contrast starkly with levels of excitement amongst digital professionals.
– Augmented reality and virtual reality are generating the most industry hype, but voice assistants and mobile payments are the technologies consumers say they’re most interested in using in 2018
– The proportion of people saying they want to spend less time with screens and digital tech has actually dropped compared to last year
– Consumers are most likely to want improvements to the digital products and services they’re already using over the next 12 months
Our research has focussed on five key areas of technology that are increasingly influencing the digital customer experience: mobile payments, voice assistants, chatbots, virtual reality and augmented reality.
To quantify how much hype these topics are generating, we turned to Google News. This showed us the number of news stories mentioning each topic in 2017 to date.
As a gauge of global interest, encompassing both industry and consumer perspectives, we’ve also pulled together average monthly worldwide Google search volumes for the key terms within each topic.
Data from Google News and Google Keyword Planner was gathered on 24th November 2017, running from 1st January. Within each topic, we included a selection of related terms; e.g. for voice assistants, we included data for ‘Alexa’, ‘Amazon Echo’, ‘Google Home’ and ‘smart speakers’, as well as the exact phrase ‘voice assistants’.
And finally, to contrast and contextualise this data, we commissioned OnePoll to survey a nationally-representative group of 1,000 British adults to reveal more about the prevailing awareness of and attitudes towards these technologies, and towards digital experiences in general.
So, onto the findings…
2018 Trends: Infographic
We have summarised our findings in the following infographic. Below this, we offer some additional commentary and analysis, along with some comparisons with our findings from last year.
News saturation and search interest
Augmented and virtual reality were by far the top-covered trends in terms of news coverage when we conducted similar research at the end of 2016. In 2017, that dominance continued.
From January to late November, augmented reality generated 41.3 million news stories, up 71% from 2016. Virtual reality received 29.7 million pieces of coverage in 2017, up 81%.
Voice assistants collectively generated 11m news mentions, whilst mobile payments (195k) and chatbots (162k) have generated far less coverage by comparison. Both have, however, received significantly more coverage than last year.
Google search data from their Keyword Planner tells a similar story in terms of the relative popularity of these technologies. This time though, it’s VR rather than AR that’s being searched for the most. Within that, ‘Oculus Rift’ has been searched for globally 550k times a month on average in 2017 (actually down 55% from 1.22m in 2016), compared to 450k monthly searches for ‘HTC Vive’ (down 45%)and 368k for ‘Gooogle Cardboard’ (down 55%).
Our survey of 1,000 UK consumers: In-depth
Below you’ll find a deeper breakdown of the findings from our survey, conducted by OnePoll.
How many people have encountered each type of technology, and how did they rate the experience?
|Have used / encountered||Rated as good or very good|
None of the five trending consumer technologies we looked at have reached true mass adoption yet, but voice assistants and mobile payments are the closest to becoming mainstream. VR and AR still have the longest way to go.
Although voice assistants were the most widely used trending tech in 2017, satisfaction levels weren’t brilliant. Whilst 62% of those who had used voice assistants rated their experience as “good” or “very good”, 33% were indifferent, 4% rated it “bad”, and 1% “very bad”.
And although VR and AR have less adoption so far, those using these technologies were more impressed with their experiences overall. More than three quarters of users rated their experiences with both technologies as “good” or “very good”.
Similarly, mobile payments scored well in terms of satisfaction – 74% rated their experience as “good” or “very good”, with zero “very bad” ratings.
Meanwhile, chatbot experiences seem to have plenty of scope for improvement, having scored lowest on consumer satisfaction. Only 17% rated their experiences with chatbots as “very good”, whilst 9% described them as “bad” or “very bad” – whilst there are many fantastic examples out there, clearly not all chatbots have made a good impression at this point.
Trending technology in focus: Age and gender insights
Awareness of voice assistants was pretty much equal across males and females – 34.5% and 34.9% respectively.
18-24-year-olds were most likely to have used this technology (49%), whilst over-55s were least familiar with the likes of Alexa and Google Home (28%).
Women are more likely than men to have used chatbots in 2017, with self-reported usage at 23% and 20% respectively.
Only 1 in 10 people over the age of 55 said they had encountered this technology.
Perhaps confirming stereotypes around gaming and gadgets, men (15%) were more likely than women (12%) to have experienced virtual reality over the past year.
96% of over-55s are unfamiliar with this technology, whereas nearly 4 in 10 people aged 18-24 have used VR.
In contrast to VR, augmented reality was more popular with women (16%) than men (13%). The likes of Snapchat and AR cosmetic apps are likely to be important factors here.
Nearly half of 18-24-year-olds have used AR in some form.
Women are also leading the charge when it comes to adopting mobile payments, with 27% having used this tech in 2017, versus 25% of men.
Again, usage was highest in the 18-24 age group (47%), whilst cut-through was still respectable with over-55s, at 17%.
What technologies are consumers interested in using in 2018?
Our survey last year found that mobile payments were the most sought-after technology, with 32.1% of consumers saying they wanted to use this tech in 2017. That percentage has dropped quite significantly this year to 23%, whilst voice assistants have come to the fore with nearly a quarter of consumers keen to use smart speakers in 2018. Meanwhile, the number expressing an interest in using VR has dropped from 24% to 15%. This could be a sign that this technology hasn’t yet lived up to expectations, and excitement is temporarily ebbing away.
What technologies are consumers most anxious about?
Although 23% of British consumers are interested in using mobile payments in 2018, 16% also said “anxious” is the word that best describes how they feel about this technology becoming more widespread in 2018. This is likely related to security concerns around mobile payments generally, and could also be due to specific concerns about Apple’s new Face ID technology. Interestingly, women (20%) were significantly more anxious than men (12%) about the impact of this technology.
What are people looking for from their digital experiences in 2018?
|Improvements (the products & services I already use, but better)||26.8%|
| Innovation (fresh ideas; something I haven’t seen or experienced
| Disconnection (less technology in my life and more time getting back
| Integration (better connectivity between the various digital devices
/ services I use)
When asked what they wanted from their digital experiences in general in 2018, consumers were most likely to choose improvements to the products and services they already use. However, there was also a significant appetite for innovation. The trend towards disconnection and “digital detoxing” remains very real too, despite a slight decline compared with last year.
35-44-year-olds were the group most likely to crave less technology in their lives (17%). This is an interesting counterpoint to a 2016 Nielsen report that found that this ‘Generation X’ age-group were more likely to be obsessed with social media than millennials – perhaps this obsession is taking its toll and accounts for some of this demographic’s desire to disconnect.
Voice and conversational interfaces are clearly an important and exciting space for brands in 2018, but the execution needs to be right for the audience and the task at hand; voice experiences shouldn’t be created at the expense of getting existing digital services right.
Augmented and virtual reality appear to be somewhere between the “peak of inflated expectations” and “trough of disillusionment” currently. Brands like IKEA are proving the commercial potential of AR, whilst VR is already well-established in the entertainment arena. For many businesses though, the immediate value in these technologies may be unclear. What is clear is that these technologies are absolutely here to stay, with applications way beyond gaming and storytelling, and whilst some early examples may have been underwhelming, consumers are more open to using them than you might think.
In the payment space, Bitcoin may be hogging the limelight right now, but that shouldn’t distract from the importance of simply making payments effortless for your customers. In 2018, there’s no excuse for not making your checkout process as seamless as possible and giving people the easiest options available.
At Code, we believe that digital products need to be constantly iterated and improved, hence our tagline, Brilliant Never Stops. Our latest research certainly backs this up. That said, often it’s the brands willing to look further ahead and do things differently that reap the biggest rewards.
So how can you embrace innovation without taking ridiculous risks? The key is to approach innovative projects as experiments: learn fast, and learn from real users to see whether it’s the right solution for your customers. If the answer is yes, you can be ready to capitalise early on the next big thing. If the answer is no, that’s fine too – the goal is to recognise this before large scale investment.
As our Managing Director Louis Georgiou has suggested, the real customer experience trend in 2018, for businesses at least, might be a shift to continuous delivery coupled with ‘discovery’ projects. Taking an iterative approach to improving the customer experience means only building digital products that work and that real users have responded positively to in tests. Put simply: build, measure, learn.
If you’d like a copy of the raw data from our research and consumer survey, or just want to chat about the findings, Tweet us @Computerlovers.