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Movies and television have proved to be uncanny indicators of what’s to come. Innovations that first appeared in 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Minority Report and even Star Trek and The Jetsons, are now fully integrated into how we work and play. But how much is too much?  And are businesses equipped to handle these disruptions that have turned the traditional customer journey on its head?

These topics and more were discussed during a thought-provoking keynote presentation called “The Sci-Fi Future of Customer Engagement” delivered by Jamie Anderson, Chief Marketing Officer for SAP Hybris.

Avoiding the creep factor

In 2012, Dr. Michal Kosinski  conducted an important (and somewhat creepy) Facebook test and found that with just 68 likes, it was possible to predict skin color (95% accuracy), sexual orientation (88%) and political affiliation (85%).

“It’s what we do with that information that is important,” said Anderson. “As brands, the information we gather, can have mutual value. But when things get creepy, it’s not a great situation.”

Avoiding the creep factor isn’t easy, especially in other areas like Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) where it’s always depicted as a malevolent force in the world of sci-fi (I’m looking at you Blade Runner, Terminator and Westworld).

“AI doesn’t have to be scary and it shouldn’t be,” said Anderson. “We should be looking at this technology and how we can embrace it. If we don’t, the number one thing that is clear is that we will be disrupted.”

Case in point: By 2018, one third of the top 20 in every industry will be disrupted by digitally transformed competitors, according to research from IDC.

Addressing the many forms of disruption

It’s no secret that disruption comes in many forms. Back in the early days of CRM, it was the call center disrupting traditional business, then the internet and cloud computing. Now we’re on the cusp of even more disruption with blockchain and AI.

“We need to stay ahead of it and never be caught flat footed,” said Anderson.

To stay ahead of competitors, Anderson said it helps to understand the historical context of three critical phases that are driving the digital economy. During the industrial revolution it was all about factories making affordable products via mass production. The industrial economy paved the way for the consumer economy, where there were enough products but desire was lacking – which gave birth to the the golden age of advertising via the Mad Men era, creating that desire. In this millennia, we have the products and oftentimes desire, but the differentiator is the engagement we have with customers.

“It’s all about the customer experience because that is the one thing that separates you from the competition,” said Anderson.

But with the rate of digital disruption happening so fast, it’s hard to keep up. In 2000, for instance, there were 304 million internet users and by 2005 over 800 million. Today there are over 3 billion internet users and over 2 billion iPhones.

“The adoption rates of technology are getting faster -- 50 million users in just a few days if we’re talking about the latest Angry Birds,” said Anderson.

This obviously poses a huge challenge for businesses in how they adapt to a fast-changing marketplace. Recent research indicates:

  • Over 1.9 billion smartphone users but only 17% of businesses are ready to support a mobile first engagement.

  • Over 400 million LinkedIn users yet over 76% of businesses CRM systems have no way to track social media interactions

  • Over 1.5 billion Facebook users yet 56% of businesses still can’t be contacted by social media

“Business agility is absolutely key in this economy,” said Anderson. “Customers are harder to engage than ever before.”

But with 60% of consumers abandoning purchases due to poor customer experience, brand loyalty has never been under more of a threat. The traditional customer journey funnel is a broken paradigm. While awareness, interest, desire and action are all real, but they don’t happen in a linear fashion and they don’t occur in a way that many modern CRM systems are still built on.

“Today’s customer is surrounding by many different stimuli whether web, print ads, TV, and they choose when they want to interact,” said Anderson. “It’s completely non-linear which is why every channel is a service channel and there has to be intelligence and a response mechanism baked into every one.”

To learn more, watch the full replay of “The Sci-fi Future of Customer Engagement” here (e-mail registration required).