What's next for 2019? 5 customer connection trends to watch

With the rise of AI, chatbots, and automated responses, which trends will be hot for brands who really want to connect with their customers in 2019?
Written by Eileen Brown, Contributor

Great service from brands gets rewarded by an increase in sales. Poor service goes viral –- at a cost to a brand's reputation. But how do brands build strong relationships with their customers?

Giving customers across channels the information and service they want means knowing how best to connect with them. So, what are the best ways to connect with your customers in 2019?

Also: What's next for 2019? 9 tech and innovation trends

Austin, Texas-based technology marketplace Spiceworks' annual B2B marketing predictions for 2019 show some strong trends that brands intend to use to connect with their customers.

It surveyed more than 350 marketers in tech companies across North America and Europe to get insights into which trends are on the rise and which are hype.

Video marketing 

Video marketing is one of the mainstream trends to expect next year.  Adoption of video marketing –- especially amongst tech companies -- is expected to jump from 49 percent in 2018 to 68 percent in 2019.

These brands will use video as a medium to share customer testimonials, livestream events, or deliver how-tos to customers.

One in three brands will also use online videos to drive leads in 2019. Businesses can appeal to tech buyers in an authentic way -- especially when the videos are personalized.

Purchase-intent targeting

Adoption of purchase-intent targeting is expected to jump from 29 percent of tech companies in 2018 to 44 percent in 2019. Why?  Brands can target businesses who are actively shopping for their products and services.

This approach lets sellers deliver relevant content to people who are ready to buy, which leads to a higher likelihood to convert a lead into a sale. Buyers can get the info they need, when they need it.

Also: Digital transformation in 2019: Lessons learned the hard way

Influencer marketing

Adoption of influencer marketing is expected to rise next year, going from 31 percent in 2018 to 48 percent in 2019. Influencer marketing is getting attention from brands who want to build relationships with influencers that can persuade buyers by discussing the latest and greatest tech products. 

Programmatic ad buying

Less mainstream, but still in demand for brands is programmatic ad buying, with 43 percent of brands preparing to adopt this trend in 2019.  Mobile marketing remains popular too, with 41 percent of brands expecting to use this medium to connect with their customers.

Chatbot-powered marketing

Much less popular is chatbot-powered marketing. Under one in three (30 percent) of brands plan to deliver marketing via chatbots, and a paltry 14 percent expect to invest in VR or AR customer experiences in 2019.

Although many companies intended to adopt AI, VR, and 3D printers last year, adoption rates for VR and AI technology haven't budged much year over year, especially in small companies.

But what about using customer care to foster better connections?

Social media management platform Sprinklr partnered with Twitter for its 2019 customer care trends survey.  Toluna surveyed 1,255 US adults who use social media on behalf of Sprinklr in December 2017. 

Social for customer care

The survey showed that the majority of Twitter users  (70.67 percent) rely on social for customer care, saying they use social media to comment on the quality of a company's customer service.

Social care directly impacts purchase intent. Two out of three (67 percent) of Twitter users say they have decided to purchase a product because of an interaction with a brand on social media.

Twitter users are also 11 percent more likely (compared to users of other social channels) to make a purchase based on a brand interaction via social.

Also: 7 Technologies that will transform Advanced Manufacturing in 2019 

Millennials prefer social due to rapid response times. Customers turn to social media channels expecting a quick response.

Almost 40 percent of Twitter users have sent a complaint or comment to a brand via social media, because they thought it would elicit a quick response, and nearly four in 10 also thought other people on social might be able to help them find a quick solution.

Social is one of the first touchpoints for customer care with customers more likely to contact brand social media channels before picking up the phone. Brands therefore have an opportunity to rapidly resolve issues and personally connect with customers.

However, poor customer service can impact the bottom line. Three out of four (73.7 percent) of millennial Twitter users are less likely to buy from a brand that has received negative comments from consumers on social media.

Customers who dislike your customer service are going to share their experience via social, which can influence the purchase decisions of others. 

Across Twitter users almost two out of three respondents (62.48) say that increased personalization of responses is the top way brands can improve customer care on social media.

Also: Digital transformation in 2019: AI, robotics, and IoT

Whatever customer plan you have, these trends can enable you to stress test your 2019 plan to make sure you are staying ahead of the curve. 

In 2019, care will be the new connection to your customers. What they say about your brand will matter more than what a brand says about itself.

The challenge for brands is that what a customer says is a direct result of the level of service the brand provides. Making the right connection to your customers using the methods they want, will make sure your brand is successful.

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