2015: The Year of Power to the Consumer

2014 has been the first full year of my current job. It’s been a time of rapid change, not just for me, but for the tech industry as a whole.

Wearable technology, for example, started to make its mark, cloud computing became the norm and software-defined everything became a hot topic. Most of these trends were driven by consumer behavior and the enormous changes that have occurred in the relationship between customers and organizations over the past few years.

The impact of these changes will become unavoidable in 2015, making it, I believe, the year of the customer. Consumers will continue to gain power, forcing companies that haven’t caught on yet to adapt rapidly.

Here are a few examples:

In the past couple of years, consumers have become accustomed to watching and communicating via video. The annual Ofcom Communications Report showed that for the first time, parents are watching more TV than their children, as younger generations switch to YouTube and catch-up services.

When it comes to engaging with brands, research shows that Generation Y typically prefers not to use the phone, while Generation Z shies away from email too, making video often a Millennial’s first-choice communication method.

With every passing year, more Millennials join the workforce. I believe that in 2015, their growing spending power will continue to fuel the video trend, prompting companies to respond by offering more video chat to their customers.

A new technology called WebRTC is making it possible for consumers to use video directly through a Web or mobile browser, without the need to download video-conferencing software.

Imagine shopping online, and you had a question about delivery costs. In the near future, instead of trying to hunt down the information yourself on an FAQ, asking your question over webchat or abandoning your shopping cart altogether, you could click a button and instantly connect to a video call with a customer service rep.

Innovations like this, coupled with consumer demand, will really drive the use of video in customer service in 2015.

As of early 2015, there are more than 1.3 billion active Facebook users and 280 million Twitter accounts, creating billions of conversations daily. Reflecting this, social media engagement between companies and their customers seems to have become a numbers game, as businesses have focused on growing the size of their following.

For consumers, just following a company or being ‘friends’ with it does not mean they necessarily feel strong loyalty or will make a purchase. Consumer-brand social media engagement is likely to shift to a quality-first approach, as companies try to woo consumers into not just ‘liking’ them, but making actual purchases.

For customers, this should also mean a better overall experience when they deal with these organizations, as social media should feed seamlessly into other methods of company-customer communication.

This year, wearable device launches have continued to gain momentum, from the hype around the iWatch announcement to test-case uses in healthcare.

Wearables provide a fresh means for consumers to interface with brands that, in turn, can offer a whole new level of customer engagement. I believe we will start to see an increasing number of organizations offering customers the ability to interact with them via their wearable devices.

For example, banks might offer video chat via Google Glass or another wearable device to customers who are having trouble using an ATM.

In 2015, customers will continue to take center stage as they push to engage with brands in myriad ways, from video and social media to wearables and good old phone and email. The companies that are able to do this in the most unified, yet interesting way, will be the ones that consumers prefer this year.

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