Expected advances in glasses and other hardware as well as content delivery systems to fuel this transformation in which “content actually becomes more aware of physical world, much the same way Google Maps democratized the notion of using GPS to actually give you directions for a 2D world,” Parasnis said.
“The best AR today helps you visualize your future life with a product,” says Virgil Wong, global practice head of digital experience at consultancy HGS Digital. Other examples of current and future applications for AR and VR include contextual instructions for setting up, repairing, and maintaining complex products and equipment; CX centers that use VR/AR to showcase services and solutions; and the augmentation of human field service.
“What we call extended reality experiences, which include mixed, virtual, and augmented realities, represent a fundamental transformation in CX,” said Raffaella Camera, global head of innovation and market strategy at Accenture Extended Reality.
AR is the “secret power” behind emerging direct-to-consumer brands, such as Warby Parker with its virtual glasses try-ons, Convince & Convert's Baer pointed out. Sephora's “Virtual Artist" lets customers test and try on different cosmetics using their smartphone camera in selfie mode. Lowe’s Innovation Labs offers a variety of visualization tools that enable do-it-yourself’ers to see how products will work or fit in their homes. InterContinental Hotels Group’s XR Event Planner puts event planners and hotel sales staff side-by-side in a virtual 3D reconstruction of an event space, allowing them to remotely envision and configure the layout in real time.
But don’t just adopt AR/VR for its own sake. “First, give careful thought to the specific challenge you are solving for,” Accenture's Camera told CMO by Adobe. “From there, you can assess how to go about developing and implementing the technology at scale.”
AR can help in areas like remote support, access to information, and training. But know that AR and VR experiences can require a lot of custom code, IT support, and ongoing maintenance. Agile development methodologies can help to compress development cycles.
No longer in its infancy, blockchain technology is more than just cryptocurrency. It is essentially self-managing distributed ledger systems, which has the potential to bring its key traits—building trust and increasing transparency—to developing great customer experiences.
“Most organizations are still learning about the potential use cases of blockchain for customer interactions,” Gartner analyst Nadine LeBlanc wrote in the firm’s customer service and support technology hype cycle report. “Blockchain-based disruption can optimize and, in certain cases, transform the way organizations deliver services and engage with their customer beyond the organization’s boundaries.”
And as it matures, “it could be used to transform processes like customer onboarding, problem diagnosis, delivery management, asset tracking, dispute resolution, and more,” according to LeBlanc. “The benefits will include enabling multi-party customer service and more accurate predictive customer service because of the ability of blockchain to provide identity management or proof of a sequence of events."
“There have been several recent examples in the news of blockchain being used to connect consumers with a product’s origins,” said Melanie Nuce, senior vice president of corporate development at GS1 US. For example, Farmer Connect uses blockchain to enabled consumers to trace the journey of raw materials that make up its coffee.
Meanwhile, MIT researchers built an app around placing a patient’s health data on a blockchain where it could be read and updated by multiple doctors; a record would be made of each change, with patients having control over who sees the data. Lo3Energy’s Pando platform uses blockchain technology to let homeowners directly sell energy they have generated from rooftop solar panels.
Gartner’s LeBlanc advised starting with a small pilot and taking advantage of existing tech providers that offer blockchain technologies or services. As blockchain is the least mature of these emerging technologies, due diligence especially around security and privacy is key.
“For companies testing emerging technology to make an impact with their consumer base, the focus must really be on the network of trading partners sharing data and then trusting in that data,” Nuce said.
Giving customers data control and self-service access to the blockchain functionality will help to increase trust in the capabilities, LeBlanc added.