The PwC Digital Services team offer their perspective on the digital trends to reach a tipping point for businesses this year.

As predictions continue to roll in for 2017, such a broad mix of developments across industries and technologies means it can be hard to spot the most significant digital trends that enterprise will adopt.

Which big changes will arrive first? What’s the next wave of disruption or innovation that will really impact your business, and that you need to hoist to the top of your agenda?

Fresh from their Christmas break and alive to the possibilities of what the new year could bring, we seized on our PwC Digital Services team to ask what they think will be the technologies or practices that reach a tipping point this year. Here we share their list of the digital trends they envisage will soon go mainstream in business.

  • Chief Customer Officers will become commonplace.
  • Millennials will no longer be treated as a market segment.
  • Artificial intelligence will enter general business use.
  • Customer experience silos will crumble and the ‘digital’ label will get dropped.
  • Retail: in-store digital will grow up and become about store productivity.
  • Lack of digital talent in the market will see organisations attempt to digitise their existing employees.
  • Marketing moves in-house to become adept at engaging ‘in the moment’.

“This is the year we’ll see Chief Customer Officers become commonplace.”

Philip Otley, Partner, The Experience Centre, Sydney

Traditionally, it was the CMO who typically managed the 4Ps (product, price, place, promotion) that drove the relationship between customer and brand.

Across most companies, technology-led change has left ownership of the 4Ps scattered. For example, pricing might now be with commercial or finance, but rarely with marketing; or some digital elements of product might sit with the technology team.

Increased competition also means that to have a compelling proposition, every department will shape the customer’s experience, with the weakest link capable of destroying trust and loyalty.

The role of Chief Customer Officer (CCO) has been piloted by enough companies to show that it is possible for the CCO’s team to own the customer experience without directly controlling every element of it. In 2017, I think we’ll see the CCO role become commonplace. The most successful CCOs will be masters of not only brand marketing but also big data insights, human centred design, and large-scale test and learn initiatives.

“We will stop talking about Millennials as a market segment.”

Nafisa Faruq, Manager, The Experience Centre, Melbourne

I get quite frustrated when marketers or journalists talk about Millennials as if they were a market segment. You often see or hear generalisations about how Millennials behave, or suggest that new technology-based products are only aimed at Millennials. The inference is that the hundreds of millions of people born in the ’80s and ’90s all behave the same, or that other generations don’t have any early technology adopters.

While the behaviour of people of a particular generation will be influenced by the common events and trends over a period of time, segmentation based purely on age is at best lazy. The behaviours often ascribed to Millennials can just as easily be said of each and every new generation passing through their early adulthood: challenging traditional authority, seeking experiences and meaning, possibly less tied to monetary rewards alone, less conservative, more open to new technology.

Particularly in the area of technology adoption, I’m hoping 2017 will see no more reference to Millennials as a segment, but rather people’s speed of adoption, whatever their age. This behaviour-based segmentation is more accurate, and is also more actionable for people designing products and services.

“Artificial intelligence will enter general business use, helping enhance both business and customer experiences.”

Nick Spooner, Leader, The Experience Centre, South East Asia and Australia

Artificial intelligence has been well used inside the tech giants for a few years now but during 2016, we saw many of those AI capabilities productised and made available for general use. For example, Google has released machine learning, image interpretation and natural language translator products as part of its Cloud Platform. IBM, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft also opened up some of their AI applications to external use.

What this means is that your average company now has relatively easy access to some very advanced algorithms that, when applied, will power some serious customer experience and productivity gains.

I expect we’ll see some of the more innovative companies in 2017 learning how to apply them to automate their back-office functions or get insight from their vast databanks so as to better predict customer service needs or serve up more tailored customer experiences.

“Customer experience silos will crumble and the ‘digital’ label will get dropped.”

Will Kingston, Associate, Customer Strategy, Sydney

The momentum has been building for some years but I think 2017 will be the year organisations realise they can’t deliver a seamless customer experience (CX) out of digital silos.

Digital will get dispersed into the wider organisation and we’ll see an end to separate digital and ‘traditional’ teams in marketing, sales and service. The innovation hubs and digital labs of recent years will fade as their methods such as agile development become commonplace throughout the core business.

An upcoming global Chief Customer Officer study from PwC and Forrester Consulting shows that only 26% of companies deliver their customer experience by embedding CX and digital capabilities in the DNA of the core business. I’m hoping that number will rise in 2017 as customer experience leaders smash down silos!

“For retail, in-store digital will grow up. No more digital gimmicks for the customer instead, digital will drive staff productivity.”

Richard Blundell, Director, The Experience Centre, Melbourne

When I think of the ‘new format’ store launches I’ve seen over the last few years, too many have tried to digitise the experience by installing superficial digital devices that add very little beyond what a customer can do on their phone.

In 2017, I think retailers will recognise that the real value from in-store technology comes from digitising their employees. Employee wearables or mobile devices can help manage staff activities and provide timely information that helps them serve customers better – that should be on every retailer’s plan.

I’d also expect the more progressive retailers to be experimenting with store sensors, such as image recognition, to help stock control or to acquire data on customer activity.

“A shortage of digital talent in the market will see organisations attempt to digitise their existing employees.”

Berry Driessen, Director, The Experience Centre, Melbourne

I think we are entering a new phase in the war for digital talent. Most business strategies now require digital capability to be built across the organisation, not just in the areas of marketing and IT.

However, there simply isn’t the supply of digital skills in the market, so this year I expect to see employers get serious about re-training their people en masse in digital technologies and ways of thinking.

“Marketing will move in-house, becoming adept at engaging ‘in the moment’”

Vanessa Brennan, Partner, The Experience Centre, Brisbane

Marketing technology has reached a point where some of the value previously provided by creative and media agencies has been democratised.

The availability of media and performance data, changes to how media is purchased (real-time versus pre-bought deals) combined with the need for dynamic and personalised creative to fill the ‘spots’ has created both the need and the ability to bring these services back in-house.

Many businesses I know are building their own content creation teams linked closely to their digital media buying departments, in order to increase their agility and focus on high-value moments in the customer lifecycle.

Contributor

Richard Blundell

Richard Blundell is PwC’s retail and consumer specialist in the Digital Services team.

More About Richard Blundell