person walking through a parking garage talking on a cell phone
PHOTO: Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum

Anybody older than young might remember an old series of TV commercials for brokerage firm EF Hutton: “When EF Hutton talks, people listen.” These days, when it comes to the present state and future of the internet, people are listening to venture capitalist Mary Meeker. Meeker’s ongoing series of annual Internet Trends reports have been highly anticipated for more than 20 consecutive years. The 2019 report was no exception — and it did not disappoint.

Meeker’s 2019 report contains a wealth of informational nuggets ranging across a wide spectrum of internet-related factoids and prognostications. The report is particularly informative for organizations focused upon enhancing usability and providing a quality customer experience (CX) — and that, of course, should include every organization on the planet.  

The report contained four points, in particular, which spoke to the necessity of providing great customer experiences for today’s demanding users.

1. Relevant Data Is the Key to Personalization

As Meeker noted while delivering her 2019 presentation: “If it feels like we’re all drinking from a data firehose, it’s because we are.” One trending byproduct of this flood of data is that consumers are increasingly willing to share their data in enabling companies to provide them with more personalized experiences. And that has provided companies with a great opportunity.

Data and artificial intelligence, according to Meeker, can serve as very effective tools for improving customer satisfaction when used properly. Meeker cited a recent survey of retail customers that found more than 90% prefer brands that provide personalized experiences and recommendations. More than 80% are willing to passively share data to be used in providing personalized experiences, and three out of four of that group are eager to share data for personalized experiences.

Though Meeker’s stats focus on the retail industry, all brands can benefit from the clear takeaway: Customers crave the best experience possible, and most understand that a personalized experience is only possible if they share some data about themselves. Be upfront about how you will use the information in personalizing their experiences, make it optional for your customers to share their preferences, and most will be willing to share.

Goodreads, the world’s largest community of book lovers, provides a great example of how to best customize and personalize your CX for your users. Each user is asked to select the genres that interest them most. Goodreads then uses that basic information to more accurately recommend books that will be most likely to interest each person.

Related Article: Hyper-Relevant Experiences Are Only as Good as Your Data

2. A Picture Is Still Worth at Least a Thousand Words

Images are the oldest form of recorded communication. The oldest know petroglyphs (cave wall paintings) date back more than 40,000 years. Yet the earliest known written text is only about 5,000 years old.

Though an image may have always been worth a thousand words, that exchange rate appears to be in flux. These days, images are becoming an even more valuable means of communication.

Consider social media juggernauts such as Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat, where users increasingly communicate primarily through images. More than 50% of Twitter impressions now involve posts accompanied by images, video or other visual media. Meeker's report quotes Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom as saying: “People have always been visual — our brains are wired for images.”

The painting on the wall for brands?

Use images in digital properties as often as it makes sense. The combination of visuals and the written word can be especially powerful for drawing attention to important product features and services. But wield that power very carefully: visuals can become distracting if they don’t mesh well with your brand image. Companies should be wary of using images that ultimately detract from the message meant to be delivered.

Related Article: A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

3. Speak Up!

Is there something you need or want? You have only to ask. Smart assistant devices like Amazon Echo, Alexa and Google Home might be likened to modern-day, real-life genies: Your voice is their command.

These devices are exploding in popularity. Meeker reported that the install base for Amazon Echo is now at 47 million devices. And devices like Amazon Alexa are growing smarter by the day with a rapidly expanding skillset. The exponential growth in both the use and capability of smart listening assistants has created a massive opportunity for brands to enhance the quality of the customer experience they deliver. It’s a window of opportunity that remains wide open, given that the smart assistant device market is still relatively young and has not yet reached maturity.

Brands that hear this message are positioned to capitalize on a rare opportunity. Working now to prioritize a quality voice experience for customers can result in a substantial head start against competitors that have yet to formulate or prioritize a voice strategy.

Related Article: How Marketers Can Get Into the Voice Experience Party

4. CX Is the Key to Standing Out from the Competition

More than a quarter of US adults now spend almost all of their waking time online, according to Meeker. Many are growing increasingly concerned about the amount of time they spend online, and are actively seeking to reduce the time they spend on digital properties. Many people, for example, are now carefully monitoring and metering the amount of time they spend watching TV and using their smart phones.

As more people increase their efforts to reduce time spent connected, where will they make those cuts? Logically, brands that offer an outstanding customer experience will be more likely to remain in the loop, while brands failing at CX will be swiftly discarded. Brands must be aware that the amount of time customers can and will spend online is a limited resource. Providing a great customer experience is the single best way to ensure that your brand continues to enjoy its share of that finite resource.

Related Article: Reclaim Your Attention: Leave Your Smartphone at Home

Will Your Experience Make the Cut?

The data from Meeker’s report makes it clear that quality customer experiences are only going to become more important as users embrace voice technology, image-based communication and personalization, all while being more selective about where they spend their time online.

All four points provide a clear roadmap for brands. The fourth point informs the first three: with consumers looking to cut down on the amount of time they spend online, brands must make a commitment to focus on the areas of the highest value. As Meeker’s data reveals, the three top areas brands should focus on are personalization, voice and images. All three of these options, when utilized correctly, can boost engagement and ensure that your experience stays top of mind for consumers.