Empty asphalt road with 2020 painted on the road.
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By 2020 …. Ah, yes, it was such a nice, round year to make predictions. Little did we know...

We spent much of the 2010s opining about the great year ahead that would kick off the next decade for marketers and customer experience professionals. 2020 was going to be the year that this came true, that number was met and this amount of money was spent.

We’ve decided to go back to some of the predictions that affected marketers and customer experience professionals to see what’s panned out. Certainly, we’ll give a mulligan for any numbers skewed by COVID-19. And we’re not going after anyone who made predictions in events marketing or events planning. That would just be cruel.

Pandemic or no pandemic, let's revisit some of these 2020 predictions and see if they were trending in the direction of the prognosticators. And if they weren’t, what forces led them astray and what’s next for those marketing arenas? Has COVID-19 and/or other forces affected these predictions?

Smart Agents and Mobile Interactions

Prediction: By 2020, smart agents will facilitate 40% of mobile interactions, and the post-app era will begin to dominate.

Gartner wrote that by 2020 instead of using discreet apps, organizations will rely on smart agents in the form of Virtual Personal Assistants (VPA) or newly built business agents to predict needs, build trust and act autonomously on our behalf.

Gartner Research VP Jason Wong told CMSWire in a recent interview that since the prediction focused on mobile interactions specifically, this has not come to be true. Chatbots, as the industry has come to call smart agents now, have mainly been used in the web context and usually in conjunction with human agents, Wong added. Gartner research shows that among service and support leaders who added channels since 2017, the most frequently added channels were web chat (39.5%) with live agents versus chatbots (22.5%). However, 32% of these leaders plan to add chatbot support in the coming year — the highest for any tech.

“While many companies attempted proofs-of-concept (POCs) and trials of chatbots, the poor quality of data for training, the scarcity of skills and resources, and the usability of natural language for transactions were the common culprits hampering production deployments,” Wong sad. “Chatbots built for POCs are often informational, whereas a production-level system requires transactional chatbots capable of executing actions within a variety of back-end systems. The design and integration hurdles, as well as the maintenance of the models, require significant investments in people and skills.”

Naturally, no one predicted COVID-19. What, if any, effect has that had on this prediction and this area in general?

“The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated global deployments of conversational artificial intelligence solutions, especially in the healthcare, hospitality and retail sectors,” Wong said. “Organizations are examining ways of rapidly building conversational agents that can handle the increased volume of customer engagements. Data from various conversational AI vendors shows that this volume has increased by as much as 250% in multiple industries.”

Related Article: 7 Considerations for Implementing a Customer Support Chatbot

Novelty of Chatbots Gone?

Prediction: By 2020, the novelty of chatbots will be gone. But for purchases such as choosing a smartphone package or planning a vacation, they’ll be delightfully helpful social shopping companions.

Sure, chatbots now don't seem much like a novelty, a prediction for 2020 made by Hootsuite. However, chatbots are still in their infancy and are helping with those places where the shopping experience is fast evolving, and it’s only the beginning, according to Henk Campher, Hootsuite’s VP of corporate marketing and head of impact. “Though we don’t know what the future will hold,” Campher added, “we know that those who’ve converted over to ecommerce won’t be reverting back any time soon.”

The next phase is the rather quick evolution of the chatbot and AI to assist with quickly-pivoting business models. “I expect us to see chatbots moving from novelty to a standard customer expectation — and ecommerce experience — as our digital habits and subsequent expectations continue to grow and evolve,” Campher said.

Video Saturation in Marketing

Prediction: By 2020, marketers will face video saturation.

This one by Hootsuite is pretty much in the ballpark. According to the December 2019 Wyzowl’s State of Video Marketing Survey, an annual report, about 85% of businesses use video as a marketing tool. That number dipped 2% from the prior year but generally has grown since 2016, when it was 61%.  

Further, 92% of marketers who use video say that it's an important part of their marketing strategy, the highest percentage of any year since 2015, according to the report. It should definitely be noted that Wyzowl provides video marketing tools and services.

Social Media Marketing found 88% of marketers planned to use video for the 2019 holiday season. Consumers are sifting through a constant stream of video content coming at them from all angles, according to Hootsuite’s Campher. There are 20 billion YouTube users today, and TikTok and Zoom sat as the top two overall downloaded apps globally as of August.

“We’re simply hitting sensory overload in response to growing demand and engagement that’s currently at an all-time high,” Campher said. “In the last year in the U.S. alone, the global ecommerce market grew 12% so now, marketers need to know what is catching on from a content side, but also from an evolving packaging side. The good news is that the polished images and content we’re all tired of seeing on social media is out, and I’d say with confidence that that’s thanks to the impact of TikTok.”

The problem for marketers is simple, according to Campher: how to keep up with growing consumer expectations around content volume and creativity, and then, of course, how to react fast enough.

Related Article: How AI Is Tackling Marketers' Top Video Management Challenges

Mobile Messaging App Usage on Rise

Prediction: Facebook predicts that by 2020, 80 percent of smartphone users are projected to be using a mobile messaging app.

Facebook was pretty much spot on here. For the year 2019, eMarketer reported that there were 2.52 billion mobile messaging app users worldwide in 2019, and that 87.1% of smartphone users globally use at least one mobile messaging app, a number that will grow 90.1% by 2023, researchers found. 

Marketers and CX professionals probably get the message by now: messaging apps are powerful platforms for communicating and transacting with customers. Who doesn’t like a text message receipt or reminder to do something in a text?

Rise of Chief Customer Officer

Prediction: By 2020, 25% of CEOs will appoint a Chief Customer Officer (CCO) in an attempt to unify the imperative of customer-centricity.

Gerry Murray, marketing and sales technology research director at IDC, made a series of predictions in a 2017 LinkedIn blog post. One them centered around the role of Chief Customer Officer (CCO). “Who on the C-Level leadership team will emerge as the most effective agent to deliver the customer’s growing persistence for a better experience?” Murray wrote. “Is customer-centricity a cultural value; is it everyone’s job; or should it be the domain of a single executive leader? If it is the latter, which one? This is the emerging ‘Boardroom Battle for the Customer’.”

According to Gartner, this played out in a big way. In February of this year, Gartner reported that nearly 90% of organizations now have a chief experience officer or chief customer officer or equivalents. “There has been significant growth in the presence of CXOs and CCOs or equivalents in many organizations over the last two years,” Augie Ray, VP analyst, Gartner for Marketers, said in the blog post. “However, these roles rarely report to CMOs despite marketing taking control of more CX initiatives. … “As marketing continues to take on a larger role in CX, marketing leadership faces a potential challenge coordinating companywide CX. CMOs and marketing leaders responsible for aspects of their organization’s CX must ensure that roles are understood, redundancy and conflict are minimized, and collaboration is prioritized.”

Hello to the Superhero CMO?

Prediction: By 2020, the first Superhero CMOs will emerge because they received C-Level permission to disrupt traditional go-to-market operations.

“IDC predicts,” Murray wrote, “that we will see pockets of break-through in CMO leadership. This will be demonstrated by individuals who have exceptional leadership skills and in the face of long-odds, have brought meaningful change to their marketing organizations. The 'Superhero CMO' will be one who has executed real change -- not just the aspirational change that is depicted on a PowerPoint slide.”

Now, that one is hard to quantify. Superhero is a bit on the subjective side. Nonetheless, it’s a fun stat. Do you know any 2020 “Superhero CMOs”? We’d love to hear about them. Given the events of the world, we tend to think any successful marketer or marketing team in 2020 is nothing short of a superhero.