Nobody (except for Steve Jobs, maybe) could have predicted the impact of the iPhone when it was introduced in 2007. Countless other smartphones have since been released with exquisite hardware features like advanced cameras, 4K resolution and giant screens. But it wasn't these features that made people rapidly adopt smartphones-- it was the experiences these devices provide, like global social networks, music streaming, online shopping and many others.
With the help of evolving technology, smartphones will enable even more groundbreaking mobile experiences in the next decade-- ones that we couldn't have even imagined when the iPhone was first introduced.
Our ability to create exceptional mobile experiences has progressed in leaps and bounds, but we haven't even scratched the surface of its potential. Here are my thoughts on what's next for the mobile customer experience and how it will impact smartphone evolution.
1. Voice and text engagement will become the new norm.
There currently isn't enough convenience baked into the mobile customer experience. We ask smartphone users to swipe through too many screens to order food or purchase a clothing item.
In the very near future, I expect more brands to leverage text and push notifications and easier ways for customers to use voice commands in their apps. Before long, through geo-location and artificial intelligence (AI) activity tracking, an app like Starbucks will use machine learning to send a notification asking a customer if they'd like their regular coffee order started before they even open the app.
2. The digital and physical customer experience will merge as one.
Brands already use beacon technology to enhance their customers' in-store experience (think: tiny sensors that send discount codes to customers who use their app when they visit its location).
Moving forward, beacons will be used even more to create an ultra unified physical and digital experience. Amusement parks, for instance, will be able to identify a loyalty member stuck in line for a ride and offer them a timely fast pass. That's just one example of how companies will use first-party and third-party data to make informed decisions about individuals, put themselves in their shoes and provide more personalized experiences.
3. Companies will revamp operations to be tech companies first, and eventually data services companies.
Peloton may be known as an exercise equipment company. I see them as a tech-first enterprise with advanced software and a highly developed digital ecosystem that happens to sell workout equipment. Over the next decade, more companies will become digital-first in their research and development to create the best customer experiences.
Additionally, many companies will take the entirety of the next ten years to become data services companies that happen to provide goods and services. Forward-thinking companies will shave off years of effort and costs by adding data science teams to all strata in the business driven by outcomes.
4. Brands will partner up to create more engaging experiences.
Sooner rather than later, brands will realize they can create greater value for their customers by working together when it comes to data sharing. Data possessed by one brand can be extremely valuable to another and vice versa, which is why I anticipate more companies to enter multi-corporation data-sharing partnerships.
For example, convenience stores at gas stations are often run by a third party, not a gas company. As a result, they collect data separately (e.g., the store's customer app data is separate from the data collected by tracking sensors in gas station pumps). However, more gas stations and c-stores are already sharing data to create great customer experiences that are mutually beneficial and to drive purchases. So, a customer who uses a convenience store's app could be served a discount code for their favorite drink the next time they buy gas or receive a gas discount if they purchase a slice of pizza at the store.
The next 10 years of the mobile customer experience will be full of innovation with human-centric design at the center. Just as we look back at how far things have come since the first iPhone, we'll look back on the smartphone adoption of today the same way. We may even be checking out that view from our virtual highrise in the metaverse. This next evolution of the internet will usher in immersive environments with new digital interactions we're only beginning to imagine. Buckle up-- the best is yet to come.